Youth must be included in disarmament and non-proliferation

12 August 2021

With 40 per cent of the global population under 25, the international community has a special responsibility to ensure young people can share their perspectives and concerns about existential threats to current and future generations, UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu said on Thursday.

Her comments came in a video message to a special session of the UN Conference on Disarmament, held in Geneva, to mark International Youth Day

“As in all other multinational domains, inclusiveness is necessary to achieve the ultimate objectives of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control and for the effectiveness and sustainability of the agreements that we reach and the work that we do,” she said. 

‘Tremendous force’ for change 

Ms. Nakamitsu added that in recent years, a “paradigm shift” has occurred regarding the important role young people have in peace and security. 

“In his agenda for disarmament, the Secretary-General acknowledges the tremendous force of young people in bringing about change in the world, the crucial role they play in successful campaigns and the new and innovative ways in which they interact, organize and mobilize to advance bold solutions for the future,” she said. 

These contributions have also been recognized by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, both of which have adopted resolutions on youth participation in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, and in peace and security. 

Supporting disarmament champions 

Ms. Nakamitsu said the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which she heads, has also launched initiatives to engage, educate and empower young people. 

“We do so to enable inclusion to build platforms and to ensure collaboration. We do so to forge a community that will thrive with an ever-increasing youth participation,” she said. 

A key programme has been the UN Youth Champions for Disarmament, 10 advocates from across the globe, and from diverse backgrounds, who help to raise awareness and promote change for a more peaceful world. 

Empowering tomorrow’s leaders 

The dedicated session of the Conference on Disarmament signified “a tremendous step towards engaging and empowering the leaders of tomorrow,” Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Youth Envoy, told participants. 

“Even in the face of adversity with the ongoing global pandemic, young people have continued to rise to the challenges of our time, as essential workers, innovators, leaders, advocators, and partners,” she said in a video message. 

At 1.8 billion strong, the current generation of young people is the largest in history, and around 90 per cent live in developing countries.

“With such numbers, it is clear that sustainable development and peace cannot be achieved unless we involve and include young people in our discussions and decision-making,” she said.  “We must facilitate the conditions that allow them to reach and unleash their full potential.” 

Investment and trust  

Ms. Wickramanayake encouraged countries to create platforms so that young people can participate in shaping the common global future.   

“I also encourage Member States to invest in youth-led initiatives, while continuing to strengthen the trust between the institutions and young people,” she added.   

Citing UN chief António Guterres, the envoy noted that young people continuously find new ways to organize and advance bolder solutions. 

“Innovation and imagination have, and will continue, to pave the way for strengthening our collective peace and security,” she said.  “Therefore, it is essential that we also nurture their creativity and unique potential.” 

 

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