2017 Conference Report


Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Dr. Lassina Zerbo spoke at the Critical Issues Forum Spring Student Conference in Nagasaki

US and Russian High School Students Joined Japanese students in Nagasaki discuss nuclear test ban, a world free of nuclear weapons, and youth education

CIF student participants with Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO

Masako Toki

April 28, 2017

From April 3-5, 2017, students from the United States and Russia joined Japanese students in Nagasaki, Japan, for the annual Critical Issues Forum (CIF) conference on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation education. The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) cosponsored the conference as part of the CIF program, in partnership with Kwassui High School in Nagasaki and Nagasaki Council for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki City, and Nagasaki University). This is the first time the CIF conference was held in Nagasaki, and the second time it was held in Japan: in 2015, the CIF convened in Hiroshima to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombings.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the CIF. Since its inception in 1997, the CIF program has engaged thousands of American and Russian high school students and introduced them to a variety of nonproliferation and disarmament issues. The project began engaging schools in Japan in 2013.

The three-day conference included two days of students’ presentations at Kwassui High School, where all the participating schools demonstrated their semester-long studies on this year’s topic, “Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and its Role for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.” Six high schools from across the United States and four high schools from Russia’s closed nuclear cities joined the seven Japanese high schools from different parts of the country at the conference in Nagasaki.

On April 4th, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO) joined the public symposium of the CIF conference that was held in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum Hall. In addition to his inspiring keynote address, Dr. Zerbo also joined the students’ panel discussion moderated by Professor Keiko Nakamura at the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University. Nagasaki Mayor Mr. Tomihisa Taue, Nagasaki Governor Mr. Hodo Nakamura, and a Member of House of Councillors of the Japan’s National Diet, Dr. Kozo Akino, among others, joined the symposium to congratulate the CIF participants.

To further enhance their understanding of the horror of nuclear weapons use, teachers and students toured the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and listened to a testimonial of a hibakusha, an atomic bomb survivor. Students also visited the Nagasaki Peace Park, Nagasaki Hypocenter Park, and the Shiroyama Elementary School, the closes elementary school from the Hypocenter that lost over 1,400 pupils, a relic of the atomic bombing that was designated as a cultural heritage by the Japanese Government. Dr. Kozo Akino explained the significance of the relic as he gave the CIF students a tour of the elementary school.

CIF Particpants visited multiple important sites while in Nagasaki. Here they are standing in front of the Nagasaki Peace Monument

International Students’ Conference

On April 3 and 4, students presented their findings of their semester-long studies on this year’s topic, “Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and its Role for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.” Following an opening statement by Masako Toki, CIF project manager, and welcoming remarks by Mr. Atsushi Ohiwa, the principal of Kwassui High School, and Mr. Takashi Yuguchi, the president of the Kwassui University, the students watched a video message from Mr. Kim Won-soo, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs of the United Nations. In his message, Mr. Kim congratulated participants for holding such an important conference to promote awareness of the importance of CTBT and nuclear disarmament in Nagasaki.

Over the course of the 2016-17 academic year, CIF students focused their research on the concept of nuclear test bans and creating a world free of nuclear weapons. Specifically, CIF students investigated the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), as the United States, Japan, and Russia have an important role to play in facilitating this treaty’s entry into force. The CIF project enabled students to explore the concept of international nonproliferation and disarmament regimes more broadly, and how the CTBT can facilitate momentum toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Students at Kwassui High School in Nagasaki, Japan for CIF Student Conference



Students studied nuclear weapons testing history and efforts to prevent nuclear weapons testing. They also examined how the CTBT was negotiated, its current status, challenges, and future prospects. Students also investigated the CTBT’s unique verification regimes. All the high school students’ presentations demonstrated their understanding on the importance of the CTBT in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regimes. All presentations contained creative and innovative ideas while demonstrating a solid understanding on the topic that they learned through their semester-long thorough research.

Student Presentation Highlights

Kwassui student presenting at the CIF student Conference in Nagasaki, Japan on April 3, 2017

The comprehensive presentation by the host school, Kwassui High School, demonstrated an in-depth, thoughtful grip on this year’s topic and their determination to work for a nuclear-free world. In accordance with the title of their presentation, “Pandora’s Box was Opened: The Role of the Young in a Divided World,” the Kwassui students raised the alarm on increasing international conflicts and the important role of civil society and youth education in achieving nuclear disarmament.

