International Disarmament Institute News

Education and Research on Global Disarmament Policy

January 14, 2020
by mbolton
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Nuclear Weapons are Risky Business: Divestment as Financial Prudence

May 2018 Protest by New York City Activists Calling for Divestment from Nuclear Weapons. Photo by Robert Croonquist, 2018.

The majority of the world’s governments – along with many faith leaders, Nobel Prize Laureates and civil society voices around the world – see nuclear weapons as morally abhorrent. On 7 July 2017, 122 states adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which comprehensively bans nuclear weapons, including assistance to those engaged in prohibited actions like production, manufacture and stockpiling. As a result, there is growing momentum for divestment from nuclear weapons, with some of the world’s largest pension funds already disinvesting.

According to a new report published by the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University,  disinvestment is not simply a moral stand; it is a prudent and perspicacious assessment of the significant long-term downside risk and stigmatization inherent in nuclear weapon production. Nuclear weapons investments strongly conflict with fiduciary responsibility given their increasing regulatory, reputational and environmental legacy risks. Further, nuclear weapons themselves pose catastrophic risks to the global economy that have no simple technocratic fixes. Removing investments in nuclear weapons producers, which are limited to about 0.25% of New York City’s pension fund assets, is a wise course of action with respect to both future returns and the progressive reputation of New York City. Divestment captures the long-term externalities created by nuclear weapons production.

Download Nuclear Weapons are Risky Business: Divestment as Financial Prudence for New York City’s Retirement Systems here.

Readers may be interested in a more general review of New York City’s policy and practice on nuclear weapons, available here.

January 14, 2020
by mbolton
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From Manhattan Project to Nuclear Free: New York City’s Policy and Practice on Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571) entering New York harbor in 1958. US Navy photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Arctic Submarine Laboratory.

New York City is a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ), both as a normative stance and in fact; all nuclear weapons bases within its territory have been decommissioned and the Navy reportedly avoids bringing nuclear-armed and/or -powered ships into the Harbor. This is an impressive achievement, given the City’s role as a key node in the Manhattan Project, as a former base for nuclear missiles and as a former nuclear-capable Navy homeport. In 1983, the City Council passed a resolution establishing the City as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and prohibiting nuclear weapons from the City’s territory.

A new background paper published by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute provides a historical overview of the development of New York City’s NWFZ and other relevant policy protecting New Yorkers from the humanitarian and environmental consequences of ionizing radiation. It outlines practical efforts taken, including the removal and barring of nuclear weapons from the City limits and remediation of contaminated legacy sites. This is followed by consideration of several challenges facing the NWFZ, including the continued investment of the City’s pension funds in nuclear weapons production, low public awareness of the NWFZ and the Trump administration’s unravelling of constraints on nuclear weapons.

Emerging humanitarian, human rights and environmental norms on nuclear weapons offer potential models to reaffirm and revitalize the City’s nuclear-free status, notably the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted by 122 governments at the United Nations in New York in 2017. Pending New York City Council legislation (Res. 976[2019] and Int. 1621[2019]) addresses policy challenges facing the NWFZ by drawing on emerging global norms, including the TPNW.

Download From Manhattan Project to Nuclear Free: New York City’s Policy and Practice on Nuclear Weapons here.

Readers may also be interested in a more focused discussion paper regarding divestment of New York City’s pension funds from nuclear weapons production, available here.

May 22, 2019
by mbolton
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Inspired by the Agency of Smaller States in the UN General Assembly First Committee

The following reflection is from Karina Roca ’20, 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.

My reservations toward the United Nations prior to my service learning assignment as a notetaker with an international disarmament NGO derived from ignorance and a mistrust I carried from taking classes on genocide, systemic racism and Western dominance of the global political scene. My observations of First Committee confirmed the volume of the West’s voice in this arena, but not its dominance.

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February 18, 2019
by mbolton
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Reflections on Who Is Left Out of Disarmament Diplomacy

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.

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February 15, 2019
by mbolton
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Humanitäre Folgen von Drohnen: Eine völkerrechtliche, psychologische und ethische Betrachtung

The Humanitarian Impact of Drones, a 2017 report edited and published by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, Article 36 and Reaching Critical Will has been translated into German by IPPNW Germany. It is available here.

January 3, 2019
by mbolton
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“The NPT is the Cornerstone of the Disarmament Agenda,” Or Learning UN Disarmament Speak in the General Assembly First Committee

Pace University student Sydney Tisch ’20 at UN headquarters in New York City.

The following reflection is from Sydney Tisch ’20, 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.

When I was placed with Reaching Critical Will (RCW) for my service learning assignment, I was thrilled. Not only are RCW part of the oldest women’s peace organization in the world – the Women’s International League of Freedom (WILPF), but I was already familiar with the organization as a resource for everything related to disarmament and the UN.

