International Disarmament Institute News

Education and Research on Global Disarmament Policy

March 2, 2020
by mbolton
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Youth are the future of nuclear disarmament

Crystal Isidor, Pace University senior and Model United Nations head delegate, speaking at UN headquarters on youth and nuclear disarmament. Photo by Veronika Datzer and Yury Medvedev, UN.

On 20 January 2020, Crystal Isidor ’20, a Pace University senior and Model United Nations Head Delegate, spoke on a panel about nuclear disarmament at UN headquarters, alongside such distinguished speakers as Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and H.E. Ambassador Cho Hyun, Permanent Representation of Republic of Korea to the UN. Crystal “discussed means for youth to become involved in disarmament—including through social media, volunteer opportunities and internships.” In the following blog post, she reflects on her experience. 

I was very honored the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) invited me to be a part of their panel, especially with such a distinguished group of professionals. The topic of nuclear disarmament can be intimidating. But it  is an issue that becomes more pressing everyday. On the panel, I spoke about my background and how youth like myself can get involved in disarmament without having prior experience in the field or having finished their studies. There are a number of organizations doing remarkable work on this issue that offer many internships and volunteer opportunities to get involved, as well as events like the Youth4Disarmament Initiative to learn more about the topic.

Joining the Model UN team at Pace was one of the best ways to get first hand experience to how diplomatic work is done. It is a great way for the younger generation to actively gain more experience in this field. Youth are the future. It is imperative for youth to be engaged in a substantive conversation on disarmament. The past generation of diplomats need to collaborate with the next generation of leaders and thinkers to continue and make leaps in disarmament at large.

— Crystal Isidor ’20

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.

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.

May 11, 2018
by mbolton
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Comments from International Disarmament Institute Director on US Withdrawal from Iran Deal

 

Director of the International Disarmament Institute, Dr. Matthew Bolton, told Reuters this week that:

“The decision to withdraw from the Iran deal is truly irresponsible, putting political posturing above human security. The Iran nuclear deal made the world safer and less at risk of nuclear proliferation. The agreement cut off all the pathways to an Iranian bomb. This plays into the hands of hardliners in Iran who also want to scuttle the deal. It is a blow to America’s credibility, undercutting its capacity to persuade others that the US keeps its promises. The rest of the signatories of the Iran Deal – Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the EU – should forge ahead with upholding the agreement.”

He was also interviewed by WAMC Northeast Public Radio and Newsweek.

Last year, he published a more comprehensive analysis in The Hill outlining the importance of the Iran Deal, saying:

“The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the “Iran deal,” represents one of the most significant recent diplomatic victories in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons. It resulted from complex technical negotiations that do not lend themselves to snappy slogans. Nevertheless, at its heart, the agreement’s simple bargain has made the world safer.”

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May 7, 2018
by mbolton
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Fiji: Addressing the Humanitarian and Human Rights Concerns of Kirisimasi (Christmas and Malden Island) Veterans

Paul Ah Poy, President of the Fiji Nuclear Veterans Association was posted to Christmas Island during the UK nuclear weapons testing program. Photo: Matthew Bolton.

Between 1957 and 1958, Fijian soldiers participated in the nine UK nuclear weapons tests at Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands, now part of the Republic of Kiribati. Test veterans, including Fijians, and civilian survivors claim their health (as well as their descendants’) was adversely affected by exposure to ionizing radiation. Their concerns are supported by independent medical research.  Though the UK government assured coverage of Fijian troops’ service-related health problems during the tests, it has offered them no assistance or compensation. Instead, the Fiji government has stepped in to offer a one-off grant to veterans to support medical and welfare costs in 2015. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which Fiji has signed but not yet ratified, obligates assistance to victims and remediation of contaminated environments, including those affected by the Christmas and Malden Islands nuclear tests. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for the role of its advocacy in achieving the treaty.

A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute documents the humanitarian, human rights and environmental harm caused by these nuclear weapons tests, finding that:

  • 276 Fijian troops were among the 15,000 personnel who participated in the UK nuclear weapons tests in and around Kiribati; Fijian dignitaries also visited.
  • Fijian soldiers and sailors were often allocated more dangerous tasks, like dumping birds killed or blinded by the tests, and even radioactive waste, into the ocean
  • Sixty years after the tests there are 32 surviving nuclear test veterans in Fiji, plus surviving spouses, children and grandchildren.
  • Many military and civilian survivors of the Christmas and Malden tests have health problems consistent with exposure to radiation; descendants also report multi-generational health problems.
  • The tests killed thousands of birds and fish. The environmental impact of the nuclear tests has not been adequately analyzed.

