UN launches practical guide to mobilizing action for disarmament

15 April 2014

“Your deeds will have an impact…be the new leaders of change,” United Nations Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas urged today during an event launching the book, Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do!

Written for high school and early-college students, Action for Disarmament offers practical steps to help young people mobilize, act and promote the UN’s disarmament ideals throughout their schools, communities and beyond.

“This book is a call to action, to create a world where people of goodwill and instruments of peace prevail over weapons of war,” said Mr. Douglas, an Academy Award winning actor and producer, who launched the book at UN Headquarters in New York alongside High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, and the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi.

Young people worldwide have a critical role to play in raising awareness and developing new strategies to reduce the threats of weapons of mass destruction and small arms and light weapons.

To the students in the room, Mr. Douglas said “I want to tell you that you hold enormous power, power to take part in changes to make the world a better and safer place to live.”

Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do! helps teenagers and young adults to promote international peace and security by enabling them to enlighten the public on the importance of disarmament.

According to Mr. Douglas, “this book is a tool for youth to get into action and become agents of social change.”

Ms. Kane noted that “every day, at least $4.4 billion are being spent on the military worldwide – while humanity continues to suffer from poverty, hunger, disease and unmet human needs.”

She quoted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying: “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded.”

That is the problem.

“Here at the UN, we believe disarmament is part of the solution,” asserted Ms. Kane, adding that “the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme and the new Arms Trade Treaty are two of the most recent breakthroughs in the field of disarmament.”

Citing achievement of “a world free of nuclear weapons” as the highest priority of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (ODA), she welcomed the publication as “not just a book, but a practical guide.”

Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information said: “By learning about the issues and then bringing what you know to the attention of others, you will be a critical factor in helping to reduce the risks and threats associated with all weapons.”

Mr. Alhendawi added that “we need to disarm because the enormous amount of money we spend on weapons can be used instead to fight poverty,” and, “this book is filled with concrete ideas of how you can raise awareness [and] build a safer future.”

During a question and answer session, Michael Douglas was asked how he became involved with disarmament.


American actor and UN Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas (right) speaks during a special event at UN headquarters to launch a book entitled, “Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do!”. At left is Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division in the Department of Public Information (DPI). The event was co-organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and DPI. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

"I did a movie many, many years ago called The China Syndrome about a nuclear power plant having a meltdown, which gave me some sense of what was going on,” he began.

"I also went to visit Belarus [where] my father comes from, which is downwind from Chernobyl, and that's some of the earlier ways I became involved…as a Messenger of Peace," Mr. Douglas said.

Disarmament educators and principal authors of the book, Kathleen Sullivan and Peter Lucas led a student quiz. Questions like “What was the original purpose of hip hop?” were met with waving hands.

“It was originated in the Bronx in the 1980s as a form of creative conflict resolution,” said a young student – who was quickly awarded with a book.

For the concluding portion of the event, three young students performed their final project from a class on nuclear proliferation.

Met with audience cheers and toe-tapping, Nicholas Sulis, Roger Pena and Kirk Pressley rapped their song: “Disarmament’s the point of the whole mission; Tryin’ to do our best to stop that fission; Let’s handle it as diplomats because peace is the key; Listen to this rap and you shall see…”

To ensure the widest possible dissemination of the publication, the University of Tokyo in Japan and the Hope to the Future Foundation in the Republic of Korea have agreed to translate Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do! into Japanese and Korean respectively.


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