On 30 July, students from the 37th Chinese Youth Diplomatic Advanced Training Program of the Center of the United Nations and International Organizations (RCUNIO – part of Beijing Foreign Studies University) were briefed by UNODA officials during their visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York. The program aims to instruct trainees in the field of diplomacy and international affairs, by providing them with insights into the work of international organizations.
In this July visit, the group was greeted by Mr. Xiaoyu Wang, Chief of Unit on a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, who provided the students with an overview of the importance of disarmament and the work of the United Nations in this matter. He introduced the Secretary General´s Agenda for Disarmament, providing a framework for the session by explaining its four pillars: “Disarmament to save humanity”; “Disarmament that saves lives”, “Disarmament for future generations” and “Strengthening partnership for Disarmament”.
Mr. Chris King, Deputy Chief of UNODA’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch, briefed the students on the first pillar, focusing on the harm nuclear, biological and chemical weapons can cause humanity. He also offered an overview of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and existing treaties, while detailing the role of UNODA in strengthening global norms of disarmament.
In the following presentation, Ms. Nora Allgaier, Associate Political Affairs Officer explained how lives can be saved by minimizing the use of small arms and light weapons in conflict and by removing the risk of their illicit trade. She also dove into the gender component of disarmament, by explaining how men and women are differently affected by such weapons, and the importance of women´s engagement and participation in addressing related challenges.
Ingmar Snabilie, Associate Political Affairs Officer, explored the revolutionary advancements of new technologies and their possible negative impact in the field of security. He commented on the weaponization of artificial intelligence, information and communication technologies and space and he explained the role of the United Nations in building confidence to achieve negotiated commitments aimed at mimimizing the risks.
Mrs. Soo Hyun Kim, Political Affairs Officer and UNODA’s Youth Engagement focal point, reflected on the importance of partnerships to achieve disarmament. She concentrated on the role that education and communication play in informing and empowering young generations.
Belen Bianco, an intern for UNODA’s Regional Disarmament, Information and Outreach Branch closed the session by encouraging students to stay engaged and to participate in the youth sessions of various disarmament conferences and events.
Tianxhu Shen, one of the RCUNIO students attending the briefing, shared his experience at UNODA and his opinion about the main topics discussed there: “As a high school student, I was most impressed by the idea that “education is the most powerful weapon” which helps us eliminate gender inequality, remove poverty, prevent needless deaths, and defend human rights, peace and democracy. Therefore, we should provide opportunities for all children, ensure that they have the chance to receive good education and grow up as better human beings and contribute to their communities.
However, the student expresses reservations about current military spendings: “the annual military expenditures worldwide amount to $1.7 trillion – 200 times larger than the UN’s budget in peacekeeping. If this enormous expense could be used to support education or to eliminate starvation, or to address other social issues, the world we are living in will be much better “.
Draft prepared by Belen Bianco and Martin Desbiolles