[Special Session] Nuclear Disarmament and Our Sustainable Future

4 August 2021, Hiroshima, Japan – Detonating nuclear weapons will have disastrous consequences, affecting all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from health to environmental degradation. Given its devastating effects, it is high time communities of practitioners from various sectors start collaborating to minimize and eliminate the risks of nuclear war.

This was the central message from Nikhil Seth, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNITAR, at the UN High-Level Political Forum Special Event on “Nuclear Disarmament and Our Sustainable Future.” The event was organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), with partners Hiroshima Prefecture and the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace (HOPe).

Seth discussed the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and nuclear weapons with two youth representatives, Kento Suzuki and Vanda Proskova, and Douglas Shaw, a nuclear weapons specialist. The discussion was opened by Hidehiko Yuzaki, Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture and President of HOPe, and moderated by Kunihiko Shimada, HOPe Principal Director. The panelists argued that learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, the international community should not only respond to current crises but take precautionary steps against prospective threats, such as nuclear weapons.

Shaw said that nuclear weapons would have a catastrophic effect on the world’s population and devastate any efforts to achieve the SDGs. As in any global shock, people living in precarious situations would suffer the most. He noted there are identifiable steps we could take to make the world safer from the use of nuclear weapons but the political will is not present.

Vanda and Suzuki gave insights into young people’s perspectives on nuclear disarmament. Despite the dangers of nuclear weapons, Proskova was optimistic: “There are still silver linings. Through the actions of civil society and of young people especially, we have the power to make this world a better place”.

Suzuki remarked on the huge gap that still exists between nuclear states and non-nuclear states and presented his personalization project. This initiative gives Japanese youth the opportunity to interact with their counterparts in other countries, so that they feel a personal attachment and thus become naturally interested in issues of relevance to different parts of the world, such as nuclear disarmament. Suzuki ended by saying that “if we orchestrate our work both in quality and quantity, it is possible to totally eliminate nuclear weapons – if not in 2030, then by 2045.”

Concluding the event, Seth stressed the importance of the role of young people who must “carry their idealism and ambition to make this [nuclear-free world] a reality for humanity.” Seth affirmed that there should not be such a great divide between issues of peace and security and the issues of sustainable development and human rights. Including nuclear abolitions and disarmament in the post-2030 SDGs may in fact be one of the biggest challenges for the international community.

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