20th anniversary of the United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education

25.01.2022

MOSCOW. JANUARY 25, 2022. PIR PRESS. “It is striking for someone of my generation to think that an entirely new generation of human beings is coming to maturity without an ever-present terror of nuclear catastrophe. Yet it is so, and that is for the better. The downside, however, is ignorance of the real dangers that do exist, especially the legacy of nuclear weapons inherited from the last century. Moreover, the companion of ignorance is complacency: what we know little about, we care little to do anything about”, from Foreword by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (1997-2006) to Report United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Education (2002).

In 2022 global nonproliferation community will mark the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education. Since then, disarmament and nonproliferation education is one of the key instruments of ensuring global security. Raising a new generation of nonproliferation and disarmament experts as well as spreading the knowledge about nuclear factors in international relations among policymakers and civil society are essential to sustain the regime of nuclear nonproliferation today and in the future.

The Report was developed by a Group of Governmental Experts in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 55/33 E (2000), which launched the disarmament and nonproliferation education agenda at the UN level. PIR Center Director and Founder Vladimir Orlov took an active part in shaping the Report as a UN Consultant on disarmament and nonproliferation education (2001-2002). After 2 years of GGE work, the Report was submitted by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (1997-2006) to the First Committee of the General Assembly at its 57th session (2002). It consisted of 34 recommendations for the promotion of disarmament and nonproliferation education and training. As PIR Center Director and Founder Vladimir Orlov notes, this set of recommendations which was provided almost 20 years ago, is still relevant. However, from his point of view, we can achieve success in nonproliferation and disarmament education only if we use modern ways of discussions, trying on the shoes of each other.

Indeed, a growing number of disarmament and nonproliferation education programs and initiatives have been emerging as part of this agenda. These include outreach projects for the general public, as well as forums, fellowships, and academic programs for young nuclear nonproliferation professionals. One such academic programs is the Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation, developed since 2016 by PIR Center. In the autumn of 2021, the 6th cohort of students of the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies - from Russia, Italy, the US and France - started their education process in Moscow at MGIMO University. The students shared their personal experience of participating in various events and projects organized in accordance with 34 recommendations for action of 2002, as well as their opinion on why the provisions of the Secretary-General's Report are still relevant.

Students first noticed that in recent years there has been a rapid increase in opportunities for communication and joint work of prominent experts with young researchers. International youth organizations and movements such as the CTBTO Youth Group, Emerging Voices Network (a youth movement under the auspices of BASIC, UK), the Youth Communicators for a World Without Nuclear Weapons (under the auspices of the Japanese Foreign Ministry), etc. PIR Center also has its own networking platform for young professionals – PIR Center Alumni Community. These organizations and movements provide access to expert materials, direct communication with world-class experts, and promote knowledge about nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and global security.

The students of the Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation have also noted that obtaining any kinds of scholarships and fellowships to study nonproliferation and conduct research in the field has become easier. For example, in 2021, four female students of the program became the winners of the IAEA Maria Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Program (MSCFP). Rebecca Pantani (Italy), Hannah Harris (USA), Daria Kheyrie (Russia) and Sarah Erickson (USA) will be awarded scholarships to cover graduate school tuition fees and up to 12 months-long internships at the IAEA. The Dual Degree M.A. Program graduate Inna Rodina was also a recipient of this scholarship a year earlier, and now she has already started her internship at IAEA Safeguards Department.

"Being admitted to this Dual Degree Program and at the same time receiving the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship is astonishing. I have been interested in Arms Control and Nuclear Proliferation studies for a long time and I now feel that I will be able to pursue and reach my goals, I feel that I am on the right path. I am very excited to continue my studies in Monterey next semester and seize the opportunity to collaborate with the IAEA in the future", - Rebecca Pantani, a 6th cohort student of the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies (MGIMO-MIIS-PIR Center).

Among other things, the students note the growing number of educational events available to both expert circles and the general public. For example, PIR Center regularly holds Midweek Brainstorming Sessions. In 2021 the covered such issues as the Iranian nuclear program, China's nuclear potential, the prospects of collective security architecture in the Middle East, the risks of politicization of the IAEA safeguards system, coalitions within the framework of the NPT review process, cybersecurity, and many other topics.