A veteran school in the CIF project, Choate Rosemary Hall from Connecticut offered innovative proposals in their presentation, including a moratorium on modernizing existing weapons systems. Framed as a first step toward a world free of nuclear weapons, the Choate students’ proposal aimed at developing trust between the United States and Russia. Students also proposed the redirection of resources to humanitarian purposes instead of weapon systems upgrades.

Kansai Soka Senior High School from Osaka, Japan, presented the findings from the survey they conducted among their fellow classmates to determine the level of awareness of the CTBT and nuclear disarmament issues. According to the survey, while the majority of their classmates were interested in nuclear disarmament, they were not aware of any activities to promote it, though they would be interested in participating in them. The CIF presenters from Kansai Soka emphasized the importance of engaging high school students in nuclear issues in a personal way. The students proposed a three-year plan on “Education for World Peace.”

Pacific Grove High School from Monterey CA highlighted the importance of political will to bring the CTBT into force. In order to influence policy makers, the students proposed community initiatives to enhance nuclear literacy by engaging youth through education and outreach activities.

Students from Pacific Grove High School presenting on April 4, 2017 in Nagasaki, Japan

School No 41 from Novouralsk, Russia, highlighted the importance of the CTBT’s entry into force toward a world free of nuclear weapons, and analyzed the reticence behind each country that has not ratified the treaty yet. The students highlighted the importance of continuing efforts, particularly dialogue and education, to promote CTBT entry into force.

Students from Novouralsk, Russia presenting at the CIF conference on April 3, 2017 in Nagasaki, Japan

All the students challenged themselves to find a solution to these complicated problems, and all of the presentations were well researched and effective in raising CTBT and nuclear disarmament awareness among the younger generations.

All of students’ presentations can be viewed on this page


Guest speakers:

This year, the students’ conference featured three notable guest speakers. The first was Dr. Masao Tomonaga, chairman of the Nagasaki Global Citizens Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, and director emeritus of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital. He focused on the humanitarian impact of the use of nuclear weapons. As a medical doctor in Nagasaki, he has consulted with and treated numerous atomic bomb survivors, and as a result he is an effective and moving advocate in making sure Nagasaki is the last city to ever experience nuclear devastation.

Dr. Masao Tomonaga, chairman of the Nagasaki Global Citizens Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Students also heard a lecture by Dr. Fumihiko Yoshida, vice director of Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University, who encouraged the students to come up with creative ideas to accomplish a nuclear-weapon free world.

Lastly, Ms. Vanessa Zenji, consul for public affairs at the US Consulate in Fukuoka, emphasized the importance of collaboration between the United States and Japan to create a more peaceful world.


Public Symposium

To view the full symposium please click here.

The CIF conference culminated with the public symposium at the Atomic Bomb Museum Hall, which included CTBTO Executive Secretary Zerbo, Nagasaki Mayor Mr. Tomihisa Taue, Nagasaki Governor Mr. Hodo Nakamura, and a member of the Japanese parliament, Dr. Kozo Akino. The overarching topic of the public symposium was “Youth Education and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT): Their Roles for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida sent a congratulatory message to CIF participants, and expressed his regrets that he could not personally participate in the symposium due to the parliamentary schedule. Although he was not able to participate as he did when the CIF conference took place in Hiroshima in 2015, he reiterated his strong desire to work for a world free of nuclear weapons through youth education. As evidence of his commitment to youth education, this year again, the foreign minister designated CIF participants as Youth Special Communicators for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. This is the second time CIF students were endowed with such an important role on behalf of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After heartwarming congratulatory remarks by the honorable guests who attended the symposium, Dr. Zerbo’s keynote focused on the efforts of youth to use nonviolence in making the world a safer place. He touched on several topics, including the extraordinary historical importance of Nagasaki, the importance of youth in nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, and the purpose of the CTBTO. Dr. Zerbo explained that Nagasaki is a stark reminder of the destructive power of nuclear weapons, and how the scars from its use over seventy years ago were still visible, both in the relics and in the people. He reiterated the importance of young people engaging in nonproliferation work and their embrace of nonviolence in conflict resolution.

Dr. Zerbo also spoke of the importance of the CTBT’s entry into force, explaining how it would help ensure that states do not engage in nuclear testing. He also touched on the importance of bringing North Korea to the negotiating table and reaching a successful compromise through nonviolent means. Overall, Dr. Zerbo’s message was one of hope for the future of nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.

