International Disarmament Institute News

Education and Research on Global Disarmament Policy

July 26, 2022
by mbolton
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Humanitarian Action on Nuclear Weapons: Reinvigorating Nuclear Diplomacy in the NPT and Beyond

The use and testing of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences, which have been inadequately addressed by global policy. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), negotiated at the United Nations (UN) in 2017, is a categorical rejection of what had been the only weapons of mass destruction not yet banned by international law. But the TPNW also includes “positive obligations,” addressing the ongoing consequences of nuclear weapons use, testing, and related activities. These provisions were a major topic of discussion at the first meeting of states parties to the TPNW in June 2022 in Vienna, Austria. Discussions also centered on survivors’ voices and offered surprising moments of openness and collaboration between states parties and observer states that are not yet party to the TPNW, including some in nuclear alliances. The resulting Vienna Action Plan outlines a practical and forward-looking agenda, addressing the long-neglected impact of the more than 2,000 nuclear detonations in affected communities. It also provides opportunities for states to pursue other diplomatic priorities of the 21st century, including sustainable development, gender equity, disability justice, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and mitigation of environmental pollution.

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June 17, 2022
by mbolton
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Race, Disarmament and International Politics

 

The following reflection is from Magnolia Garcia Garcia, a Pace University undergraduate who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Magnolia’s assignment was with the network of organizations that planned the 2021 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum on Race and Intersectionality.

 

The 2021 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum (HDF) focused on intersectionality, specifically regarding race and racism in the humanitarian disarmament community. Working with the amazing planning team of the event was rewarding and fulfilling. The members of this team included Hayley, Isabelle, Farah, Ousman, and Clare, some of them working with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and others with Soka Gakkai International.

There were many things that this civic engagement experience taught me about myself, the disarmament process, and international politics.

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June 17, 2022
by mbolton
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Addressing British nuclear tests in Kiribati: a new opportunity for victim assistance and environmental remediation

The first Meeting of States Parties (1MSP) of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is taking place in Vienna from 21-23 June 2022. Countries will come together to begin operationalising the victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance provisions of the TPNW.

Launched ahead of 1MSP, “Addressing British nuclear tests in Kiribati: a new opportunity for victim assistance and environmental remediation” is co-written by Dr. Matthew Breay Bolton of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, along with NGO experts and academics who have conducted significant field and policy research relating to the UK’s nuclear testing. The report, published by the UN Association of the UK, focuses on the harm caused by the UK’s tests in Kiribati in the context of new opportunities for recognition and remediation, given Kiribati’s role as a state party to the TPNW.

From 1952 to 1991 the UK undertook 98 nuclear weapon tests internationally including 45 explosive nuclear weapon tests, as well as 29 minor trial series and facilitation of a further 24 tests which took place on British administered and colonised lands. These tests have had long lasting humanitarian and environmental consequences. Victims include affected communities in the countries where tests took place, including indigenous peoples, as well as the British and colonial service personnel directly involved or serving nearby.

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May 31, 2022
by mbolton
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Mind Blown: Monitoring UN Disarmament Discussions Opens Up Whole New View of International Politics

The following reflection is from Nicki Eichenholtz ’22, a Pace University undergraduate who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service-learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Nicki’s assignment was with Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the oldest women’s peace organization in the world.

For my civic engagement assignment I worked with the organization Reaching Critical Will, writing and editing articles about proceedings of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) for their magazine, First Committee Monitor. We read through official written statements and notes of verbal comments from participating UN countries after every session, looking specifically for discussion of youth education and disarmament.

When I first received this assignment, and the opportunity to work for an organization surrounding the struggle for disarmament, I knew immediately that I wanted to be somehow involved with the UN and learn more about what exactly it is that they do.

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May 31, 2022
by mbolton
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Global Change Is a Prolonged and Delicate Process

The following reflection is from Mandi Karpo ‘23, a Pace University Political Science major who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Mandi’s assignment was with Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the oldest women’s peace organization in the world.

Illustration by Mandi Karpo

My assignment involved monitoring the Fall 2021 session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and writing up articles on youth and disarmament. I learned that First Committee comprises people just like you and me. However, a certain status, validity, and credibility allow these specific individuals to make decisions that affect massive populations. What goes on during these meetings has grown too complicated for the ordinary person to give attention or care.

