States, the UN system, civil society and youth celebrate first-ever International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness

March 10th, 2023

On 1 March 2023, the Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) co-hosted the virtual launch of the first-ever International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness. Over 190 representatives from Member States, the United Nations, civil society organizations and youth groups attended the event to promote better awareness and understanding of disarmament issues among the public, including young people.

Since the establishment of the United Nations, multilateral disarmament and arms limitation have been at the heart of the Organization’s efforts to maintain international peace and security. The moderator, Ms. Aida Kasymalieva, Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, opened the event by noting the expectation that the new International Day would deepen the global public’s understanding of how disarmament efforts enhance peace and security, prevent and end armed conflicts, and curb human suffering caused by weapons.

Three high-level keynote speakers — the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic,  ; the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamits ; a, the President of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Csaba Kőrösi — stressed the importance of educating the public on disarmament and the need for continued efforts towards disarmament and non-proliferation. They also highlighted the central role of the United Nations, Governments, civil society, media and academia in achieving concrete progress.

The event also featured a substantive panel discussion, moderated by the Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, Mr. Meder Utebaev. The discussion began with Mr. Ishikane Kimihiro, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, who welcomed the resolution to establish the new International Day, emphasizing the need to revive the momentum for nuclear disarmament. Mr. Ishikane also recalled the launch of the “Youth Leader Fund toward a world without nuclear weapons”, which Japan and UNODA will launch in the coming months, and invited young leaders from around the world to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to learn about the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.

Ms. Maria Antonieta Jacquez Huacuja, Director for Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, spoke next, reiterating the importance of raising awareness in advancing disarmament and non-proliferation agendas. She emphasized the organic relationship between disarmament and peace, and the need to promote disarmament and non-proliferation through education at all levels, including national education programmes.

Other speakers stressed the need for participation from all sectors of society, including Governments, civil society, academia and citizens, to make disarmament and non-proliferation a more common matter in education, as emphasized by Mr. William Potter, Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

The two final panelists were youth representatives, Ms. Naomi Ekpoki, a United Nations Youth Champion for Disarmament, and Ms. Mere Tuilau, Campaign Manager at Reverse the Trend Pacific and the Marshallese Educational Initiative’s Pacific Campaign.

As part of the #Youth4Disarmament initiative, Ms. Ekpoki and nine other Youth Champions completed a two-year training programme on disarmament and non-proliferation principles. Since then, she has worked towards empowering numerous young people in her local community in Nigeria through various initiatives and workshops. Ms. Ekpoki advocates for countries to invest in education to engage more young people in disarmament. At the event, she stressed her belief that building awareness among youth was crucial to achieving our shared disarmament objectives.

Ms. Tuilau called for action in the Pacific region to protect future generations from the impact of nuclear testing. She stressed that, while the region had been the theatre for most nuclear tests in history, youth were unaware of the humanitarian and environmental impact of such tests.

The panelists gathered for the virtual launch of the first-ever International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness.

The panelists’ interventions were followed by an insightful exchange with the audience, covering a wide range of issues — from educating students, diplomats and policymakers about the dangers associated with nuclear weapons, to ways to mainstream  disarmament education in curriculums across the globe. The event concluded with music by Pitching Peace Youth Music Challenge winner Ms. Irene Huang,  reinforcing the importance of including youth in the disarmament processes.

Various other events took place in the lead-up to the new International Day on 5 March, as well as a global social media campaign that generated engagement from Member States, United Nations bodies, academia, civil society and United Nations Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas. UNODA’s #Youth4Disarmament initiative also launched a dedicated #ClickDISARM campaign to highlight the various ways young people can get involved in awareness-raising activities for disarmament issues.

As a UN Messager of Peace, I celebrate the new International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness. Disarmament efforts play a vital role in contributing to enhancing peace and security, preventing and ending armed conflicts, and curbing human suffering caused by weapons.” Michael Kirk Douglas posted on his Instagram account.

The new International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness launch event served as a reminder of the urgent need for continued efforts towards disarmament and non-proliferation, and the importance of educating the public on these critical issues. As High Representative Izumi Nakamitsu recalled, “there can be no peace without understanding”, and it is up to all of us to play a role in raising awareness and promoting disarmament and non-proliferation.

The video recording of the event is available here

Text by Lisa Fortea Hamdaoui