The importance of youth engagement with disarmament diplomacy

The nature of disarmament diplomacy is one that is intrinsically tied to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in 1945 and the establishment of Mutually Assured Destruction that heightened nuclear panic throughout the Cold War. It follows, then, that the majority of nuclear disarmament activists are those who have personal experiences with the nuclear panic of the 20th century. Naturally, these ideologies and perspectives are not entirely accessible to younger people, sometimes making age a gatekeep-able factor for many passionate younger people attempting to break into the world of disarmament activism.

Inclusive, intersectional representation in disarmament diplomacy is truly important. As we move forward with disarmament in the 21st century, it is integral to ensure that everyone’s perspectives regarding the impacts they’ve experienced from nuclear weapons are implemented. Youth for TPNW is attempting to bridge the age gap in representation within disarmament diplomacy. Entirely run by and consisting of people under the age of 30, the organisation is focusing on pursuing nuclear disarmament under the TPNW for the benefit of future generations, whilst also affording integral experience for the future of international peace and security diplomacy. Amongst many plans, Youth for TPNW is holding a side event to the upcoming Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in June – this Youth MSP will bring together young delegates from every state to collaborate and negotiate different aspects of the TPNW, and participate in the MSP as a youth collective. 

Youth for TPNW joins a vast array of organisations that each approach nuclear disarmament from an individual angle: to date, ICAN has 635 listed partner organisations spanning 107 different countries. The fact that there are so many distinct organisations supporting the TPNW is testament to the vast impact that nuclear weapons have, and supports the need to establish extensive, thorough representation for all aspects of nuclear devastation on an international level. 

As organisations continue to work individually on their own segmented goals under the umbrella of ICAN, it is important to connect with one another. In my experience working with the coordinating group of ICAN-UK partner organisations, it is the times where we can come together under common ground (in this instance, our country of origin) that we strengthen our goals, share resources, troubleshoot issues, and embolden our plans. These consequences are valuable to the strength of the coalition as a whole, and also to the strengths of each individual organisation. 

These inter-organisational connections are strengthened, of course, by years, sometimes decades, of experience working alongside one another for disarmament. When a new organisation identifies a gap in disarmament activism and intends to fill it, they are confronted with their own lack of network which can often halt progress before it even begins. Thankfully, Youth for TPNW was able to join the well-established ICAN partner’s network, which afforded us the opportunity to expand our network and cultivate partnerships with others. By expanding our network we were able to promote intergenerational dialogue on disarmament issues, with the hopes of it continuing into the future beyond just the upcoming MSP. By forming lateral connections with other partners, Youth for TPNW was able to address and confront head-on some of the barriers to joining in with disarmament activism, working with strong momentum. 

To be clear: this issue is not limited to disarmament activism, and it is entirely indicative of the world that we live in as a whole. In every sector of every industry, people will face barriers to achieving progress due to factors that they cannot control. It should be the prerogative of anyone pursuing a safer, more peaceful society to want to create a diverse environment that encourages participation from a wide range of folks, not just those that fit the already established archetype. As the issue of nuclear weapons is a truly intersectional issue, it is important that we act in a way that includes all of the voices that have historically been silenced. This can be done in many ways, but organisations can start by actively broadening their networks and encouraging partnerships or collaborations with emerging activists or organisations. Whilst we all may be fighting different battles, we’re all a part of the same war. 

Written by Christina Kelly, member of UN House Scotland and Youth for TPNW


To hear more, check out this podcast episode, in which Christina Kelly from Youth for TPNW and UN House Scotland speaks with Anahita Parsa and Jacob Allard from the Middle Eastern Treaty Organisation about the importance of youth engagement with disarmament diplomacy. 

Youth for TPNW can be found at youthfortpnw.net 

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