Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Youth Debate on Nuclear Disarmament

This guest blog is written by Christian Ciobanu, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Geneva representative and a key organizer of the debate.

On February 27, 2012, in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Toastmasters International, an international public speaking organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation convened the Youth Debate on Nuclear Disarmament in which teams from the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Webster University, University of Geneva (UNIGE), and Women`s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) debated on whether or not nuclear weapon states should completely disarm all of their nuclear weapons. Dr. Pavel Podvig, Programme Lead on the Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme of UNIDIR, provided the introductory remarks. Moreover, participants had the honor of debating in the presence of distinguished diplomats and representatives to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), including: H.E. Mr. Hellmut Hoffmann, Ambassador of Germany to the CD, Mr. Guy Pollard, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the CD, Ms. María Antonieta Jáquez Huacuja, the First Secretary of Mexico to the CD, and Mr. Michiel J. Combrink, Counselor: Disarmament of South Africa to the CD. These honorable guests agreed to serve as judges for the debate, which contributed to generating substantial and professional discussions on nuclear disarmament issues.
In the first round of the debate, the esteemed judges heard statements from students of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations (GSD).  Moreover, several members from the University of Geneva touched upon arguments about the irrationality of using nuclear weapons while members of the GSD touched upon nuclear deterrence theories and the neorealist paradigms on nuclear weapons. Following deliberation among the judges, the GSD was declared the winner of debate’s first round.

During the second round of the debate, WILPF defended the idea that nuclear states should disarm nuclear weapons while Webster University argued against the proposition. Specifically, WILPF described the fallacies of nuclear deterrence and the economic costs associated with maintaining the current nuclear stockpiles among the nuclear weapon states. Finally, Webster University attempted to argue against the proposition, but seemed to have difficulties with refuting WILPF’s argument. As a result, the WILPF won the second round and proceeded to the final round.

Throughout the final round of the debate, both WILPF, and GSD presented cited evidence respectively about why nuclear weapon states should disarm and why they should not disarm their nuclear weapons. Moreover, following intense deliberations among the juries, the GSD was declared the winner of the debate. As a prize for winning the debate, the GSD team was therefore invited to be part of the European Youth Delegation to the NPT Preparatory Committee, which will take place in Vienna in April.

Although GSD rebutted the proposition according to which nuclear weapons should be disarmed, and eventually won, the members of the team were eager to stress that they personally support nuclear disarmament wholeheartedly. In fact, the GSD team members stated that they truly enjoyed debating those issues and believed that the difficult intellectual exercise of arguing against a cause in which you believe further strengthened their views.

Moreover, even though WILPF did not win the debate, the WILPF interns, who participated in the debate, were also invited to be part of the European Youth Delegation to the NPT. More importantly, the debate provided all participants with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge about nuclear disarmament, take an active role in debating the issues, and strengthen their debating skills. Additionally, they have expressed interest in participating in future educational seminars that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will organize in Geneva. Ultimately, the debate helped the students to learn about the realities and difficulties of the discussions surrounding nuclear disarmament, while increasing their understanding of the challenges facing disarmament activists who strive for a world that is free of nuclear weapons.


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