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.
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!
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.
Participants in the 27th UN Conference on Disarmament Issues (UNCDI) in Hiroshima lay flowers at the Cenotaph honoring those who died in the atomic bomb attack.
Full Written Remarks by Matthew Bolton, director of the International Disarmament Institute, for Session on “Education for the Next Generation on the Realities of the Atomic Bombings” at the 27th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues (UNCDI) in Hiroshima, 29-30 November 2017.
I must admit that when asked to speak on this panel, I initially felt awkward about the request. I have no personal experience with the realities of the atomic bombings here in Hiroshima, or Nagasaki. I have not myself suffered the impacts of nuclear weapons testing in the places where I live. However, in preparing for this panel I have been reflecting on how I came to know about the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons.
I spent some of the first years of my life here in Japan. Though we left when I was only three-years-old, I still have memories of Tokyo and the friends my parents made there would often visit our home in Leicester, England. As a result, I grew up with a positive regard for Japanese people and so always felt disturbed when history classes debated whether the atomic bombings “ended the war.” I could not so easily dismiss the lives of Japanese people as “collateral damage.” I could imagine people in the casualty statistics.
The successful negotiation of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has provided new political and legal impetus for disarmament education. The preamble specifically recognises “the importance of peace and disarmament education in all its aspects and of raising awareness of the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons for current and future generations, and committed to the dissemination of the principles and norms” of the TPNW. It also stress the role of UN, “International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, other international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, religious leaders, parliamentarians, academics and the hibakusha” as representatives of the “public conscience” in pressing for nuclear disarmament. This framing represents a welcome turn toward a more vigorous approach to disarmament and nonproliferation education.
The majority of the world’s countries just adopted a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, placing them in the same category of international law as other weapons of mass destruction (chemical and biological weapons) or that cause unacceptable harm (landmines and cluster munitions). Despite this being the most significant development in global nuclear politics since the end of the Cold War, discussion of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is almost absent from the U.S. news media and often misunderstood in DC policy circles.
The treaty was approved by a vote at the UN on July 7: 122 countries voted in favor, the Netherlands against and Singapore abstained. The treaty will be available for countries to start signing it on September 20.
The successful adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 was a significant step forward for efforts to stigmatise, and ultimately ban, the final weapon of mass destruction not addressed by a specific legal prohibition. Much has, and will continue to be written on the treaty’s potential impact on ossified state-centric debates about nuclear security. The Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons intentionally posed a direct challenge to the rarefied world of nuclear experts and think tanks, particularly those captured by, and actively participating in, the prevailing state security discourse. However, beyond the conflict between the state and human security advocates, there was another story playing out, and it was a story that highlighted the fact that disarmament doesn’t really do “the environment” as effectively as it should. Addressing this weakness would strengthen future humanitarian disarmament initiatives.
Faced with recurrent political and inter-communal violence since 1992, the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret in Kenya has responded in numerous ways to alleviate, contain and end the conflicts that have divided local communities. In a new book co-published by the Diocese and Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, Bishop Cornelius Korir follows up on the success of his 2009 book Amani Mashinani (Peace at the Grassroots), by turning his attention to reconciliation.
With co-authors from the Diocese and beyond, Korir shows how reconciliation after violent conflict is a subtle, slow and often difficult process that is not just about ending observable fighting. Drawing on almost 25 years of experience with peacebuilding at the community level, Korir argues that reconciliation requires communities to recognize the worth of other, atone for injustice, heal wounds of the spirit and commit to building a non-violent, equitable and just society. While external actors can support it, sustainable reconciliation requires an intensive focus at the grassroots – maridhiano mashinani – by faith institutions and local civil society to build relationships of interdependence.
The book also offers insight into processes of disarmament at the very local level, often overlooked in global and national policymaking processes on arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament.
Click here to read a free e-copy of the new book, titled Mardiano Mashinani (Reconciliation at the Grassroots),click here.
Bonnie Docherty (left) of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Matthew Bolton (right), Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute on a panel regarding positive obligations in the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty at the UN in March 2017.
The case for the nuclear weapons ban treaty has been rooted in the traditions of international humanitarian law and humanitarian disarmament law, which bind states to acknowledging the suffering caused by war, establishing prohibitions on inhuman methods and means of warfare and taking positive harm-limiting measures.
The Geneva Conventions – the most well-known treaties forming the core of international humanitarian law – prohibit states from targeting civilians, wounded soldiers, prisoners of war, the shipwrecked and relief workers. But they also commit states to a positive “duty to ensure respect” for the conventions (Common Article 1). And they mandate the International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Societies to provide relief and to raise awareness of humanitarian norms.
A rarely acknowledged irony of the post–cold war era is that it ushered in a moment when the world came closest to achieving “General and Complete Disarmament” (GCD) but, simultaneously, the concept was discursively marginalized and discredited as “unrealistic”. The sort of comprehensive disarmament envisioned by the GCD concept — reducing security forces and arsenals to no more than is needed for national safety—can now be talked about in policy circles only as something that is “done to” a former conflict zone, usually in the Global South. Reviewing the history of GCD reminds us that it was taken seriously by “serious people” and even written into international law. It allows us to pay attention to a concept that haunts the edges of our conventional wisdom about global security policy. The point is not to indulge in nostalgic “what if” counterfactuals, but to have the past challenge our present complacency and reintroduce GCD as a “thinkable thought.”