I had used their website and digital archive of statements made in First Committee for projects in previous courses and I was excited to be assisting in the continuance of this vital source of information for activists, NGOs, and member states alike.

However, despite my enthusiasm, little could have prepared me for the realities of the hard work and focus that was required of such intense monitoring and, in my case, note-taking.

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December 20, 2018
by mbolton
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Hiroshima Survivors Inspired Me to Work for Peace and Gender Equality

Pace University students (left to right) Seneca Forch, Laken Fournier and Mary-Lynn Hearn meet with Hiroshima survivors and Akira Kawasaki of Peace Boat at Rutgers University, 29 October 2018.

The following reflection is from Mary-Lynn Hearn ’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.

This semester I did my service learning project with Peace Boat US, an NGO working for peace, human rights, and sustainability, at their office opposite the United Nations in New York.

One of the most rewarding experiences of the semester was helping with a Peace Boat event at Rutgers University, in which I heard the testimonies of Tsukamoto Michiko and Sora Tamiko, two hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Despite what they had endured, they communicated no animosity for what happened over 70 years ago, only a call to action for nuclear disarmament. The resilience of Tsukamoto Michiko and Sora Tamiko was inspiring and a true testament for how there is a possibility to rebuild.

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December 20, 2018
by mbolton
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A World Free from the Threat of Weapons Is a Completely Achievable Goal

Pace University Katherrine Ketterer ’20 did her service learning assignment with Control Arms during the 2018 UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

The following reflection is from Katherine Ketterer ’20, 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.

Even though I am a head delegate of Pace’s New York City Model UN program, I have always felt the United Nations was an elusive thing. I learned about the people who work there, how they are supposed to speak and act, along with their policy. But I never really understood what exactly went on during the meetings.

Now I have a much better idea. During the UN General Assembly First Committee this October and November, I worked with Control Arms, an NGO coalition that works to curb the negative impact of the conventional arms trade. Taking notes, I had the opportunity to hear the concerns and opinions from almost every country in the world, and compile them together for analysis. Pretty cool!

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December 19, 2018
by mbolton
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Pace Students Engage in Service Learning with Disarmament Advocacy Organizations at UN

Pace University students (left to right) Seneca Forch ’19, Laken Fournier ’21 and Mary-Lynn Hearn ’19 meet with Hiroshima atomic bombing survivors, Tsukamoto Michiko and Sora Tamiko, and Akira Kawasaki of Peace Boat, at Rutgers University, 29 October 2018. They are holding the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which Peace Boat is an international steering group member.

Pace University students provided almost 470 hours of volunteer service to 12 civil society organizations engaging in humanitarian and human rights advocacy in and around UN policy discussions on global peace and security in Fall 2019 semester.

“Every week I got to gain first hand experience of international relations,” said Crystal Isidor ’21. “I learned about how diplomatic relationships work and how important they are in order to find solutions to complicated problems around the world.”

Enrolled in POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control, 22 undergraduate students were given 20-hour service learning placements with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working at the UN, to fulfill the civic engagement requirement of Pace’s core curriculum. The class also counted for the Political Science and Peace and Justice Studies majors.

The focus of the students’ assignments was the UN General Assembly First Committee, in which the almost 200 member governments debated matters of disarmament and international security, October to November 2019, drafting resolutions for consideration by the General Assembly’s plenary.

Students monitored the debates, taking notes on statements, helping to organize logistics for lunchtime panel discussions, taking photographs, writing news articles and grant proposals, conducting research and assisting with social media messaging.

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November 8, 2018
by mbolton
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Pace University Professors Deliver Keynote Address on Nuclear Disarmament at Parliament of the World’s Religions, Toronto

Dr. Emily Welty and Dr. Matthew Bolton, both professors at Pace University, delivered a joint keynote address about their advocacy with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, 6 November.

“We need to live out our faith by openly and rigorously opposing nuclear weapons,” said Welty, director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace. “Make a public declaration that you and your faith community reject nuclear deterrence as a false ideology that violates what you hold most dear. And then follow that up with action.”

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world. From 1 November to 7 November, thousands of civic, spiritual and grassroots changemakers gathered in Toronto, Canada to reaffirm their commitment to the global interfaith movement and interfaith community.

“From the very beginning of the nuclear age, the harm of nuclear weapons has been indiscriminate and multinational,” said Bolton, director of Pace’s International Disarmament Institute. “But the global extent of nuclear harm means there are opportunities for solidarity across national and religious boundaries. Learning about the suffering of nuclear survivors close to home may enable empathy for those farther away. It creates possibilities for collective action.”

Welty and Bolton are a married couple who teach at Pace and made a conscious decision together to devote their lives to promoting peace and disarmament. Their life’s mission was featured in a video last year when they were nominated for a national Jefferson Award.

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