By Devinder Kumar
Disarmament is at the heart of the collective security system set out in the United Nations Charter, with its goal to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. In commemoration of the United Nation’s 75th anniversaries and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) established the “75 Words for Disarmament Youth Challenge”, which was launched on August 12 International Youth Day and closed on September 26, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
The Challenge was open to young people between the ages of 13 and 29, with three age groups: 13 to 18 years (middle and high school), 19 to 24 years (college and graduate school) and 25 to 29 years (early career professionals).
Through the challenge, young people around the world were invited to express in 75 words what disarmament means to them and their communities. A total of 198 entries were received from 62 countries.
Another outreach initiative #Youth4Disarmament, established in 2019 by the UNODA is encouraging young people to engage, educate and empower in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.
“This is a great recognition that youth leadership and action are both inspiring and critical to ensuring our collective peace and security,” says Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu.
She adds: “Young people, the largest generation in history, have a critical role to play in raising awareness and developing new approaches to bring about change to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms, including their proliferation.”
The #Youth4Disarmament initiative has been recognized as Best Coalition Building Project of 2020 by a Billion Acts of Peace. The initiative was nominated along with eleven other inspiring projects, chosen from more than eight million Acts for Peace.
An Act of Peace is a thoughtful action that spreads more peace in the community, school, business or organization, and is designed to impact one or more of the Billion Acts Issue Areas that are critical to creating world peace.
Billion Acts of Peace, an initiative of the PeaceJam Foundation, is fostering the ambitious goal of creating One Billion Acts of Peace by 2021. Already 82,987,619 Acts of Peace have been created across 171 countries.
The initiative is inspiring everyday people to change the world — one Act of Peace at a time. Among those who could vote for the nominated Acts were previous winners, which include climate change youth advocate Greta Thunberg.
In a related event this year, university students in India were asked by representatives of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) about their ideas about how gender shapes the impact of weapons, both in their communities and on each of them as individuals.
UNRCPD is mandated to work with 43 states in the Asia-Pacific. It assists countries in the region to achieve their peace, security, and disarmament goals, through provision of substantive support; coordination of activities at the sub-regional, regional and international levels; and information sharing on global and regional activities.
The university students were participating in a webinar on “gender and peace”, the fourth lecture in a series organized by the Prajnya Trust and Sansristi, two India-based civil society organizations.
The UNRCPD staff drew the participants’ attention to how disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control processes intersect with areas like gender. Awareness of this can facilitate the development of more effective policies, programmes and projects.
In fact, when the Security Council adopted resolution 1325 (2000) about two decades ago, it kicked off a series of policies and initiatives that have focused on the connection between gender dynamics and armed violence.
This landmark resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. It stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
UNRCPD’s project coordinator for UN Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), Mr Steven Humphries, explained that although nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction are inherently indiscriminate, ionizing radiation has been proven to have unique adverse effects on women.
Ionizing radiation is a type of high-energy radiation that can cause chemical changes in cells and damage DNA. Nuclear power plant accidents and atomic weapons also release high levels of ionizing radiation.
To pursue progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, it is necessary to apply a so-called “gender lens”, ensure that diverse voices are heard and challenge gendered patterns of power relations, Mr Humphries concluded.
The importance of resolution 1540 (2004) lies in the Security Council’s decision that all States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes.
The resolution requires all States to adopt and enforce appropriate laws to this effect as well as other effective measures to prevent the proliferation of these weapons and their means of delivery to non-State actors, in particular for terrorist purposes.
According to UNODA, civil society and the private sector can make important contributions to the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004). UNODA is actively promoting partnerships with civil society, the private sector and industry to support national and international efforts to meet the objectives of the resolution.
In cooperation with Germany, UNODA convened the first Conference of International, Regional, and Sub-Regional Industry Associations on UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) in 2012. It involved the participation of industry associations and private companies from the nuclear, chemical, biological, finance, transport and aerospace sectors.
In January 2013, UNODA in cooperation with Austria held the first Civil Society Forum on resolution 1540 (2004). The Forum assembled 45 civil society organizations, which reflected a broad geographical diversity and included representatives from the Americas, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa and Southern Africa.
One effective, cooperative relationship has been between the Center for International Trade & Security, School of Public & International Affairs, University of Georgia and the UNODA. The Center has published the eleventh issue of their publication, 1540 Compass, a journal of views, comments, and ideas for effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 to prevent WMD proliferation and terrorism by non-state actors.
Mr. Humphries’s remarks gave way to an insightful discussion with the students on the implications and implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January 2021 and represents the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades.
The human and economic cost of militarization were also discussed during the event.
With an eye on the future, three United Nations Youth Champions for Disarmament introduced the audience to the #Youth4Disarmament initiative, which seeks to connect geographically diverse young people with experts to learn about current international security challenges, the work of the United Nations and how to actively participate. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 February 2021]
Note: This is a revised version of the article with the headline Youth4Disarmament#s Billion Acts of Peace