CIF Participants in front of the Hiroshima Children’s Peace Monument
April 22, 2015
From April 2-4, 2015, students from the United States and Russia joined Japanese students in Hiroshima, Japan, for the annual Critical Issues Forum (CIF) conference on nuclear disarmament. 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 Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School and the Hiroshima for Global Peace Plan Joint Project Executive Committee (Hiroshima Prefecture and Hiroshima City).
This was the first time in the eighteen-year history of the CIF that the student conference was held in Hiroshima, the first city to have ever experienced nuclear devastation, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The three-day conference included two days of students’ presentations at Hiroshima Jogakuin, where all the participating schools demonstrated their semester-long studies on this year’s topic, “Nuclear Disarmament: Humanitarian Approach.”
The last day of the conference featured speeches by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Governor of Hiroshima Hidehiko Yuzaki, and a keynote speech by Mr. Yoshitoshi Nakamura, the deputy director general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department. The students also organized a showcase of their presentations from the previous day, and then held a panel discussion featuring students from each country, which was moderated by Professor Nobumasa Akiyama, one of Japan’s foremost nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation experts.
To further enhance their understanding of the horror of nuclear weapons use, teachers and students visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and heard a first-hand account of August 6, 1945, from a hibakusha, an atomic bomb survivor. All participants agreed that their CIF experience in Hiroshima was informative, enriching, and enlightening.
International Students’ Conference
Hiroshima Jogakuin’s presentation ending with music.
On April 2 and 3, students presented their findings of their semester-long studies on this year’s topic, “Nuclear Disarmament: Humanitarian Approach.”
Following an opening statement by Masako Toki, CIF project manager, and welcoming remarks by Mr. Haruo Hoshino, the principal of Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School, the students watched a video message from Ms. Virginia Gamba, director and deputy to the high representative for disarmament affairs, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. In her message, she congratulated participants for holding such an important conference to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education in Hiroshima, and she expressed her hope that students continue their work toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Given the topic of this year’s CIF project, many schools investigated the effects of nuclear weapon use on both the environment and human beings. Due to the deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, many students supported the idea to ban nuclear weapons based on their studies of these weapons from scientific, environmental, political and cultural perspectives. Many students’ presentations pointed out the shortcomings of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), such as its discriminatory nature and weak enforcement mechanism.
All the high school students’ presentations contained creative and innovative ideas while demonstrating a solid understanding on the topic they learned through their semester-long thorough research.
Student Presentation Highlights
In their presentation, students from Santa Catalina High School in Monterey, California, explored how we can apply the humanitarian initiative while pursuing disarmament and maintaining a collaborative relationship with both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. Through their investigation, the Santa Catalina students proposed pursuing a change in the NPT, essentially transforming it into to a Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Treaty (NPDT).
The host school, Hiroshima Jogakuin, gave one of the most multidimensional presentations, incorporating a skit, music, and PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate their thoughts on the need to ban nuclear weapons. Hiroshima Jogakuin has a long history of peace and disarmament education, given their experience of losing over 300 students in the atomic bomb attack on August 6, 1945. Hiroshima Jogakuin’s presentation conveyed the horrific effects of the use of nuclear weapons against human beings, and emphasized the importance of raising awareness of this issue, asserting that the nuclear threat is everyone’s problem
Pasadena High School from California formed a Nuclear Nonproliferation Club for the CIF project. The students argued that the NPT ultimately proved to be a “successful, failed experiment.” While it prevented a catastrophic nuclear war during the critical period of the Cold War, it failed to wholly prevent further nuclear proliferation or achieve a world without nuclear weapons.
A first time participant, Harker School from San Jose, California, presented a comparative analysis of the feasibility of achieving nuclear disarmament through an emphasis on humanitarian considerations. The students investigated several different successes in humanitarian-centered efforts, such as the abolition of slavery, the conclusion of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Landmine Ban Treaty (officially known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction). The students formulated their presentation by analyzing how, based on these precedents, a similarly humanitarian-focused initiative on nuclear weapons could lead us to a more peaceful world without nuclear weapons.
