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Day 2 of the International Youth Dialogue for Nuclear Disarmament was focused on action. It started with Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. While it is difficult to do his fantastic talk justice in a few sentences, Alyn spoke about the new climate in the US and notably quipped “How can you work positively to solve conflicts while you are threatening to blow them up?” He claimed that India, Pakistan and North Korea would agree to a nuclear weapons convention as it would put them on an equal basis, and that they might be willing to give up nuclear weapons if other countries do. He also mentioned Abolition 2000 – a network of over 2000 orgs working for a global nuclear weapons abolition treaty. He affirmed the importance of the upcoming Nobel Peace Laureates Summit, which will be met by the World March for Peace and Nonviolence. A group of 10 of our own IPPNW students will be part of a delegation representing IPPNW at this meeting. (For more information about this delegation, you may email me at my email address). When asked what message is especially effective in promoting disarmament, Alyn responded that the primary responsibility is to bring down the number of nukes in the US and Russia, and that we could look to nuclear weapons free zones in Latin America, southeast Asia and the pacific for inspiration. He spoke of the difficulties that nuclear weapons create in negotiating on environmental and security issues in addition. Finally, he talked about IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency (learn more at the link).
Next, Vilena Avaliana, the Russian National Student Representative for IPPNW, spoke about student activism from the Russian perspective. Specifically, she talked about the main problem for Russia being the lack of information about different social movements. What followed this was an intervenue session, in which one main theme emerged: education. Rick Wayman from NAPF talked about the tremendous utility of hibakusha in education, as they are not only a “living history lesson” but also seen as a less political or controversial avenue for discussing disarmament.
In Mexico City, participants laid out a very impressive action plan for no later than May next year:
1. To set up a disarmament exhibition at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. There, physicians could explain the medical consequences of a nuclear attack and students could explain their proposals as well as members of the government. They are hoping to set up several parallel activities, such as the set up of a nuclear web page.
2. As a follow-up, they would like to convene a regular dialogue with other Latin American NGOs.
3. They would like to publish a book regarding disarmament issues with peaceful poetry written by children.
A high school student in Mexico encouraged participation about peace and disarmament with even more countries. There was an well-received art contest against war with a big response from elementary school kids. In addition, they mentioned the donation of a tree as a symbol of peace from a Buddhist community, and how students had to take care of it. In addition, they mentioned the First Children’s Congress of the Americas (excuse my perhaps poor translation from Spanish).
A student in Philadelphia liked the idea of Target X, and urged fellow students to engage in street theater, and in Russia, they urged more frequent and widespread videoconferences.
Next, Dr. Alexi Borisov, Deputy Chairman and Secretary General of UNA Russia and UNESCO and Dr. Mikhail Troitsky from MGIMO University spoke about how Russia and the US can work together on disarmament. Dr. Troitsky claimed two conditions must be met before progress can be achieved: 1. the US and Russia must make deep nuclear cuts, and 2. longstanding regional conflicts must be resolved. He outlined steps that Russia and the US could take together including but not limited to: the need to implement deep reductions using a START follow-on treaty, US CTBT ratification, resolving technical issues for the sustainability and irreversibility of disarmament like a ban on enriching uranium and a comprehensive system for safeguards for fissile materials. He also talked about the importance of improving the overall political climate to fight the lack of mutual trust. One salient point to a question was that maintaining nuclear arsenals is just as expensive as getting rid of them. He claimed that after the US and Russia make it to 100s rather than thousands of nuclear weapons, then China will be hard-pressed to bandwagon.
After this, different locations met separately to discuss an agenda and timeline for local action plans, and in conclusion, met back via teleconference to discuss these plans. In Santa Barbara, we talked about the importance of recognizing the effects of the entire fuel cycle, promoting viable alternatives for nuclear scientists and assembling a media library of visible effects of nuclear weapons to foster a more human touch. In Russia, they spoke about competing projects and videoconferences and expressed a willingness to cooperate with the US and Mexico. Philadelphia discussed an April summit on nuclear weapons with a focus on the May NPT conference. The message they would communicate is “Not Another Arms Race” and will ask for a US-wide nuclear weapons free zone. A big message would be the diversion of money that could otherwise go towards education and healthcare. A blog has been created at www.bang-usa.org, in which students are invited to blog about their ideas for action.
Some final comments included mention of the 3rd annual nonproliferation challenge essay contest for all to enter for practical and creative solutions to the nuclear problem by Steven Schwartz of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. This contest is geared towards the college level student, and the deadline is 5/31st, for a grand prize of $10,000 and being published in The Nonproliferation Review. The Victory Over Violence initiative and website was mentioned as an online social networking community. Last but not least, Emily Gleason from PNA mentioned the facebook page for the event and their twitter account (@banallnukes / @PNAUSA) will be kept up to date; a film from the dialogue and notes will be sent to the organizers for dissemination.