On the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a call to Gen-Z to put nuclear disarmament on the radar
As with all generations, priorities and concerns are shaped by context and experience. We are yet to decipher what truly defines the generation of people born between 1995 and 2000 but there is some insight. Gen-Z is packed with entrepreneurial digital natives that are socially and environmentally conscientious. Nice mix. Climate change, sharing economy, internet privacy are concerns of their everyday life. Nuclear disarmament? Not so much.
Gen-Z have no way of knowing how it felt to live in a world where nuclear threat was part of daily life. They have probably heard more about "nuclear warfare" in movies than in the news or at the dinner table. For many, this could indicate something positive, a reflection of the world moving towards a more peaceful times. And by many accounts this has been the case. But this vague understanding of nuclear disarmament is also cause for concern. Nuclear warfare and disarmament is by no means a mere abstract thing of the past that we see today recreated through films. There is critical work that the world as a whole still needs to do on nuclear disarmament. Banning nuclear tests has been at the top of the list for so long, we don't talk or think about it as often as we should.
It was 20 years ago that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was signed by over 166 states including the United States, but today we are still waiting for it to enter full force because there are 8 countries that have failed to commit themselves to ratifying the agreement. This is a glaring example of the stalemate plaguing multilateral disarmament.
The achievement of a moratorium on nuclear testing - maintained by all but North Korea - is significant. But as I have said time and again, it can be no substitute for a legally binding global prohibition.
Nobody said nuclear disarmament was easy but we cannot afford to have entire generations growing up to realize that things they grew up feeling as part of the past, are actually things we still need to sort out! We must give priority to achieving the long-overdue Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Leaving yesterday's diplomatic brain-bending negotiations to the next generation to grapple with is not the way to operate. As Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament I feel this frustration first hand but it does not deter me. I feel strongly that each Member State needs to engage proactively, but to do that they obviously need a strong push. Last Friday the UN Security Council adopted a Resolution to ban nuclear weapons testing which is an important step but a resolution is not a substitute for a legally binding treaty.
Gen-Z has the potential to take on global challenges with a whole new skillset. With their unprecedented capacity for digital engagement and the promising innovative and creative solutions they can design. This challenge has to be on their radar to ensure everyone knows why we all need to care about international security agreements. This is critical to keep the planet safe, not only for Gen-Z, but for generations to come.