Yokohama Senior High School of International Studies, Kanagawa, emphasized the importance of nuclear disarmament education, proposing standardized disarmament and nonproliferation education for the youth. The Yokohama students argued that effective disarmament education will eventually impact the nuclear policies of states, leading to more disarmament progress.
This year, two Russian schools participated in the conference. Both schools’ presentations were very creative and well-researched. Students from Novouralsk illustrated stories of the lives of children who became victims of nuclear weapons, effectively conveying the inhumane nature of such weapons. They highlighted the importance of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons for the future generation. Students from Zelenogorsk discussed the importance of International Humanitarian Law and grassroots movement for nuclear disarmament.
Mr. Steven Leeper, former Chair of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, gave a keynote address titled “Youth, Education and a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.” He emphasized the importance of the culture-of-peace approach to accomplish nuclear abolition. He shared with the CIF students the sense of urgency he feels working toward nuclear abolition warrants, as well as the need to utilize all the necessary resources.
Mr. Jeffrey Adler from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo gave a presentation on the importance of the US-Japan cooperation for nuclear nonproliferation. In his talk “Strength of People to People Relationships,” he highlighted the educational and cultural activities for a better relationship between the two countries, contributing to peace and security in the Asia Pacific region as well as the entire world.
The three-day CIF conference culminated with the public symposium at the Hiroshima International Conference Center. The CIF attracted the highest ranking official of the Japanese government, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, who is originally from Hiroshima. In his speech at the symposium, the foreign minister congratulated CNS and the co-organizers in holding this important event in Hiroshima with students from the United States, Russia and Japan, and highlighted the importance of disarmament education for the next generations. He also discussed Japan’s role in building a world without nuclear weapons, elaborating on his country’s role in the upcoming NPT Review Conference as well as the twelve-nation Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) that Japan had co-founded with Australia.
CIF Students from Each Country at Panel Discussion at Public Symposium Moderated by Professor Nobumasa Akiyama
Ambassador Yasuyoshi Komizo, chair of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, expressed his hope that the international community starts negotiating a nuclear weapon convention to de-legitimize these weapons, given the catastrophic effects of the use of nuclear weapons.
Students from Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut and Kaisei High School in Tokyo made a joint presentation showcasing their studies on the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament and their experiences in the CIF project. The two schools combined their presentations they presented at the Hiroshima Jogakuin on previous day.
Both schools challenged the current NPT regime by investigating why a world free of nuclear weapons has not been achieved through the NPT. The students also addressed the legality of the use of nuclear weapons, citing the 1996 advisory opinion on nuclear weapons by the International Court of Justice. The students further argued that there are many other ways that the money currently allotted toward nuclear weapons can be used in ways to more sustainably build peace, such as peacekeeping operations. In their concluding remarks, they emphasized that their presentation included only a few of the many great ideas that were presented at the conference. On behalf of all the CIF students, they implored the audience to raise awareness of these nuclear weapon issues, and to think seriously about what we can do to help advance nuclear disarmament.
The keynote address was given by Mr. Yoshitoshi Nakamura, the deputy director general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department. He presented an overview of Japan’s nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation policy, and the role of disarmament and nonproliferation education. He emphasized the importance of youth education as well as local community efforts to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education.
One highlight of the symposium was a panel discussion by students from each country, moderated by Professor Nobumasa Akiyama of Hitotsubashi University, a leading Japanese expert in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Each student shared his or her own personal experience with nuclear disarmament initiatives and disarmament education.
As a third generation hibakusha, Ms. Masaki Koyanagi, a student from Kwassui High School in Nagasaki, expressed her determination to convey the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons that her grandparents experienced. She affirmed her belief in the power of youth to make positive impact on nuclear disarmament progress.
