“Towards Global Peace:

Strengthening Youth’s Involvement in the Global Nuclear Dialogue”

Keynote Speech by Dr. Heinz Fischer

Address

It is an honour to speak here today about the important topic of youth’s involvement in the global nuclear dialogue.

CTBTO, as you sure all know, works towards preventing the usage and further development of nuclear weapons through binding agreements and is thus working towards sustainable peace. I am proud that their headquarter is located in Vienna and happy that the Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo is here with us today. The Vienna office was founded in 1996 and counts more than 260 staff form over 70 countries.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Executive Secretary Zerbo, on your excellent work, professionalism and dedication for more than 5 years. Mister Zerbo is a key player in forwarding the CTBT efforts and was responsible for creating the CTBTO Youth Group.

Ever since the existence of humans on this planet, war was part of our history and shaped our history. There have never been long periods of time that war did not interrupt.

The second World War was one of the most devastating wars humanity has ever experienced – counting globally 80 near to million victims.

World War II, at its end in 1945, was the first and last war that saw the actual use of nuclear weapons – we all remember, or heard, or read, about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think I do not need to mention, that the use of nuclear weapons results in an enormous number of casualties and in an unimaginable catastrophe.

So, as of 1945, a new chapter of history was born, the period of nuclear proliferation and the danger of nuclear war.

On the one hand, and here I am referring to Henry Kissinger’s argument, nuclear weapons could contribute to stability on a regional and global level, because nobody wants to carry the responsibility of actually using them. I want to mention the example of the so-called Cold War, where the two big powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, were in a constant nuclear arms race. But they have not been used against each other. The costs and risks of nuclear weapons are so high that it establishes the fear of mutual destruction.

On the other hand, we have no guarantee that this calculation is functioning in every possible situation. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons on our planet and are becoming more and more sophisticated and dangerous. The only logical action should be to decrease, in the best-case scenario fully abolish, the development of nuclear weapons.

9 countries are currently in possession of atomic weapons – The US, Russia, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea. Each of these countries holds a very powerful tool and with this probably also the biggest responsibility in the world.

The security and nuclear dialogue amongst the international community has recently increased, with one of the reasons being the withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal by the United States under President Trump one year ago. This could have very dangerous consequences.

Another reason is the unsolved situation and ongoing tensions between North and South Korea and the unpredictable policy of President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

I personally think that everyone has the responsibility to contribute to a peaceful world without nuclear weapons. Women and youth play a particularly important role in the fight against war and against nuclear weapons.

I remember in 1953, when I was at the age of 15, we were discussing topics of peace and war and nuclear weapons at an international youth conference on peace and disarmament in Vienna. Some of my close friends, who were influenced by that period, later became high-level politicians in Europe.

When I look back at the youth movements of my time, I truly believe that young activists had a great influence on political actions against the Vietnam War, on the Peace Movement in the 70s, as well as on the negotiations about disarmament treaties in the Gorbatschow Era.

It would be wrong to think that these movements are not important anymore today. On the contrary! The fact is that the classical confrontation between the East and the West is behind us, but instead we experience many different violent regional conflicts, tensions and threats, so, I see youth involvement more important than ever!

Modern technology is supporting these movements by delivering different ideas and messages at high speed across the globe and connecting youth with similar interests. Social networks make coalition building easier. But also, conferences like this one today bring youth together to share ideas about how we can make peace sustainable.

 

Today we are discussing youth involvement in the global nuclear dialogue. Looking at a broader picture, it is however not only about nuclear weapons. Recent trends show that the world spent 1.7 trillion dollars last year on militaries and weapons in general. It is only normal that youth steps in and claims how much of this money could have been used for education, economic development and even for the implementation of the Agenda 2030.

Citing from the 2017 Youth and Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations in New York: “The maintenance and modernization of nuclear arsenals has a long-term impact on youth by diverting funding from activities that could make our future better to one that poses a real and concrete threat to humanity.”

