As a new addition to its Vienna Conversation Series, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Vienna Office released a podcast entitled “Where next for youth in disarmament?”. This roundtable-style event aimed to engage youth in a dynamic exchange of views to raise awareness of disarmament’s centrality in addressing global challenges and to amplify fresh thinking on the future vision for disarmament in an era of uncertainty.
Together with UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, two youth representatives were invited to share their perspectives on the future of youth in the field of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. Both youth voices, Kasha Sequoia Slavner and Louis Reitmann, are participants in the #Leaders4Tomorrow workshop series, a training programme for and with young people under UNODA’s #Youth4Disarmament initiative. With financial support from the Republic of Korea, the group of 25 young leaders have explored the linkages between disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control with five other relevant topics related to international peace and security.
Kasha Sequoia Slavner is a GenZ multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker. At age 15, Kasha founded The Global Sunrise Project, a social impact media hub. Her first feature documentary, The Sunrise Storyteller, screened internationally at 60 film festivals, and won 30 awards, including the Ron Kovic Peace Prize and the Eva Haller Women Transforming Media Award. Currently, she is in production with her second feature documentary entitled “1.5 Degrees of Peace”, focused on advancing a unified movement for peace and climate justice.
Louis Reitmann works as a Research Associate at UNODA’s partner organisation, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, where he focuses on export controls and sanctions implementation. He is also a member of the Youth Group for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.
Moderated by Chief of the Vienna Office, Rebecca Jovin, the panel reflected on the role of youth in civic activism to achieve nuclear disarmament, drawing lessons from the youth-led public mobilization around climate issues. Ms. Nakamitsu pointed out that people look at the climate movement and see how young people are changing the world, with Mr. Reitmann reaffirming that “young people are ready to take on responsibility in decision-making”.
The panellists also exchanged on the notion of inclusivity and what it means in the field of disarmament. They expressed their views on the way diversity, equity and inclusion can be promoted within disarmament and non-proliferation processes. “Inclusion can be difficult when the power structure doesn’t serve the people you are trying to include”, said Ms. Slavner. And even when different groups are granted access to the table, Mr. Reitmann added, it is a matter of ensuring that their contributions are meaningfully infused in conversations.
Finally, referencing the recognition of youth as the ultimate force for change within the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament and his report Our Common Agenda, the panel shared their view on the tools and methods available to make the field of disarmament more appealing to the younger generation, which included offering educational resources and training opportunities through different platforms in order to help young people unlock their potential as agents of change.
The podcast exhibits how young people around the world have a critical role to play in raising awareness and developing new strategies to realize human, national and international security through the regulation, control and elimination of arms. It is imperative to listen to, educate and engage this generation in discussions on disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control issues with the ultimate goal of facilitating their meaningful and inclusive participation in this field.
Listen to the full podcast here:
You can also watch the video version here
Written by: Veerle Moyson