High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and civil society members meet to discuss challenges to disarmament

November 13th, 2023

On 26 October 2023, Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, held ODA’s annual informal consultations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The consultations focused on how the current geopolitical situation was impacting the disarmament landscape, multilateral fora, and civil society, including NGO engagement in formal multilateral disarmament processes.

In her introductory remarks she spoke of the current geopolitical context and underlined the tectonic geopolitical shifts the world had witnessed in recent times and their impact on the security and disarmament landscape. She also exchanged views with NGOs as to how the UN system and the larger disarmament community, including civil society, could adapt.

Representatives of several civil society organizations agreed that current priorities included focusing on education and strengthening youth participation. Participants underlined that involving more young people was the best way to ensure that future generations would make better decisions going forward.

Reiterating her support for inclusive multilateralism, the High Representative described challenges faced by the Organization, its Member States and civil society in this area. In addition, she highlighted the valuable contribution that civil society organizations have made, and would continue to make, to the dialogue on disarmament issues. Underscoring the importance of the role of youth in disarmament, she noted that the United Nations was moving to formalize its engagement with young people through the creation of a new Youth Office, committed to ensuring young people have a platform through which they can participate and influence policy dialogue. With regard to inclusivity, she said the Summit of the Future presented an opportunity to promote change. The classic “petition approach” to advocacy may have been effective in select campaigns in the past, she added, but unless it was linked to a political or social movement, it was, unfortunately, unlikely to serve as a catalyst for change.

The dialogue with civil society coincided with Disarmament Week, which seeks to promote a better understanding and awareness of disarmament issues and how disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation efforts contribute to a safer, more peaceful future.