As already mentioned above, nuclear threats are also highly linked to the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, in which youth is greatly involved as well. First, and this is the most obvious connection, nuclear weapons disrupt peace and justice (SDG16).

Second, tensions occurring from the development of new nuclear weapons and its testing, could be turned into cooperation from joint verification of nuclear disarmament agreements. This could in turn lead to stronger partnerships in the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and give weight to SDG 17.

A third and crucial connection between nuclear disarmament and the SDGs is the impact of atomic weapons on our environment (SDG13, 14 and 15). The use of nuclear weapons would create such a catastrophic human and environmental consequences that achieving the SDGs would be out of reach.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having said all this, I want to thank everyone for participating in nuclear dialogues and making it inclusive by incorporating more and more women and youth.

I can tell you from my side that one of Austria´s top foreign policy priority is the achievement of a nuclear weapon free world. The construction of the Equipment Maintenance and Storage Facility (ESMF) in Seibersdorf near Vienna has further strengthened the link between CTBTO and Austria.

I hope that other countries will also soon acknowledge that (and here I quote) “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded”.

Thank you.

Three Young Refugee Women Share Their Inspirational Stories at the BKMC

A multimedia event on “Global Citizenship in a Time of War” organized by Heather Wokusch, an educator who works in the field of women and youth empowerment through education and promotes the SDGs, was hosted at the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens on September 27th, 2018. Having gained international attention while addressing the plight of refugees, three young refugee women shared their experiences and inspirational stories during the event.

  • Nour Barakeh: With a background spanning scientific studies and artistic work, she supports the establishment of sustainable educational projects focused on empowering people to transcend the effects of war. She wrote a theater piece “Not Our Fate” that has been recently performed at European Forum Alpbach as well as at the Weltmuseum Wien hosted by Österreichisches Parlament. She also acted in the play herself.
  • Dooa Al Zamel: She is one of a few survivals from crossing the dangerous #sea from Syria to Europe relying on a boat filled with hundreds of migrants most of whom were killed when attackers sank the vessel. While surviving days alone at sea, Al Zamel also saved the life of an infant and became the subject of a best-selling book “A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea.”
  • Suad Mohamed: From Somalia, she has lived in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, and Austria. She speaks five languages and is currently learning her sixth: German. As a pharmacist, Mohamed works as an Assistant Consultant in the Österreichisches Rotes Kreuz and as an interpreter at Diakonie Österreich. Her aims are to spread awareness about refugee and migration issues, to improve the healthcare and pharmaceutical systems in developing countries, and to empower women.

An excerpt of the video “Escape from Syria: Rania’s Odyssey” was screened during the event to show a journey of Rania Mustafa Ali who filmed her flee from Syria to Austria. On the way, Ali was cheated by smugglers, teargassed and beaten at the Macedonian border. She also risked drowning in the Mediterranean, travelling in a boat meant to hold 15 people but stuffed with 52. Mustafa was also supposed to deliver keynote at the Centre’s event but could not make it due to unexpected flight issues.

BKMC CEO Monika Froehler delivered welcome remarks and also facilitated a Q&A session. Guests from various different sectors such as media, international organization, NGO, etc actively involved themselves in the conversations on the refugee crisis and sought for ways to solve the global issue and to empower those in need of help. A ‘female empowerment’ segment of a video filmed during the European Forum Alpbach capturing “Not Our Fate” was also screened and touched the audience.

Watch the full video of Rania’s Odyssey here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDHwt-ooAi4

New York Times Posts Ban Ki-moon’s Opinion on the Refugee Crisis

In 1951 a young boy and his family fled their burning village during a brutal war that brought immeasurable death and destruction to their country. He witnessed pronounced human suffering that would continue to haunt him in the days and years to come.

This child uprooted by conflict was me — the same boy who would grow up to be elected as the eighth secretary general of the United Nations in 2006.

