If disarmament and non-proliferation goals are to be furthered the public must be educated about these issues on a wide scale, particularly in areas of conflict. To help bolster such education efforts the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs launched the U.N. Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education Wednesday October 9 after two years of work and deliberations.

In March 2000 a group of experts from around the world were appointed to examine existing disarmament and nonproliferation education and training programs, and to give recommendations for furthering such work, particularly through the U.N. system. The resulting analysis stems largely from consultations with non-governmental, academic, research and media communities from throughout the world.

Though the study’s 34 recommendations are varied, they include specific actions that can be taken to increase the availability and distribution of disarmament education resources; to improve collaboration between organizations currently working on disarmament education; and to take advantage of appropriate education technology.

The study emphasizes that there must be education efforts at all levels, from young school children to military personnel, and that different methods must be used to reach the public on all levels, with particular sensitivity to cultural and language differences

The First Committee of the United Nations will now begin discussing the document, and it is hoped that the study will lead to an increase in the available resources for effective disarmament education initiatives.

The study calls for increased action by a number of actors, including municipal leaders; religious leaders and institutions; grassroots organizations; and a number of U.N. actors. While impact of some of its suggestions may be difficult to measure, any steps taken by the U.N. General Assembly, the Department of Disarmament and Public Information, U.N. affiliated organizations, U.N. member states, and international non-governmental organizations will be clearly visible.

Disarmament education is a key step in moving towards a more peaceful and non-violent global environment. It is hoped that the study’s suggestions will be enthusiastically implemented.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala and Director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, William C. Potter, stated, in a recent International Herald Tribune article:

“Young people live in a world ravaged by conflict and awash in arms. In an age of weapons of mass destruction, they also must contend with the fear of total annihilation. As diplomats and educators we have a responsibility to provide them with hope founded on reality. Disarmament and nonproliferation education is an important but underused tool to accomplish that end.”
*Devon Chaffee is the Research and Advocacy Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.