“Disarmament is an extremely broad and complex subject that is wide open for very valuable contributions from each of you in all of your respective fields, regardless of your specialities.”
– Randy Rydell, Senior Political Affairs Officer (retired), Office for Disarmament Affairs and Executive Advisor to Mayors for Peace
A Steering Committee of young people from across Northeast Asia this month held the first of several education and training webinars in preparation to tackle disarmament and non-proliferation issues at a United Nations youth workshop later this year.
At the virtual meeting, the Steering Committee on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in Northeast Asia—made up of nine young participants spread across China, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea—engaged with a senior international security professional. With a view to promote both intergenerational exchange and the meaningful participation of young people in the disarmament field, Mr. Randy Rydell, Executive Advisor to Mayors for Peace, walked the Steering Committee’s members through a variety of disarmament-related issues and challenges while giving them an overview of key efforts to address these.
United Nations staff in Beijing, Kathmandu and New York facilitated the lively webinar, which was held under the auspices of the #Youth4Disarmament Initiative and within the framework of the youth, peace and security agenda. The discussion is part of a joint project of the Department of Peacebuilding and Political Affairs (DPPA) and the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) to convene a youth workshop on disarmament and non-proliferation in the Republic of Korea later in 2020.
Participants drew on Mr. Rydell’s passion and his years of experience as a former Senior Political Affairs Officer at ODA, Senior Counsellor of the Blix Commission, Senior Fellow at the Arms Control Association, visiting lecturer at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, staff member of the United States Senate Arms Control Observer Group, and international political analyst at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In his presentation, Mr. Rydell took stock of disarmament achievements thus far while noting setbacks and future obstacles.
The young participants intently listened and posed questions throughout the 90-minute session, broadening their definitional understandings as they considered today’s disarmament landscape. They asked about the ways to address some of the difficulties that young people face in trying to be heard—especially on defence and security issues—as well as the paradox of promoting multilateral disarmament among States that prioritize their sovereignty.
Mr. Rydell emphasized that as part of the largest generation in history, today’s young people hold great responsibility and potential to accelerate progress in disarmament. In closing, he noted that disarmament is one of the most important causes in world history and thanked the young participants for choosing to take an active role in it.
The Steering Committee appreciated the speaker for meticulously weaving together information on a variety of disarmament topics and bringing it to life through stories from his career. Several young participants stressed that events such as this webinar provide important opportunities to interact and explore how disarmament issues affect their communities and countries.
Beyond the webinar, the group has also been building its knowledge and skills through online courses that ODA offers through its Disarmament Education Dashboard. The Steering Committee will continue holding webinars and online discussions this summer and fall to share their experiences, opinions and newly gained knowledge.
The workshop later in 2020 will feature expert panels, dialogue and training. While it was originally planned as a face-to-face event in Seoul, the Steering Committee, DPPA and ODA remain committed and flexible in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The young people who have taken up their roles in the Steering Committee represent a generation intent on engaging with disarmament efforts to secure a common future for everyone. DPPA and ODA look forward to engaging with, listening to and supporting the ideas of this inspired group of young people over the coming months.
Drafted by Su-Yin Lew