As secretary general, I met so many children around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, who reminded me of my own wrenching experience of displacement. Seeing myself in each of them, I have remained determined to elevate the plight of refugees to the top of the global agenda today.

As of the end of 2017, a record 68.5 million people around the world had been forced from their homes, including 25.4 million refugees, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Only 102,800, less than 1 percent of the total number of displaced, were admitted for resettlement in 2017. Furthermore, data from the Missing Migrants Project shows that nearly 2,000 refugees and migrants died during the first six months of 2018 as they made perilous journeys across borders and high seas.

Despite the scale of the refugee challenge, we need to think of it first and foremost as a crisis of solidarity. Whether the world can come together to effectively support these vulnerable groups will be a true test of our collective conscience.

An increase in political will is urgently needed from our world leaders, as is a readiness to partner with others. This political will must be guided by an enhanced sense of our common humanity, rather than a belief in barriers and barbed wire.

Faced with images of unthinkable suffering from the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, or with evidence of gross human rights violations in Myanmar and elsewhere, too many leaders have lacked the necessary courage to respond with generosity and support. Some leaders have gone so far as to actively encourage prejudice against refugees and migrants simply to win votes.

Countries in the developing world — Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran, Bangladesh and Sudan — are host to among the largest numbers of refugees, while the prosperous nations of the global north have failed (with the exception of Germany) to share the burden fairly. This needs to change.

Wealthier countries must admit and resettle significantly more than the less than 1 percent of the world’s refugee population resettled in 2017. Such equitable sharing of responsibility is critical to ameliorating this crisis of global solidarity.

In September 2016, I convened the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York to confront the refugee challenge head-on. At this historic gathering, world leaders committed to developing a Global Compact on Refugees and a Global Compact for Migration, an international negotiation process overseen by the United Nations until its conclusion this past summer. Together, these agreements — which will likely be adopted by the United Nations later this year — will help ensure the dignity and protection of refugees, migrants and host communities alike.

In particular, the Global Compact on Refugees will allow for better burden-sharing among host countries, while elevating the voices of refugees and civil society groups.

Despite the hard work undertaken by the international community in support of refugees, we must recognize that the global political environment has changed dramatically in recent years. In a number of countries, the global compacts were negotiated in the shadow of populist backlashes that have tapped into and stoked nativist fears about immigrants and their descendants. Some politicians feel that they must be tough toward immigrants, that they must protect their country’s borders and national identities. In the United States, the resulting policies have taken on increasingly cruel forms, with children detained and separated from their asylum-seeking parents in violation of the best interests of the child.

The United States’ decision to withdraw from the migration pact, announced in December 2017, is a deeply regrettable step that undermines international solidarity. It also hampers efforts by nation-states, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations and others to increase partnership efforts.

Such partnerships are crucial in easing the suffering of refugees. For example, the United Nations refugee agency and the Ikea-supported company Better Shelter have come together to provide thousands of innovative temporary housing structures for refugees and displaced families in Iraq, Greece and elsewhere. The Japanese government generously supported Better Shelter’s housing efforts in Iraq.

In Lebanon, Johnson & Johnson has partnered with the nongovernmental organization Save the Children to provide refugees displaced by the crisis in Syria with access to early childhood development services.

I fondly remember when, in 2016 — my last year as secretary general — I witnessed the entry of the Refugee Olympic Team at the opening ceremony of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. For the first time, refugees were allowed to compete in the Olympics as a stand-alone team. The refugee athletes said to the world: We are young people, just like scores of others, and although we are refugees, we can compete at the highest level.

The huge crowd gathered at Maracanã Stadium felt the same way: Tens of thousands of people gave the refugee team an extended standing ovation. It was a beautiful moment, full of pride, solidarity and hope.

This is the same spirit in which we must address the global refugee crisis. Only by standing together — with each other and with refugees — can we succeed.

Original publication with photos: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/16/opinion/politics/ban-ki-moon-refugee-crisis.html

Photo: Ali Dia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images