What ways could youth be supported to make their meaningful contribution in the field of disarmament? This was one of the topics of discussion between the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu and the Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Mr. Ham Sang-wook. Connecting virtually on 13 January, they engaged in an in-depth conversation about strengthening the meaningful contribution of young people to disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation efforts, the upcoming Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and ways to promote military confidence building measures in the present fraught international security environment.
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Republic of Korea have a productive history of mutual cooperation. Most recently, Seoul hosted the Nineteenth Republic of Korea-United Nations Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Issues. At this annual event, participants from around the world joined in open and constructive exchange of views, focusing on the current status of new and developing technologies and their potential impact on international peace and security. In a first for the Conference, youth representatives from diverse groups presented their contributions to disarmament and non‑proliferation processes and shared their views, perspectives and concerns regarding the impact of new technologies on peace and security in a dedicated youth special session.
Youth empowerment, education and engagement was a central theme on the agenda of the High Representative and the ROK Deputy Foreign Minister. ROK, a Champion of Action 38 of the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda, provides strong support and is a generous financial contributor to the #Youth4Disarmament initiative. This initiative, which was recently awarded a Billion Acts of Peace award, was launched a year and a half ago with the aim of connecting geographically diverse young people with experts to learn about current international security challenges, the work of the United Nations and how they can actively participate. The ROK, penholder of the landmark resolution 74/64 entitled “Youth, Disarmament and Non-proliferation”, presented the High Representative with concrete and tangible ways to build on the momentum of bringing youth involvement increasingly to the forefront, including by hosting a youth disarmament forum in 2021.
Additionally, the High Representative and the Deputy Foreign Minister exchanged views about what is needed to make the upcoming Tenth Review Conference of the NPT a success. Tentatively scheduled for August 2021, the High Representative expressed the hope that States Parties will use the additional time to find consensus. The Deputy Minister expressed ROK’s commitment to fulfilling a bridge builder function in the lead up to the Review Conference and beyond.
The two officials discussed other key milestones on the disarmament calendar this year. The High Representative noted, in addition to the NPT, the importance of other upcoming review conferences, including the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) which require States’ full commitment.
The meeting concluded with an exchange of concrete ideas to sustain and enhance future activities. This includes the upcoming virtual Arms Control Round Table virtual meeting on military Confidence Building Measures. As a Champion of Action 23 of the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda, the ROK expressed interest in exploring opportunities for enhanced dialogue on military confidence-building at the global and regional levels. With hope on both sides to meet again in person when circumstances allow, the High Representative and the Deputy Foreign Minister said they look forward to continuing to exchange ideas and perspectives towards securing our common future.