Dr Zerbo at the Public Symposium at the CIF Conference at the Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki, Japan on April 4, 2017

After the keynote address, four schools made a joint presentation. Choate Rosemary Hall, Rock University High School, Dr. Olga Mohan High School, and Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School emphasized their common theme on promoting the early entry into force of the CTBT and its role for a world free of nuclear weapons. This joint presentation offered a variety of perspectives including global approaches, local approaches, and social and scientific approaches.

Students joint presentation at the symposium

Another highlight of the symposium was a panel discussion by students from each country, with commentaries from Dr. Zerbo and moderated by Professor Nakamura. Each student shared his or her own personal experience with nuclear disarmament initiatives and disarmament education, particularly on this year’s topic of the CTBT. After each student’s opening remarks, Dr. Zerbo asked a question to each student. The panel discussion was lively and interactive as students shared their own opinions and experiences candidly. While each student’s experience in disarmament education varied, all agreed that they are more motivated to study hard to be able to contribute to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. It is clear that their experience in Nagasaki had an enormous impact on their decision to work for peace and security, enhanced their cross-cultural understanding, and raised their awareness on the importance of the CTBT and nuclear disarmament.


Student panel discussion during the Public Symposium on April 4, 2017 in Nagasaki, Japan

Dr Zerbo and Professor Keiko Nakamura during the student panel at the Public Symposium

Students during the panel discussion at the Public Symposium

The symposium facilitated a congenial, inspirational sense of mutual learning and understanding, not just among the CIF students, but with the Nagasaki audience as well. It was a remarkable opportunity for US and Russian high school students to be able to communicate with people in Nagasaki and to deeply understand the impact of nuclear weapon use and why they must never be used again. Professor Nakamura concluded the panel discussion by encouraging not only the CIF high school students but all the participants in the hall to continue inspiring friends and colleagues to make efforts in support of nuclear disarmament, all while learning from each other.




There was significant media coverage throughout the three-day event. Each day, NHK, Japan’s national TV station, broadcasted highlights from the conference.

CIF Participants being interviewed by NHK

Also noteworthy was the opportunity CIF students had to speak with Dr. Zerbo. In addition to the symposium, the CTBTO chief engaged with students at an informal gathering immediately before the symposium, in a dynamic and open exchange. His commitment to youth education to promote CTBT and nuclear disarmament inspired all CIF participants.


Over the past several months and under the guidance of committed teachers, the CIF students dedicated themselves to studying this important and pressing international security issue: the CTBT and its role in creating a world free of nuclear weapons.

Disarmament and nonproliferation education has become more important than ever, given the uncertain international security environment. In that sense, having this conference in Nagasaki was especially meaningful. The CIF participants strengthened their determination to work toward nuclear disarmament to ensure that Nagasaki is the last city to experience nuclear devastation.

CIF participants observed the Nagasaki atomic bomb museum, visited the Nagasaki Peace Park, and the Hypocenter Park. They listened to a Hibakusha testimonial. These future leaders learned so many important things from people in Nagasaki who experienced the horror of nuclear weapons first hand, and endured such unspeakable ordeals while overcoming obstacles to work for a nuclear free world to make sure that nuclear weapons will never be used again. Such educational activities for the youth will undoubtedly have a positive impact on progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

 Participating Schools:

United States
Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT
Harker School, San Jose, CA
Dr. Olga Mohan High School, Los Angeles, CA
Pacific Grove High School, Pacific Grove, CA
Punahou School, Honolulu, HI
Rock University High School, Janesville, WI

Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School, Hiroshima
Kaisei High School
Kansai Soka Senior High School, Katano
Kwassui High School, Nagasaki
Nagasaki Higashi High School
Soka Senior High School, Tokyo
Yokohama Senior High School of International Studies

School No 41, Novouralsk
School No 39 Ozersk
School No 125 Snezhinsk
School No 164, Zelenogorsk

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Link to photo gallery 

This year’s CIF program is funded by the United States-Japan Foundation and Tom and Sarah Pattison Fund

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our co-organizers for their support in planning the 2017 Critical Issues Forum Conference:

Kwassui High School
Nagasaki Council for Nuclear Weapons Abolition

We would also like to extend our appreciation to the following organizations for their kind support for the CIF conference:

Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA)
Nagasaki City
Nagasaki Prefecture
Nagasaki University
Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace.
Kwassui Alumni Association