By J Nastranis
NEW YORK (IDN) – UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his Agenda for Disarmament on May 24, 2018 underlined the need to establish a platform for youth engagement. This would include “a cadre of youth from around the world,” who will work assiduously to promote disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control in their communities.
Engaging with youth groups and community organizations in support of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals with synergistic linkages to youth, disarmament and non-proliferation education and conflict prevention is the second pillar of the platform for youth engagement.
The third pillar are disarmament and non-proliferation training modules hosted on the online dashboard of the Vienna bureau of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) targeting young diplomats and other youth leaders for knowledge enhancement and capacity-building.
On September 24, 2018 the Secretary-General launched Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy accentuating that young people are “agents of change” and that the young generation is “the ultimate force for change” and proposing actions to promote youth engagement.
The Secretary-General tasked his Envoy on Youth, in conjunction with the UN system and youth themselves, to lead development of a UN Youth Strategy. Its aim: scale up global, regional and national actions to meet young people’s needs, realize their rights and tap their possibilities as agents of change.
On December 12, 2019 the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution on Youth, disarmament and non-proliferation. The resolution was introduced by the Republic of Korea and co-sponsored by 42 additional governments including a mix of nuclear-armed, nuclear allied and non-nuclear countries.
The resolution calls on governments, UN agencies and civil society to educate, engage and empower youth in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation. As such, it aims to provide impetus for non-governmental organisations to develop youth-focused and youth-led programs in cooperation with the United Nations and with support of governments.
The platform for youth engagement and diverse programmes launched by the Secretary-General have been reflected the deep concern of the young people about existential threats posed not only by global warming but also nuclear weapons which are the most inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. They violate international law, cause severe environmental damage, undermine national and global security, and divert vast public resources away from meeting human needs.
As the 2017 nuclear peace laureate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) emphasises, single nuclear warhead could kill hundreds of thousands of people, with lasting and devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences. Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea possess an estimated total of nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons, most of which are many times more powerful than the nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima. Thirty-one other states are also part of the problem.
Young people play a crucial role in the activities of ICAN, a coalition of non-governmental organizations promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.
On July 7, 2017, an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations adopted a landmark global agreement to ban nuclear weapons, known officially as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). It will enter into legal force once 50 nations have signed and ratified it. Meanwhile, 34 nations have ratified the Treaty.
Existing Treaties involved in the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (Treaty of Bangkok), Africa (Treaty of Pelindaba), and Central Asia as well as Mongolia, are contributing their share to a nuclear weapons free world.
But the establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction has been eluding the international community. The Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction held its First Session from November 18-22, 2019 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York under the presidency of Ambassador Sima Bahous of Jordan. The Conference adopted a Political Declaration and its Final Report.
With the support of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the UN on December 9, hosted a session of the Nuclear Discussion Forum on outcomes of the First Session.
The Second Session of the Conference is scheduled to take place from November 16-20 November 2020 at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Apart from official actions at the UN Headquarters in New York, young people have been taking part in several activities initiated by non-governmental organisations gathered in UNFOLD ZERO.
During the UN Disarmament Week from October 24-30, 2019 a team of volunteers (mostly youth) in New York City counted out $542 billion – the approximate global nuclear weapons budget for the next five years – and symbolically reallocated this to climate protection, poverty alleviation and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The action was initiated by the World Future Council and organised by Peace Accelerators, a youth-led network of ‘ethical futurists and entrepreneurs’ working for a sustainable future.
The money was counted in various locations around the city, including at the United Nations in cooperation with students from the School Strike for Climate movement, in front of New York City (NYC) Town Hall to support divestment of NYC pension funds from the nuclear weapons industry; outside the office of Jacobs Engineering a nuclear weapons contractor; and at Strawberry Fields in honour of peacemaker John Lennon.
Youth from around the world who were unable to come to New York for the event, posted social media memes in support.
The Basel Peace Office and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament initiated a new project Youth voices on climate, peace and nuclear disarmament, in cooperation with the Abolition 2000 Youth Network. The project includes:
Climate, peace and security: From youth voices to policy action, a roundtable event in Basel on January 9, 2020 bringing legislators and experts together with European youth leaders in the climate, peace and disarmament movements;
Video Project: Youth voices on climate, peace and disarmament, a compilation of youth video statements about climate, peace, security and nuclear disarmament and the role of the European Union, United Nations and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE);
Peace and Climate action of European Youth (PACEY) Award, a new prize of €5000 to support a European youth project or proposal for action on climate, peace and nuclear disarmament. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 December 2019]
Photo: The second training on Conflict Prevention through Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-proliferation jointly organized by UNODA and the OSCE in May 2019 at Vienna International Centre. Credit: UNODA, Vienna Office.