The following reflection is from Sera Andrugtsang, a Pace University undergraduate who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2023. Students had the opportunity to engage in civic engagement assignments with disarmament advocacy efforts in the context of the UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) meetings in New York City.
As I embarked on the Civic Engagement assignment for the Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class, I was unsure of what lay ahead. Little did I anticipate the journey that was to follow would not only broaden my understanding of global affairs, but also lead to a state of self discovery. And as a classmate pointed out, much of my professional and career aspirations reached a place of clarity.
Delving into disarmament policies exposed me to the intricate network of international politics, providing a glimpse into the delicate balance nations work towards to achieve and maintain global peace and security. Through engagement with experts in the field, such as Seth Sheldon, the United Nations Liaison at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) among others, I was able to gain insights into the complexities of arm control, non-proliferation agreements, as well as the geopolitical dynamics that shape these policies. The experience yielded a myriad of takeaways.
I’ve come to realize the significance of engaging with diverse bodies and individuals, seizing opportunities and the value of networking. It quickly became clear that effective civic engagement requires the ability to listen, learn, and adapt one’s perspectives based on new knowledge. I found that being open to diverse perspectives not only enriched my understanding of disarmament as a whole but also fostered personal growth. Owing to the collaborative nature of the assignment, working in small groups underscored the importance of teamwork in navigating complex issues, and sometimes, collective effort may just bring about better results, a lesson applicable not only in my academic endeavors but in the workplace.
Living in an interconnected world, addressing challenges like disarmament necessitates collective effort. Naturally, I’ve come to appreciate the nature of international relations and the importance of collaboration. The disarmament policy process sheds light on the relationship between diplomacy and power politics on the international stage, offering valuable insights into the intricacies of negotiations, the influence historical context holds, and the role of soft power in shaping global agreements.
Witnessing the nuance of international relations first hand reiterated the significance of dialogue and negotiation in making sure that disarmament goals are achieved. It highlighted the challenges nations encounter in assessing and balancing their own security interests alongside the shared pursuit of achieving global peace. As I reflect on my Civic Engagement journey, I am reminded of all the remarkable people I’ve come across along the way, who have left me with valuable lessons, insights, and teammates turned friends.
As someone deeply committed to a career in international relations, my time at the United Nations underscored the role of individuals in shaping the trajectory of global affairs. In future civic engagement endeavors, I aspire to transcend academic exercises, becoming more hands on, informed, vocal, and proactive in advocating for positive change.