10 August 2020

75 for UN75: A Conversation on Rethinking Disarmament

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, and as part of its 75th anniversary initiative (UN75), United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) is hosting the "75 for UN75: 75 Minutes of Conversation" series of online dialogues with academics, educators, researchers and students around the world, to discuss their priorities for the future, obstacles to achieving them, and the role of global cooperation in managing global issues. On 5 August 2020 UNAI hosted a webinar on the theme “Rethinking Disarmament” as part of this series.

The age of nuclear warfare dawned 75 years ago when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 213,000 people. The repercussions of the devastating effects of these bombings continue to be felt around the world. On the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) brought together speakers from Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Japan, Venezuela and Canada to discuss the importance of multilateralism in fostering transnational peace, the need for science-based decision-making, as well as the  role of youth in promoting disarmament and creating a more peaceful future.

Following a musical performance by Yuumi Tobasaba and Rika Ori, two students from J. F. Oberlin University in Tokyo, Japan, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, opened the discussion by highlighting the importance of trust and collaboration between individuals and governments to achieve disarmament. “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that strong multilateral institutions and effective international cooperation are critical to solving global challenges.” Dr. Zerbo also noted that mapping a path toward a peaceful future in the coming years requires acknowledgement and reconciliation of all these forces.

Dr. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly for its 73rd Session, discussed the intersection of gender issues and disarmament. She noted that women are disproportionately impacted by the use of arms, most typically in situations of domestic violence. Dr. Garcés called for multilateralism, characterized by an intergenerational approach and co-responsibility at national and international levels, in order to achieve a holistic and sustainable means to achieving peace, which “should not be a utopia, but rather, an inspiring force to act and transform.”

Dr. Juan Carlos Sainz Borgo, Dean of the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica offered a geopolitical and economic perspective to address disarmament, highlighting the large budgets that some countries allocate to developing nuclear weapons. He explained that “nuclear disarmament is a priority of the human race” and as such, it is important for countries to disarm. He proposed that the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice prioritize achieving the curtailment of nuclear weapons.

Dr. Yoshiro Tanaka, Vice-President of J. F. Oberlin University, UNAI Principle Hub for the UN Charter, provided insight into the role of higher education institutions in fostering peace through peace education. “Through education, we believe that individuals will move toward their ideas with determination and preparedness,” he noted. He stressed that peace education should not be restricted by political, economic or cultural boundaries and peace as a universal concept should be embedded in the way we think.

Kehkashan Basu, Youth Ambassador of World Future Council and Founder and President of the Green Hope Foundation, supported Dr. Tanaka’s stance that education is the key to promoting nuclear disarmament and fostering peace. “We want books, not nukes,” said Ms. Basu, pointing out that governments are spending more on nuclear weapons and testing than on poverty alleviation and education. Lastly, Ms. Basu called on her fellow youth to educate themselves on societal ills and injustices to better position themselves to drive positive change. Youth involvement is needed to change the narrative, lest 75 years later, we will still be “bemoaning the sad state of affairs,” she warned.                                                       

Yuumi Tobisawa, Leader of ASPIRE Japan and a student at J. F. Oberlin University, agreed with Ms. Basu that a nuclear-free future is dependent on people at the grassroots level, highlighting that in order to achieve nuclear disarmament, it is important  for people to be educated about the devastating effects of nuclear warfare and simultaneously spread awareness of it. She recognized the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the “last chance for people to realize the importance of peace.” Ms. Tobisawa went on to add that the world prioritizes economic development at the expense of fundamental human values, and expressed her hope to continue to contribute to sustainable development and peace education.

During the Q&A segment, participants raised questions and discussed with panel members various topics including the critical role of women in promoting peace, the role youth can play in improving the efficiency of multilateral diplomacy when it comes to nuclear disarmament and the use of the internet and social media in peace education.

For more information, check out this list of resources:  

UN75 Conversation on Rethinking Disarmament

On 5 August, United Nations Academic Impact hosted a webinar titled “75 Minutes of Conversation: Rethinking Disarmament”, to commemorate the atomic bombing on the city of Hiroshima and shortly after, Nagasaki, 75 years ago, to draw on the expertise of academia and explore how innovation and research can contribute to the ongoing efforts to fight this deadly virus. This is part of #UN75 series of online dialogues with academics, educators, researchers and students around the world, to discuss their priorities for the future, obstacles to achieving them, and the role of global cooperation in managing global issues.