On Friday, 2 May 2014, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Soka Gakkai International, Peace Boat, Hibakusha Stories and IPPNW Costa Rica, with the assistance of the Mission of Austria, convened a seminar on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation education. Speakers included: Ms. Virginia Gamba, Director of the Office for Disarmament Affairs and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; Dr. William C. Potter, Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies: Ms. Tamara Patton, Research Associate at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP); Ms. Michiko Kodama, Hiroshima survivor and Assistant Secretary General of Hidankyo; Ms. Hayley Ramsay-Jones of SGI in Geneva, and Dr. Alexandra Arce von Herold, Co-President of IPPNW Costa Rica and a member of Ban All Nukes generation. Dr. Ronald Sturm, Head of the Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, and Nuclear Security Unit, IAEA, CTBTO, NPT, NSG, MTCR, and HCOC Executive Secretariat from the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration, and Foreign Affairs of Austria, moderated the event.
Throughout the event, Dr. Sturm of Austria, the moderator, noted the significance of the different speakers because they represented different constituents and stakeholders who have been promoting nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation education. Moreover, he commented about the importance of the discussions associated with humanitarian approach of nuclear weapons. He further discussed that the energy of the youth has been contagious for members of the international community.
Ms. Virginia Gamba focused on the UN’s involvement in promoting education and emphasized the importance of educating young people. She talked about the importance of establishing solidarity amongst the youth on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues. Their solidarity would help raise awareness about the issues. Moreover, Ms. Gamba presented UNODA’s Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do, “a book that shows young people actionable steps they can take to personally lead the call for disarmament.”
Dr. William C. Potter delivered an introductory speech about new pedagogical tools in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation education and introduced Ms. Tamara Patton, a Research Associate at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP), to explain these tools to the audience. Specifically, she explained these pedagogical tools, which include: new analytic software, satellite imagery, and virtual reality projects. The software involves data from Human Geo, Geofeedia, Map Large, and Rosette to analyze issues relevant to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues. Furthermore, satellite imageries enable individuals to analyze facilities related to fissile material production and centrifuge capacities. She described that CNS developed a virtual verification course and VCDNP established a virtual reality project to support verification research.
Then Ms. Michiko Kodama provided her testimony about the terrible day when the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. Moreover, she discussed that world leaders must visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the real effects of the use of nuclear weapons. Her personal message triggered a strong response from the members of the participants to reflect upon why we need to ban nuclear weapons.
Following Ms. Michiko Kodama’s statement, Ms. Hayley Ramsay-Jones spoke about the relevance that civil society has on the promotion of non-formal education. Specifically, Ms. Hayley Ramsay-Jones addressed SGI’s international survey on attitudes towards nuclear weapons, “People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition,” and the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. She noted that you do not have to be an expert to engage in dialogue discussions about nuclear weapons with policy leaders and decision makers.
Afterwards, Dr. Alexandra Arce von Herold mentioned the importance of education through actions. She also noted that it is essential to engage with young people. She explained that often people from previous generations perceive the youth as naive individuals.
In actuality, many young people see everything from fresh and new perspectives. Moreover, she stated that when the youth are involved through actions or delivering speeches, their joint energies are contagious to others and help them to refresh their own energies. She also addressed Ban All Nukes generation’s Game Changers project in Nayarit, Mexico and Ban All Nukes generation’s contributions to the Opened-ended Working Group. These examples indicate young people’s determination to change the world and illustrate that young people have significant roles in the arena.
Overall, the speakers underscored how different constituents and civil society organizations are educating young individuals. They suggested that there are different methods, including workshops, meetings with the survivors of atomic bomb survivors, and engaging in informal educational opportunities, which can help empower and educate the current generation of young people about the destructive effects of nuclear weapons.
If different groups can continue to provide various educational opportunities for young people, then it would be possible to transform young people into Game Changers, who will make a difference and join the growing movement against nuclear weapons.