ODA Vienna hosted a hybrid event entitled “Bridging the divide: The role of networks in advancing inclusive disarmament processes”

October 10th, 2023

For its latest edition of the Vienna Conversation Series (VCS), the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Vienna Office hosted a hybrid event entitled “Bridging the divide: The role of networks in advancing inclusive disarmament processes” on 6 September 2023. 

The interactive roundtable event aimed at unpacking the value of integrating diverse perspectives into disarmament discourse and decision-making processes. Through concrete examples and success stories, a panel of experts and practitioners sought to identify opportunities for strengthening inter-disciplinary, inter-generational and cross-regional networks. 

The VCS event also served as a venue for the launch of the Vienna Chapter of the UN Disarmament Fellowship alumni network. The Fellowship has been implemented since the First Special Session devoted to Disarmament (SSOD-I) and now has over 1,000 alumni from 170 countries. During their study visit to Vienna, the 2023 cohort was joined by alumni and to celebrate the Fellowship’s longstanding alumni community. 

From left to right: Ms. Candy Sizakele Moyo (First Secretary of the Republic of South Africa), H.E. Mr. Dario Ernesto Chiru Ochoa (PR of the Republic of Panama), Ms. Rebecca Jovin (UNODA), Ms. Laura Rockwood (VCDNP), Ms. Kashaf Sohail (Erasmus Mundi Scholar & CTBTO Youth Group member). The distinguished speakers shared insights on sustaining intergenerational dialogue, the value of youth networks, and bringing diversity and gender equality to disarmament processes.

Ms. Rebecca Jovin, Chief of UNODA Vienna Office, moderated the roundtable discussion and referred to the Secretary-General’s recent New Agenda for Peace policy brief in the face of interconnected global threats that can only be addressed through stronger cooperation. In her introductory remarks, she pointed out the need to empower networks of cooperation and partnership and the transformative power of such networks in shaping disarmament policymaking. Ms. Jovin also introduced the audience to UNODA’s flagship initiative, the General Assembly-mandated UN Disarmament Fellowship, calling it a vehicle to build capacity and foster exchange among diplomats from diverse countries. 

H.E. Dario Ernesto Chiru Ochoa, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Panama to the United Nations Vienna and alumnus of the UN Disarmament Fellowship, highlighted the continuing urgency of addressing disarmament issues, and the evolution of the disarmament discourse from the 1970s to the present day. Reflecting on the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the challenging international climate of the 1970s, he drew attention to initiatives to promote dialogue around the world and to the contribution of intergenerational dialogue at that time.  

Ms. Candy Sizakele Moyo, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations Geneva and 2023 UN Disarmament Fellow, echoed that education serves as a key tool for personal development, referring to the Fellowship as an opportunity for exchanging views, generating innovative ideas, and negotiating challenging issues. She also touched upon the gradual but evolving transformation of gender dynamics in the field of disarmament, adding that practical efforts towards greater inclusiveness is increasing and strengthen the field.  

Ms. Kashaf Sohail, Erasmus Mundus Scholar and CTBTO Youth Group member, pointed to a real need to strengthen and promote youth advocacy for disarmament from a very early age to not only inform young people about the consequences of nuclear weapons and their proliferation but to empower them to take action themselves. Ms. Sohail also shared key takeaways from her participation in the CTBTO Science & Technology Conference in June 2023 as a member of the CTBTO Youth Group, as well as her engagement with various scientific and artistic networks and their perspectives on disarmament. 

Ms. Laura Rockwood, Non-Resident Senior Fellow of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) stressed that the disarmament community still has a long way to go in creating greater diversity in disarmament processes. In particular, she pointed to the under-representation of women in multilateral fora on security-related issues. In addition, Ms. Rockwood highlighted the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in disarmament processes and highlighted their capacity to build bridges and engage States in dialogue.  

In their addresses, UN Disarmament Fellowship alumni H.E. Dario Ernesto Chiru Ochoa and Ms. Candy Sizakele Moyo shared their personal experiences as former participants in the Fellowship. The panellists commended the Fellowship’s role in fostering intergenerational dialogue, exchanging diverse ideas, and “bridging the divide” by bringing together different perspectives.

The panellists’ presentations were followed by a dynamic Q&A session during which the speakers addressed questions about how youth can engage on disarmament issues in the current challenging geopolitical context, the value of active and continuous dialogue among all stakeholders and bringing scientific and diplomatic communities together to tackle issues related to international peace and security. 

The 2023 cohort of the UN Disarmament Fellowship Program met with representatives of various Vienna-based organizations at the alumni reception. The Fellows engaged in active discussions on current disarmament issues and the value of intergenerational dialogue.

The roundtable discussion was followed by a United Nations Disarmament Fellowship Alumni Reception attended by the cohort of 2023 and Vienna-based former participants of the programme. The reception provided an opportunity to network, share experiences and gain a better insight into the work of relevant Vienna-based intergovernmental processes and entities. 

A recording of the VCS event is available on UNODA’s Disarmament Education Website.