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Collective action is most effective when it is inclusive

July 7, 2022

Youth Statement to the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Marcina Linguine (l) and Alice Filiberto (r) address the 1MSP on issues of diversity and inclusion. ICAN photo by Alex Papis

Delivered by Alice Filiberto (Middle East Treaty Organisation) and Marcina Langrine (Reverse the Trend), June 22, 2022, Vienna

President and Esteemed Delegates of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW),

As we stand before you today, we recognise that we are in a room full of friends and changemakers from every corner of the world united towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The diversity of backgrounds from which we all have gathered to work towards a collective goal is inspiring, reassuring, and hopeful. The global community is taking strides to ensure that a greater diversity of communities are represented in conversations and efforts towards establishing a world free of nuclear weapons.

But there is much to be done. Women, People of Colour, young people, and other marginalised groups are still greatly underrepresented, due to multiple axes of systemic oppression. Issues of financial inaccessibility and unpaid opportunities also hinder many from genuinely participating in this space- an injustice, particularly when so much is at stake.

History has shown us that these communities are disproportionately affected, suffering the highest burden from the creation, testing and use of nuclear weapons. From Hibakusha, to the people of the Pacific Islands and Kazakhstan, to name just a few. Everyone matters, everyone deserves to be heard, and I am here today to remind us all of the importance of centering and amplifying youth voices within this space.   

It is imperative that we shift the narrative from a tokenistic, ‘opportunity’ based rhetoric to one that recognises that the inclusion of youth, along with marginalised groups, is necessary. Necessary to ensure that meaningful peace is achieved, constructive policy change is implemented, and that our work is representative of all. Not as a favour, a box-check or twisted duplicity, but as standard practice. 

Collective action is most effective when it is inclusive and representative of all, and effective collective action is vital if we hope to eradicate nuclear weapons on a global scale once and for all.  

Collective Voices

Collaborative voices and dialogue with state parties, observers, civil society, and stakeholders are crucial to continue to move forward in the face of the greatest threat.

Now is the time to once again be reminded of the lived experiences of world Hibakusha – the victims of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as those affected by the development and testing of nuclear weapons. 

As the very last generation with the opportunity to hear the stories of Hibakusha directly, it is our responsibility to achieve nuclear abolition, fulfill the pledge for peace, and build a more equitable world through our solidarity. As examples of resilience and compassion, their testimonies encourage us to take action towards abolition. We must recall the past in order to learn from it, face and reckon with our histories, in order to move forwards.

The traditional security perspective is no longer effective: we must now recognize the importance of achieving each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reexamine why we depend on nuclear weapons to protect ourselves. The massive cost to possess and maintain nuclear weapons should be reallocated to creating a sustainable society where our human dignity and human rights are ensured. In addition to the nuclear threat, many other pressing issues such as the climate crisis, gender inequality, poverty, and racism threaten humanity, especially our future generations. 

Youth Voices

We have the means and we have the will to radically change our society for the better. Over half of the world’s population is made up of people under 30. Here and beyond the TPNW, the youth need to have a seat at the table in the change-making process. Esteemed delegates, you hold a great deal of power in making decisions which will shape our future, and as such, your delegations should be reflective of the diversity of the international community. Through incorporating young people in the decision-making process, we can generate collective agency, which is conducive to long-term, sustainable change.

Requests to States Parties 

Recognising young people around the world as integral members of the international community, we request that the State Parties:

Ensure youth participation in consultation and implementation processes at the local, national, and international levels by establishing a youth delegate programme and a youth advisory board for the TPNW.  

Recognise the importance of youth empowerment for further universalising the TPNW, and increase awareness by creating opportunities such as education programmes and courses including survivor testimonies to platform their voices, and guide young activists. 

Our recommendations are as follows: 

Build a collaborative community of practice – establish linkages between inter-non-governmental organisations already implementing relevant programmes through meetings, workshops and sharing of lessons learned.

Establish a rigorous standard for a regional framework – adopt national implementation measures, including administrative structures, policies, focal points and standards with systems to monitor and evaluate progress.

Support urgent and rapid needs assessments – at the local, (sub-national) national, regional and global levels, to assess the scope of ongoing humanitarian and environmental harm caused by nuclear colonialism, during and after the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW.

Conduct comparative research – on the systems established for compensation, recognition and reparations. This is to ensure that they sufficiently cover the loss and damage to health, environment, social welfare and human rights for civilian and military survivors of nuclear testing programs.

Ensure participation and respect for the dignity of survivors and affected communities – in all stages of assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of needs assessments, while promoting indigenous principles and values. 

Convene regional discussions, cooperation, and assistance – on governing principles and quality standards rooted in international humanitarian, human rights and environmental norms, including the lobbying for nuclear-armed states to sign and ratify the TPNW, assessing emerging nuclear technology threats to the region and promoting agency and education for youth in disarmament and nonproliferation.

Conclusion

As outlined, the youth remain committed to working with states parties of the TPNW in implementing a robust plan of action under the provisions in Article 6(1) and (2) as well as Article 7 in the treaty, and expanding our voices for the sake of universality.

President and Esteemed Delegates, with the current world’s tensions and developed technologies, the nuclear threat is greater than ever before. As we have learned from our experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, any use or accidental explosion of nuclear weapons could immediately destroy lives beyond borders in a blink. Our lived experience of the painful nuclear legacy for seven consecutive decades, following the Second World War, underscores why it is vital for youth to be present at negotiating tables to contribute to the decision-making and policy-making processes.

Our future is not guaranteed until all nuclear-armed states are held accountable. We, the leaders of today, are committed in the work towards establishing a world free of nuclear weapons. We urge you to join our call and protect our common future.     

Thank you.        

Organisations and their affiliated delegates who co-produced or endorse this statement:

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War’s Medical Student Movement 

Know Nukes Tokyo

Marshallese Educational Initiative

Middle East Treaty Organisation (METO)

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Reverse the Trend: Save our People, Save our Planet

Soka Gakkai International

Youngsolwara Pacific

Youth for TPNW

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