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UN Takes to New Ways to Promote Nuclear Disarmament


By Jaya Ramachandran

GENEVA (IDN) — UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced on 24 May 2018 his Agenda for Disarmament, which outlines a set of practical measures across the entire range of disarmament issues, including weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms and future weapon technologies.

Action 1 for “Securing Our Common Future,” the title of the Agenda, aims to “facilitate dialogue for nuclear disarmament”. It underlines that disarmament and non-proliferation remain indispensable tools for the creation of a secure environment favourable to human development, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.  JAPANESE 

Disarmament education is an important tool to further the cause of nuclear disarmament. Hence, a key priority for the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is cooperating with many educational activities which have been carried out across its different organizational branches.

The strategy represents an effort to strengthen the sustainability and impact of UNODA’s work and respond to the pressing need for authoritative, far-reaching, and inclusive disarmament education amidst the increasingly challenging disarmament and international security landscape.

With this in view, UNODA Vienna Office announced the publication of its first-ever Disarmament Education Strategy in a “soft launch” event held in Vienna on 5 December 2022. The global launch of the strategy is planned for the first half of 2023.

The strategy outlines the four key outcome areas that the Office will strive to advance in the coming years in its disarmament education work. Ms Rebecca Jovin, Chief of the UNODA Vienna Office, presented these key goals at the launch event, underscoring UNODA’s comparative advantages in the field of disarmament education due to its unique expertise and impartiality, as well as its convening and connecting power.

She highlighted that UNODA would work along numerous education tracks concurrently, integrating disarmament dimensions into broader educational initiatives, both within and beyond the United Nations, and reinforcing an understanding of disarmament’s relevance for peace and security, development, human rights, and gender equality.

Ms Jovin further stressed the central role of partnerships and UNODA’s commitment to continue to generate, connect and bridge relevant networks in the disarmament education field moving forward.

She was joined by Ambassador Mr Alexander Kmentt, Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Department of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, as well as Ms Elena Sokova, Executive Director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP).

Mr. Kmentt highlighted the essential role of disarmament education, especially in the current turbulent international security environment, and reaffirmed his country’s strong support for disarmament education as a long-standing political priority and a great investment in our future.

He also announced Austria’s financial support to the UNODA Vienna Office to carry forward this work and called for broad donor support in disarmament education.

Ms. Sokova followed by expressing her Center’s commitment to contribute to implementing the strategy and collaborating with UNODA and other key partners in enhancing disarmament and non-proliferation goals.

She highlighted the importance of adopting a community approach, bringing together different audiences, methodologies and capacities to successfully address international security challenges, especially by engaging more extensively with constituencies outside the traditional disarmament field and tailoring resources and approaches to specific audiences and contexts.

The launch event also provided an occasion to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the UNODA Vienna Office. Ambassador Kmentt recalled the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

On that occasion, the idea for the hosting of a UNODA Office in Vienna (and the establishment of the VCDNP) was initiated by former Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger in order to enhance focus and expertise in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, foster closer collaboration with other UNODA offices, and strengthen capacity-building efforts in the Austrian capital.

The year 2022 also witnessed UNODA and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) jointly carrying out their first global project on the responsible innovation of AI for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. And this is thanks to a generous contribution from the Republic of Korea.

The importance of this cooperation lies in the fact that responsible AI is a young and evolving field of research and practice. While it is widely being discussed as a fitting approach to AI governance, experts believe that more work needs to be done to understand how it can be put into practice across critical sectors, how to coordinate the many different approaches, and—crucially—how it relates to disarmament, peace and security challenges, including risks of misuse or diversion of civilian technologies.

To address this gap, the UNODA-SIPRI project has aimed to promote responsible innovation as an “upstream” contributor to disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation efforts and support greater engagement of young civilian AI practitioners.

In 2022, the project led to three key and interconnected activities.

First, young post-graduate AI practitioners from around the world joined for a week of online workshops. Through interactive and scenario-based sessions, the diverse group of post-graduates were introduced to core disarmament concepts, encouraged to critically assess both the potentially beneficial and the potentially harmful repercussions of AI for disarmament, and challenged to think about the roles of other stakeholders involved with and affected by AI development, as well as the responsibilities of individuals and organizations.

Second, UNODA and SIPRI published an article on peace and security as a blind spot for the AI community in IEEE Spectrum, the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional organization and a key forum for AI practitioners. In the piece, the authors sought to connect existing civilian-focused responsible AI efforts with peace and security, disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation concerns and build on the work of the workshops in modelling possible approaches. 

Third, the project developed and trialled supporting educational materials with young practitioners before building them out into a multi-format suite of factsheets, slide decks and animated presentations, now available to all on the UNODA disarmament education website. [IDN-InDepthNews — 04 January 2023]

Photo: (From left to right) Ambassador Mr Alexander Kmentt, Ms Rebecca Jovin and Ms Elena Sokova address the audience about the key role of disarmament education in advancing international peace and security and the indispensability of partnerships in these efforts. Credit: UNICEF/UN0579998/Lateef

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