In cooperation with the Geneva Center for Security Policies, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights has recently held a workshop entitled “Educating Youth about Curbing the Spread of Nuclear Weapons”. The workshop was attended by a number of experts, from various academic backgrounds, and young people from the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Mr. Ayman Okeil, president of Maat, opened the event with his speech on the alarming spread of nuclear tests, which number amounted to over 2,000 nuclear tests around the world, the gravity of the destructive effects of nuclear weapons, the importance of educating youth and raising their awareness about this issue, and the role of civil society in this regard.
In the same context, Nourhan Mustafa, director of the International Humanitarian Law Unit at Maat, reviewed the results of a questionnaire conducted by the International Humanitarian Law Unit at Maat on the extent of youth awareness of the topic of the workshop. The questionnaire showed that most of the participants were aware of the history of nuclear tests and its first use in wars; however, few participants knew about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although the CTBT is the main legal mechanism for stopping nuclear testing, unfortunately, it has not entered into force to this day.
Mr. Mark Finno, Head of the Arms Proliferation Department at the Geneva Center for Security Policy, discussed nuclear proliferation, its history, and countries' nuclear arsenals, and shared a number of relevant facts and statistics. On the other hand, Mr. Gabiden Lumollin, Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), addressed the legal frameworks of nuclear disarmament, the challenges facing the implementation thereof, as well as the efforts made under the auspices of the United Nations, while stressing the role of young people and the importance of their awareness of and engagement in this issue.
For his part, Mr. Nasser Al Rayes, the former Legal Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Libya, touched upon the role and nature of international conventions, the attitude of the international humanitarian law, in particular, about nuclear weapons as one of the illegal means of war, as well as the role of civil society organizations in curbing the phenomenon of nuclear proliferation.
At the end of the workshop, participants were divided into two groups so that they can make a number of recommendations, the most important of which stressed the importance of raising awareness among youth about the issue of stopping nuclear testing, the comprehensive nuclear disarmament, the dangers of the use and proliferation of these weapons and their testing on life and environment, in addition to the need to urge states that have not ratified the relevant international treaties to ratify or accede to those treaties, specifically the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, so that these legal frameworks are entered into force achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.
The participants’ reviews of the workshop were very positive. It was very informative and eye-opening to many participants. Some of them also mentioned that this is the first time ever they attend an event on nuclear testing and nuclear weapons, which stresses the importance and effectiveness of such activities and initiatives around the world.