News Archive
Mar 22, 2017 - Taking a Humanitarian Approach to Disarmament: Global University Report from October 2016
Participants aged between 19 and 28 and joined from Australia, France, Ireland, Norway, the US and the Philippines.

A Global University Programme took place as part of Peace Boat's 92nd Global Voyage between October 4-21, 2016, bringing together students and young practitioners from different countries to learn about humanitarian disarmament. Onboard and in three ports of The Hague, Reykjavik, and New York, students met with survivors, experts and practitioners, who shared their personal experiences and expertise on various disarmament initiatives, and the dynamics of international law and the UN. Throughout the course, students developed an action plan, which they publicly presented at the UN Headquarter in New York at the end.

Traditionally, arms control and disarmament discourses have been dominated by the concept of national security and have focused on strategic and military aspects. Over the past two decades, however, a new humanitarian approach to disarmament has emerged, that emphasizes the inhuman impact weapons have on civilian populations and on the environment, and how they violate international law. Throughout the programme, students studied this trend, learned about specific campaigns that led to successes in stigmatizing and banning weapons, and analysed how growing public awareness of the consequences of weapons'use has led governments to change positions. .

Navigator Randy Rydell giving a lecture on UN disarmament machinery based on his work at UN Office for Disarmament Affairs
Two navigators mentored students and led the seminars onboard: Randy Rydell (Executive Advisor to Mayors for Peace and former Senior Political Affairs Officer at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs) and Mushakoji Kinhide (Vice-President of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism and former Vice-Rector of United Nations University). The programme combined different methodologies including lectures, workshops, and discussion sessions, with the intention to encourage reflection, critical thinking, dialogue, and active participation.

Various guest lecturers were invited to give complementary lectures, including on the UN and its role in disarmament; the links between human security, conflict prevention and peacebuilding; the distinctions between peace, war, violence, and conflict; the relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and peace and human security.

Hibakusha Project member, Sakashita Noriko speaking to students about her experience of the bombing in Hiroshima.
A humanitarian approach to disarmament should begin with the understanding of how weapons produce and sustain human suffering and humanitarian consequences. Students participated in testimony and discussion sessions with Hibakusha (survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings), traveling onboard the 92nd Voyage as part of Peace Boat's Hibakusha Project. Hibakusha spoke of their experience of the A-bomb, and how they later suffered poverty, stigmatization, discrimination, and health issues. Students also interacted with second generation Hibakusha (who were either not born or very young at the time), Legacy Messengers and Youth Communicators and exchanged opinions about the key role of victims and survivors in educating the public about the human costs of weapons, as well as the role of youth in passing on memories.

Visit to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, where they spoke to Shahriar Khateri on the process toward prohibition of chemical weapons and monitoring mechanisms.
In three ports of call (The Hague, Reykjavik and New York), students took part in exposure programmes where they met with disarmament experts and practitioners, as well as visited related organisations. They learned in depth about past and ongoing disarmament campaigns, monitoring mechanisms, the functioning of existing international law and the UN, and their successes and flaws.

In The Hague, the group visited the Peace Palace, which hosts the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, on the very day the ICJ issued its preliminary ruling in the Republic of the Marshall Islands' nuclear disarmament cases. They participated in sessions about the ICJ rulings related to nuclear weapons, as well as about the International Criminal Court. They also visited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and learned about the process that led to the prohibition of chemical weapons and its implementation mechanism. In Reykjavik, which is a member city of Mayors for Peace, students held a meeting with city officials at Hofoi House on the 30th anniversary of the Regan-Gorbatchev Summit that nearly succeeded to reach an agreement for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. In New York, students visited the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and met its director and staff.

Visit to the UN Headquarter in New York, attending UN General Assembly First Committee to lobby diplomats for their support for nuclear weapons ban negotiation
Drawing parallels between the history, work and dynamics of eliminating other Weapons of Mass Destruction, students studied the growing momentum of the humanitarian initiative to ban nuclear weapons, including how the international conferences in Oslo, Norway, Nayarit, Mexico and Vienna, Austria in 2013 and 2014 highlighted their unacceptable humanitarian impact, as well as the call at the UN Open-Ended Working Group in 2016 to start a process for a ban.

At the same time the programme was taking place, governments were debating a resolution setting up a negotiating process towards a ban treaty in the UN General Assembly First Committee (on disarmament). In New York, students attended a UN session and were assigned to carry out advocacy with specific delegations to gain diplomats' support for the draft.

Students' final presentation at a UN First Committee Side Event "Disarmament Education: The Role of Survivors and Youth".
Through the seminars and exposure programms, students identified key issues in achieving nuclear disarmament and made proposals to address them, including: 1) the need to strengthen disarmament education by bringing the voices of Hibakusha and other victims and survivors to wider audience and finding ways to preserve their stories for future generations; 2) the necessity to challenge the myth of deterrence by highlighting the risks involved in the whole nuclear chain, and changing the narrative trough research and analysis, informed debates and the use of social media; 3) the importance of mobilizing the general public by highlighting opportunity costs and calling on governments to divest from armament to invest in peace and sustainable development. In all these areas, the role of youth in particular was emphasized.

The programme concluded with the visit to the UN Headquarters in New York, where students presented their Plan of Action publicly during an event co-sponsored with the UN permanent missions of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Japan. Other speakers at the event included Marshallese Ambassador Amatlain E. Kabua, Hibakusha Morikawa Takaaki, as well as peace and disarmament educators Kathleen Sullivan and Cora Weiss. The event was well attended by diplomats, UN staff, civil society representatives and journalists. Japanese and international media reported on the event broadly.

Download the full report of the Global University Programme on "Changing the Approach: Humanitarian Disarmament, International Law, and the UN" in English and Japanese.

Documents for download
Global University Report October 2016 ENGGlobal University Report October 2016 JPN