Disarmament and non-proliferation education

Sep 06 2012
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Angela Woodward, Christchurch

Ten years ago the United Nations Secretary-General released the “United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education” (A/57/124, 30 August 2002). The study was prepared over two years by an eminent group of experts drawn from Egypt, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Poland and Sweden and informed by wide-ranging consultations with civil society. Its findings highlighted the importance of empowering individuals, through such education, to contribute to achieving disarmament and non-proliferation measures and, ultimately, general and complete disarmament under effective international control. The study encouraged the use of audience-appropriate teaching and learning methodology (for children, government officials, soldiers etc.) and the dissemination of teaching materials in a range of languages, while noting the ‘unprecedented opportunities’ for such education using newly available information and communication technologies. Critically, the study set out 34 practical recommendations for promoting disarmament and non-proliferation training.

Ten years on, how widely are the study’s recommendations being implemented? It is difficult to gauge the availability of such education and training programmes around the world, although States, international, regional and non-governmental organizations are invited to contribute information on relevant activities to the Secretary-General’s report every two years: the fifth biennial report was released in July 2012. Only 24 States have contributed information to these reports, including six which provided information in more than one year (Italy, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand and Spain). Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the numerous reporting obligations on States and the non-binding nature of the study, the level of detail in States’ reports is varied, with some simply proffering political endorsement of the study’s aims. Meanwhile, certain other States which are known to routinely support such educational activities have not provided information for the biennial reports, which perhaps evidences their desire to just get on and do it, rather than prepare reports about it. Submissions from various relevant UN and international organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations across the spectrum from advocacy to tertiary institutions, are instructive and underscore the important role they play in informing, educating and training a wide range of actors in disarmament and non-proliferation issues.
The importance of disarmament and non-proliferation education has not diminished since 2002, yet it still does not appear to be widely available. States might usefully consider ways to encourage, promote and, where possible, financially support education and training in this important field. New Zealand’s approach to supporting the study’s implementation is a useful example, in this regard.
New Zealand was an early advocate for the study’s preparation, nominating a well-known non-governmental expert, Dr Kate Dewes, to be its representative in the group of experts responsible for drafting it. In 2004 the New Zealand Government established the Disarmament Education United Nations Implementation Fund (DEUNIF) with the specific aim of helping New Zealand non-governmental organizations to implement the study’s recommendations. DEUNIF receives an annual appropriation of NZ$150,000 (approximately £76,000) with funding requests regularly totalling twice that amount. In addition, the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust (PADET), which was established in 1988, provides funding for tertiary scholarships and projects relating to peace, disarmament and arms control, including educational activities up to around NZ$150,000 per annum. The Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control (PACDAC), comprising civil society disarmament and non-proliferation experts, is tasked with reviewing and making funding recommendations on applications to DEUNIF and PADET, and advising the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade on disarmament and arms control matters.
Both DEUNIF and PADET support a wide range of civil society organizations and individuals in New Zealand to realize their goals of education and training in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. In New Zealand, at least, the UN Secretary-General’s Study is alive and well.

Note: Angela Woodward currently serves on the New Zealand Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control. She received a PADET Masters scholarship in 2001 for her law thesis on the UN Secretary-General’s role in investigating alleged biological weapons use, and a project grant to support her travel costs as the non-governmental expert on the New Zealand delegation to the Biological Weapons Convention Sixth Review Conference in 2006.


Last changed: Sep 11 2012 at 11:33 AM