The report recommends that Fiji and the international community should:

  1. Sign and RATIFY the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  2. Assess and RESPOND to the humanitarian needs of survivors, including the Fijian veterans.
  3. Survey and REMEDIATE contaminated environments at Kiritimati and Malden Islands.
  4. RESPECT, protect and fulfill the human rights of nuclear test survivors.
  5. RETELL the stories of the humanitarian and environmental impact of the tests.

To read the full report, click here.

For a more comprehensive report on the impact of the Kiritimati and Malden Island tests, click here.

For a general overview of the global humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons use and testing, click here.

May 7, 2018
by mbolton
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Kiribati: Addressing the Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Harm of Nuclear Weapons Tests at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands

Teeua Tetua, President of the Association of Cancer Patients Affected by the British and American Bomb Tests, Kiritimati, January 2018. Photo: Matthew Bolton.

Between 1957 and 1962, the UK and USA tested 33 nuclear devices at Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands, now part of the Republic of Kiribati. British, Fijian, New Zealand and American veterans of the testing program and I-Kiribati civilians who lived on Kiritimati claim their health (as well as their descendants’) was adversely affected by exposure to ionizing radiation. Their concerns are supported by independent medical research. However, analysis of the ongoing humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons testing at Kiritimati and Malden Islands has been inadequate. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which Kiribati has signed but not yet ratified, obligates assistance to victims and remediation of contaminated environments, including those affected by the Christmas and Malden Islands nuclear tests. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for the role of its advocacy in achieving the treaty.

A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute documents the humanitarian, human rights and environmental harm caused by these nuclear weapons tests, finding that:

  • 43,000 military and civilian personnel from the US, UK, New Zealand and Fiji participated in the UK and US nuclear weapons tests in and around Kiribati; family members and dignitaries also visited
  • The 500 I-Kiribati civilians living on Kiritimati during the tests received little protection
  • There are at least 48 first generation survivors in Kiribati, plus 800 children and grandchildren of survivors
  • Many military and civilian survivors have health problems consistent with exposure to radiation; descendants also report multi-generational health problems
  • The tests killed thousands of birds and fish. The environmental impact of the nuclear tests has not been adequately analyzed

The report recommends that Kiribati and the international community should:

  1. Sign and RATIFY the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  2. Assess and RESPOND to the humanitarian needs of survivors, especially at Kiritimati
  3. Survey and REMEDIATE contaminated environments at Kiritimati and Malden Islands
  4. RESPECT, protect and fulfill the human rights of nuclear test survivors
  5. RETELL the stories of the humanitarian and environmental impact of the tests

To read the full report, click here.

For a related report on the impact of the Kiritimati and Malden Island tests on Fijian veterans, click here.

For a general overview of the global humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons use and testing, click here.

December 1, 2017
by mbolton
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Linking Disarmament Education and Humanitarian Action on Nuclear Harm

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.

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July 28, 2017
by mbolton
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Guide to the New Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

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.

In an article for Just Security, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute provides a brief guide to the treaty’s preamble and operative provisions. Click here to read it.

July 28, 2017
by mbolton
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How the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Helped Expose Disarmament’s Weakness on the Environment

In this new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute and the Toxic Remnants of War Project, Doug Weir, explores the implications of the new Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty for the protection of the environment:

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.

To read the full report, click here.

Weir is Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies’ Marjan Centre at King’s College London and coordinates the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and manages the Toxic Remnants of War Project.

June 21, 2017
by mbolton
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Presentation of Research on Norm Promotion Provisions to Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Negotiations

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute presented research on norm promotion and dissemination provisions in disarmament treaties to the UN negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty. Below is the written version of the statement delivered by Dr. Matthew Bolton. For more details on the research, see the Institute’s Working Paper.

Thank you Madame President,

This Convention aims to stigmatize nuclear weapons. However, normative change does not happen by itself; it requires action by states, international organizations, civil society, faith leaders and academia.

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute has conducted research on provisions in relevant humanitarian and disarmament instruments regarding the universalization and promotion of norms they establish. Our detailed research can be found in Working Paper, number 36, submitted to the conference.

The current draft of Article 13 on universalization establishes important obligations to encourage other states to join the treaty. However, we encourage the conference to consider including provisions found in other instruments that provide additional avenues for diffusing norms.

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