Thus, I have learned the first and foremost important concept about myself; I am a tiny fish in a very large pond.

However, some organizations have enabled people like me to gain accessible information about what goes on in deep waters, no longer sheltering myself within my bubble of educational ignorance.

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May 27, 2022
by mbolton
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Engaging in Local Advocacy for Nuclear Disarmament

The following reflection is from Deja Kemp-Salliey ’22, a former Pace University student who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Deja’s assignment was with the New York Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (NYCAN), NYC-based activists associated with 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Deja Kemp-Salliey ’22, wears an ICAN mask outside City Hall to advocate for local action on nuclear disarmament. Photo: George de Castro Day

My assignment with NYCAN involved contacting New York City Council Members to advocate for important nuclear disarmament legislation (Res. 976 and Int. 1621). This consisted of calls and emails to sitting Council Members to convince them to vote in favor when the bills came to the floor.

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May 26, 2022
by mbolton
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Learning about Race and Intersectionality in Humanitarian Disarmament

The following reflection is from Rina Mjeku, a recent Pace University graduate who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Rina’s assignment was with the network of organizations that planned the 2021 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum on Race and Intersectionality.

 

As I was considering which community partner to work with for my civic engagement hours, I was drawn to the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum (HDF). I had great interest in the 2020-2021 Forum topic, on Race and Intersectionality and wanted to help with the planning process in any way I could.

Working with the HDF was an eye-opening experience. It allowed me to see the behind-the-scenes of planning a forum attended by hundreds of disarmament activists from around the world. I learned how the disarmament community can become intersectional and anti-racist in their work and organizations.

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February 28, 2022
by mbolton
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A Short Guide to Avoiding Doomscrolling (on This and Other Crises)

by Emily Welty, Director and Associate Professor of Peace and Justice Studies, Pace University New York City

  • Your attention is a form of currency. When you choose to read or take in information from one source and not another, you are boosting this information source with your views. This means it is more important than ever to think about who is delivering narratives that are careful, nuanced and complex.
  • Take a long view. If you already find yourself spending periods of time taking in lots of tiny pieces of information, consider how using that time to understand the historical roots of this conflict is actually much more productive. I will provide a list of resources at the bottom but consider how even though it feels like you are informed to keep checking Twitter, your news feed and TikTok, this is not actually providing you with deeper understanding.
  • Beware of false flags and misinformation. Unless you are both linguistically and culturally fluent in the conflict, you are very unlikely to be able to distinguish good information from bad. Everyone believes that they are not susceptible to misinformation. Assume that you are and turn to information that has been carefully sourced. It is very appealing to watch the short reports of citizens who are livestreaming from their homes – and sometimes this might be a responsible way to know what is happening. But think carefully about what your intentions are when you take this in – is this helping you to engage? Is it deepening trauma? Keep thinking about how we balance the responsibility to witness with the need to not traumatize our own nervous systems.
  • Amplify people who are calling for peace – especially if they are in some of the most difficult contexts in which to do so. Follow carefully the nonviolent protests that are occurring and how they are being policed. Keep asking how protestors are being treated and if you need to publicly weigh in on the conflict, highlight their bravery and determination.
  • Avoid simplistic narratives. Think about how to analyze a conflict beyond who is right and who is wrong. What do these actors want? What are their interests? What are the connectors between these societies? How are resources involved? Be skeptical of sources that link a conflict to any one singular cause. If a report claims that a conflict is “all about oil/NATO/something else” be skeptical about the complexity of this reporting. Avoid narratives that present conflict with clearly defined good people and bad people.
  • Language matters! Using ableist language like “crazy”, “madman”, “lunatic”, “insane”, etc. is not helpful and usually does not accurately describe the way that humans are making decisions. Comparing people to animals or using language like “savage” is rooted in historical dehumanizing language that is both colonial and racist.
  • Take a break. What is happening right now will have an effect on your body and your mind if you take too much of it in at once. While it feels like we are doing something good by watching endless news, this has actual somatic impacts on our body and our nervous system which cannot always distinguish between what is happening to us and what we are watching. Go outside. Turn off your phone and chat with a friend. Look at the sky. We need people to stay engaged and care long-term which means that we also have to take breaks.