Also, PIR Center hosts public online lectures with experts working in the field on a daily basis. In October 2021, there was a lecture on the evolution of the nonproliferation regime and the NPT review process with Professor William Potter, Director of James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (USA). In November 2021, PIR Center held an online meeting with H.E. Gustavo Zlauvinen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and President-designate of the X NPT Review Conference. In December 2021, a lecture by H.E. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs took place. It was devoted to the topic Nuclear Disarmament – a Dream, an Ultimate Goal, a Commitment?  

PIR Center also annually organizes the International School on Global Security, a unique platform where young diplomats, officers, researchers, journalists, representatives of international organizations and students from Russia, Europe and CIS countries expand their professional horizons and improve their skills, meet with leading Russian experts, employees of governmental and non-governmental organizations, and foreign diplomats. In 2022 the School will open its doors for the 21st time!

In addition to the events where experts share their knowledge with the youth, young researchers themselves are increasingly taking the lead, which further motivates them to immerse themselves in the nonproliferation field and helps students. Thus, in November 2021, PIR Center held the III International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates, which combined two formats – situational analysis and role play. The participants presented their views on the nuclear ambitions of Japan, South Korea, Iran, and Saudi Arabia as government representatives of these countries. The debate brought together students and young professionals in nuclear nonproliferation and global security from MGIMO University (Russia), Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (USA), National Research Nuclear University "MEPhI" (Russia), Ural Federal University (Russia), and CTBTO Youth Group (Austria). "The highlight of my semester here in Russia was the III International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates – from reading academic works by Amb. Timerbaev to training with my teammate for our debate – I had so much fun delving deep into a critical issue with surprisingly nuanced arguments on both sides. Preparing for the debate also influenced the direction of my Master’s thesis which will be on a related topic", – Hannah Harris, 6th cohort student of the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies (MGIMO-MIIS-PIR Center).

Regarding the dissemination of educational materials, however, opinions remained mixed. On the one hand, respondents unanimously noted the great availability and multiplicity of various analytical materials on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Formats ranged from news articles and policy briefs to scholarly articles supplemented by videos, podcasts, and online courses. However, the majority of the materials are still in English only. "Sometimes I encounter a situation where I know a specialized term in English but have absolutely no idea how it would sound in Russian. Especially often this happens with the names of documents or organizations", - shares Daria Kheyrie, 6th cohort student of the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies (MGIMO-MIIS-PIR Center).

However, the situation with the Russian language is not so bad. For example, the first introduction to nuclear nonproliferation regime for the Russian young specialists often starts with PIR Center textbook on Nuclear Nonproliferation, edited by Vladimir Orlov, which contains the basics of the nonproliferation regime and the main documents. The textbook is published in Russian and is publicly available. Such fundamental materials are available in all six official UN languages at least. This includes a growing number of nonproliferation studies think tanks around the globe that publish materials in their own languages. To increase the diversity of perspectives, formats, and languages of nonproliferation materials, we need to expand opportunities for the professional training for specialists from different parts of the world who can translate their knowledge into national expert communities.

It must be said that the students confirmed that the implementation of the recommendations from the UN Secretary-General Report United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Education is evident. However, any initiative always has points of possible growth:

  • organizing not just educational but career events for those interested in nonproliferation issues; such events could be webinars with experts where they talk about their career path, the challenges they face, and opportunities for young people; meetings with potential employers outlining requirements for in-demand professionals; career days at universities that provide professional training in nonproliferation, etc.
  • paying more attention to the nonproliferation cluster in major scholarship programs such as Chevening, Erasmus, Fulbright, etc. Nonproliferation is often denigrated by such programs and put behind science or sustainability programs, which reduces the chances of nonproliferation specialists to get a scholarship.
  • translating more publications into languages other than English.
  • supporting youth nonproliferation education initiatives. In universities and educational organizations that do not cooperate with governmental organizations or NGOs involved in nonproliferation and disarmament, it is much more difficult for students and young professionals, if not impossible, to obtain funding for their own nonproliferation project or to participate in activities in this area. Making disarmament and nonproliferation education a priority area in education can help.

After 20 years it can be confidently said that nonproliferation and disarmament education activities are essential to ensuring global security. The 20th anniversary of the UN Secretary-General Report United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Education is an excellent occasion to look back, take stock and determine a strategy for moving forward. There is more to come!

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