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.
Williams urged delegations to support a new biennial resolution on “Youth, disarmament and nonproliferation,” first passed by consensus in 2019 (A/RES/74/64). He noted the “profound impact” of armed violence on young people at “the frontlines of human insecurity, affected by armed conflict, mass shootings, and gender-based violence,” as well as “the catastrophic existential threats of climate change and nuclear weapons.”
Stressing that youth are “not homogenous,” struggling in different circumstances, facing multiple forms of discrimination,” Williams noted that “Many young people get involved in disarmament work through social movements, including those addressing intersecting issues of racism, exploitation, gender-based violence, environmental degradation, disrespect for people with disabilities, disregard for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and disdain for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.”
“We have ambition and energy. But youth can only plead so much for our futures while power is held tightly. You must open the door,” said Williams. “Our concerns for our futures are valid. Our input into your decisions is valuable. Youth empowerment can aid in your efforts to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.'”
For background on First Committee’s consideration of youth and disarmament education issues this year, read Pace’s International Disarmament Institute briefing paper, published by Reaching Critical Will.