 

In the case of Ukraine specifically:

  • Take the time to understand what sanctions mean. What kinds of sanctions are applied in conflict and how do they work?
  • Think about refugee support. There are already refugees moving in this conflict – where are they going? What are their needs? Who is supporting them?
  • Language matters! If you are signaling support for Ukrainians, use “Ukraine” not “the Ukraine” and “Kyiv” not “Kiev”. These preferred terms indicate the way Ukrainians define themselves rather than the way they have been defined by others.
  • Think about how this conflict has been heightened and made much more dangerous and scary by the presence of nuclear weapons. Work on efforts to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and particularly the Cities Appeal to get every city in the world to commit to being nuclear-free. Look at how your own banks/institutions invest in nuclear weapons and demand divestment.

 

January 29, 2022
by mbolton
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Human Rights Fallout of Nuclear Detonations: Reevaluating ‘Threshold Thinking’ in Assisting Victims of Nuclear Testing

The peer-reviewed academic journal Global Policy will soon publish an article by Dr. Matthew Bolton of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute examining the inadequacy of many current responses to the impact of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing on the human rights of people who were living downwind. The following is an abstract of the article and its policy implications:

Atmospheric nuclear test detonations conducted by USA, USSR, UK, France and China, 1945–1980, generated radioactive particles that were dispersed by weather patterns, returning to earth as fallout. People who lived ‘downwind’ face ongoing risks from their exposure to ionizing radiation, as well as psychological, social, cultural and political distress. However, testing states obscured these humanitarian consequences by claiming that fallout could be contained to specific spatial zones, that there are ‘thresholds’ below which radiation exposure has negligible health impacts and that socio-political forms of harm should be disregarded. While the scientific consensus concludes fallout circulates in complex, nonlinear patterns; there is no safe level of radiation exposure; and nuclear testing can generate tremendous anxiety, what Liboiron calls ‘threshold thinking’ continues to underlie policies ostensibly assisting victims of nuclear weapons. This article offers examples from responses to French Pacific nuclear testing, showing how access to compensation and other assistance has often been conditioned on threshold qualifications that function to limit downwind communities’ access to assistance and remedy. Victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations in the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons offer opportunities to move beyond reductive policy logics to multifaceted, human rights-based approaches to affected communities’ concerns.

Policy Implications

  • Policy making on assistance to victims of nuclear weapons testing must put the voices of survivors themselves – rather than the structures responsible for the test program – at the center of the conversation, taking seriously the disability rights slogan ‘Nothing about us, without us’.
  • Policy makers should avoid designing policies of assistance to victims of nuclear testing that limit eligibility to people living in pre-determined spatial zones, given the widespread dispersal and non-linear circulation of radioactive fallout.
  • Victim assistance policy making should start from the presumption that there is no thresh- old below which exposure to radiation is safe, or politically unimportant.
  • Decision-makers should not deny access to benefits based on qualifying threshold radiation doses; such policies may discriminate against women and girls; Indigenous Peoples; and those with genetic predispositions to cancer.
  • Global standards of ‘permissible doses’ of radiation protection – based on a trade-off for the claimed benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear energy – should not be used to evade responsibility for the harms of nuclear weapons activities.
  • Policy makers should design victim assistance programs that recognize and remedy the complex medical, psychological, social, political and economic harms of nuclear test programs.
  • Policy makers, associations of nuclear weap- ons survivors, civil society organizations and scientists should consider using the forums offered by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to build more holistic and human rights-based approaches to assisting victims of nuclear weapons activities.

October 8, 2021
by mbolton
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Pace University Student Jeremiah Williams Addresses UN General Assembly First Committee on Youth and Disarmament Education

Pace University undergraduate student Jeremiah Williams ’23 delivered a statement on youth engagement and disarmament education to the UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), 8 October 2021.

“More than 40% of the world’s population is under the age of 25, most of whom live in the Global South. We are not just ‘the future,’ young people are also here now,” said Political Science major Williams, speaking on behalf of 34 global civil society organizations and campaigns, including two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. “We have the right to intergenerational equity, with a voice in the international community.”

The statement was drafted by Dyson College of Arts and Sciences students Taylor Mangus ’23 and Williams, who together lead the Pace Debates team. They had input from Pace University’s Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class and diverse youth and disarmament education stakeholders around the world. They received support from Dr. Matthew Breay Bolton, director of Pace’s International Disarmament Institute and Dr. Emily Welty, director of the Peace and Justice Studies program.

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