Opening Remarks by H.E. Tsuneo Nishida
Permanent Representative of Japan
At the First Committee Side Event
“Effective Use of Information to Empower/Influence
Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Efforts”
25 October 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to today’s side event which provides a forum for an interactive dialogue on how to effectively use information to promote discussions on disarmament and non-proliferation.
This year is of particular significance for disarmament and non-proliferation education, as 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the first Secretary-General report on the subject.
Japan has long advocated the need for both the UN and Member States to actively engage in this field. One of the main purposes of this event is to raise the profile of this topic and distinguish it from the many other important disarmament and non-proliferation agenda items discussed at the First Committee sessions during this memorable year.
We have with us today four distinguished scholars and experts in this field to share their perspectives . Before giving them the floor, I would like to make some observations to connect the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation education to the actual work that all of us are engaged in at the United Nations in order to stimulate, and even to a degree, provoke our discussion today.
No one disagrees on the importance of raising awareness of the younger generation in order to inspire them to be more involved in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. However, when we look at the world today, where the proliferations of arms are so wide-spread in the Middle East and Africa, where we see a stalemate of negotations on nuclear disarmament, you wonder how this young energy can make an actual difference on the ground.
If you take the example of economic and social development-another key pillar of the UN’s work-you will see the contrast. Those who have majored in development studies, health and education can go to places where assistance is needed. Their passion can be turned into tangible results by building schools, improving health systems, and empowering the vulnerable parts of societies.
In the sphere of disarmament, there are certainly areas where you could make visible differences. Hundreds and thousands of people are working in the fields of demining and arms collection and are establishing better monitoring and stockpile management of conventional arms. On non-proliferation, many scientists and engineers work on safeguarding nuclear, radiological and other materials which could be used for developing WMDs.
However, the challenge is how these young and bright minds could be involved in creating policies and influencing the course of discussion.
Many missions and delegations have been trying to reach out to the larger audience by disseminating information through social media. Members of civil society have also been active in utilizing Facebook and Twitter to get the message across. These methods have certainly made progress but with all candor, I have to admit that these efforts have not necessarily resulted in producing or influencing a dialogue among key constituencies, such as diplomats, civil society members, academia, and especially the younger generation.
This is why I find it particularly meaningful to have four panelists today who have an abundance of experience in this field, first to share their views on the areas in which they have worked, and then to engage in active discussions.
First, Dr. William Potter will provide us with an overview of the UN discussion on the topic over the last decade. As Dr. Potter played an instrumental role in promoting the UN discussion in this field, I am also eager to learn his views on the areas in which we should strengthen our efforts.
Second, we will also benefit from the first-hand experience of Mr. John Ennis from UNODA who worked in recent years with a particular focus on how to utilize social media to mobilize the younger generation. In order to promote discussions on disarmament and non-proliferation education, Japan and the United Nations University co-hosted the Nagasaki Global Forum this August. The outcome document, titled the 2012 Nagasaki Declaration, also emphasizes, among many other key points, the need to effectively utilize tools that could reach out to youths.
The impact of reaching out to a larger audience does not end only at raising awareness. We should be equally cognisant of another critical dimension; namely, how to effectively utilise the wide-range of information available in the public domain in order to formulate a meaningful discussion on promoting global efforts on disarmament and non-proliferation. This is where the observations of our third speaker, Mr. Mark Bromley, will be beneficial. Many UN diplomats have benefited from the database and analyses offered by SIPRI and I believe Mr. Bromley’s insights on conventional arms issues will add more substance to discussions on policy dialogue among stakeholders.
In order for any policy on disarmament and non-proliferation to be persuasive and effective, it must not only survive the critical scrutiny of academia and think-tank members, but also withstand the test of time. Such judgement on a policy, in my view, will be given by the future generation. They therefore must be armed with the necessary knowledge, perspective and resources so they can confront and, if necessary, rectify the course of international affairs. The 2002 Report by the Secretary-General emphasizes the need for members of our society to be empowered with vital knowledge and skills in order to make their own contributions in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. The Nagasaki Declaration affirms this point as well.
I am therefore delighted to see our fourth panelist Professor Terue Okada visiting New York to attend this event today. Professor Okada is on the forefront of equipping the younger generation with this crucial knowledge and tools. She will present a new perspective on how future minds are molded through her innovative course taught at the University of Tokyo.
As this eclectic panel of speakers demonstrates, disarmament and non-proliferation education consists of many different dimensions. The need to base our discussion on facts and the sober reality of a world where conflict doggedly persists, however, is common and crucial to all of these areas.
I hope we will have a stimulating and interactive discussion today.
Thank you for your attention.