Pace University student Angelica Roman ’19 at UN headquarters in New York City.
The following reflection is from Angelica Roman ’19, a Pace University undergraduate who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2018. Students were given with service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN General Assembly First Committee (International Security and Disarmament). For more on the class, click here.
I walked through the doors of the United Nations on September 27, 2018, clenching my grounds pass, anxiously walking through the halls, feeling the nerves creep through every vein of my body. “I don’t deserve to be here,” my thoughts piercingly echoed in my head.
“Why was an inexperienced philosophy undergraduate student attending First Committee?”, I asked myself. In a room full of expert Delegates and activists I felt like the pariah. I was the young adult who knew very little about nuclear weapons, missiles, drones, or really any topic at First Committee.
Yet I was guaranteed a seat for two weeks. I was allowed to hear, take notes, and ask questions to the leaders of the world. I realized that this opportunity I had was one of a kind. And while other college students read and studied the reports of First Committee that week, I was able to physically be present in the room with all of the delegates.
Director of the International Disarmament Institute Matthew Bolton has published an article in the Asian Journal of Political Science analyzing the role of Pacific states in the negotiations of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons:
The 2017 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was negotiated at the UN over the objections of nuclear-armed and -allied states and established a global categorical ban on nuclear weapons framed in terms of humanitarianism, human rights and environmentalism. The TPNW also placed ‘positive obligations’ on states to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and remediate contaminated environments. States and NGOs from the Pacific region advocated for a strong treaty text, particularly its positive obligations. They were influenced by the region’s history as a site of nuclear weapons testing in Marshall Islands, Kiribati and French Polynesia/Te Ao Maohi; the 1985 South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone’s precedent; and earlier diplomatic efforts and activism linking denuclearization with decolonization. In doing so, Pacific and other formerly colonized states flipped the ‘standard of civilization’ script embedded in humanitarian disarmament law and applied it to their former colonizers. The paper demonstrates the agency of small states—the ‘-Pacific’ part of ‘Asia-Pacific’—in multilateral policymaking on peace and security, often overlooked in international relations scholarship. It draws on my participant observation in the Nobel Peace Prize-winning advocacy of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) during the TPNW negotiations.