In her speech, student Amadea Tanner of Pasadena High School insisted that the key to overcoming obstacles to nuclear disarmament is to “trust.” She said countries in possession of nuclear weapons do not trust each other to take steps in getting rid of their weapons, but she believes that trust can be restored one step at a time.
Her statement resonated with many of audience. She also articulated her determination to educate as many people as possible on nuclear disarmament issues. Ethan Ma from Harker School argued that the movement to end nuclear weapons must be a step within the greater movement toward peace.
Yuina Capper from Hiroshima Jogakuin asserted that the biggest obstacle to abolish nuclear weapons is the people who think it is safer to have nuclear weapons. Therefore, she is convinced that it is important for her to show those people how nuclear weapons can destroy our lives and environment, and that in this way she can contribute to a creating a world free of nuclear weapons.
Valeria Serkova discussed how growing up in, Zerenogorsk, Russia, a “closed city” established specifically to operate nuclear facilities, has led her to be interested in nuclear disarmament. She emphasized the importance of taking action to make progress toward a nuclear weapon-free world. Based on her experience in disarmament and peace activities at her school, she argued that education provides young people with the necessary, solid foundation to work for nuclear disarmament.
These future leaders in nuclear disarmament stimulated other students in the audience, and there were many constructive questions. Professor Akiyama concluded the symposium by encouraging all the participating students to further their interest in this vital global issue and to all strive to become leaders in this field.
Throughout the three-day conference, there were significant media coverage. The public symposium, in particular, was broadcast nationwide by NHK, Japan’s national TV station. Almost 200 people gathered for the public symposium in the 150-capacity room, illustrating the significant public interest in nuclear disarmament discussions by high school students from the United States, Russia, and Japan.
As the main organizer of the CIF project, CNS worked very hard with the co-organizers—Hiroshima Jogakuin, Hiroshima prefecture, and city, and all the participating schools. This conference was a historic achievement in disarmament and nonproliferation education, not only because the foreign minister participated, or that it happened in Hiroshima to commemorate the 70th anniversary, but also that these high school students worked so hard to think critically about this complicated issue, in order to find their own, innovative solutions. Through the CIF activities, all the students were able to develop their critical-thinking skills, and learned nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issues, the impact of the use of nuclear weapons, and examined challenges to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. Most importantly, many of these students realized that they are the ones who are responsible to achieve that goal.
In that sense, the power and promise of education to achieve this goal needs to be more widely recognized by more people around the world. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his monumental speech on disarmament at the MIIS two years ago, eloquently stated that “Education can also help to refute the claim that nuclear disarmament is utopian … Education can help the world to build a global culture of peace that rejects all weapons of mass destruction as illegitimate and immoral.” CNS hopes that this type of educational project will give more opportunities to many young students to further raise their awareness of these global challenges, strengthen their determination to work toward this goal, and start something they can do, no matter how small it may seem.
United States Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT
Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, MA
Harker School, San Jose, CA
Pasadena High School, Pasadena, CA
Presque Isle High School, Presque Isle, ME
Rock University High School, Janesville, WI
Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA
Japan Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School, Hiroshima
Kwassui High School, Nagasaki
Yasuda Girls High School, Hiroshima
Yokohama Senior High School of International Studies, Kanagawa
Kaisei High School, Tokyo
Russia Gymnasium No 41, Novouralsk
Gymnasia No 164, Zelenogorsk
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM (PST) Welcome Remarks Bryan Lee, Interim Deputy Director and Director, Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at CNS
Overview of the CIF Project and Teachers Workshop Masako Toki, Project Manager, Nonproliferation Education Program and CNS Research Associate
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM (PST) Introduction of 2014-2015 Mini-Projects Masako Toki, Project Manager, Nonproliferation Education Program and CNS Research Associate
Wednesday, December 3rd
10:00 AM -11:30 AM (PST) Lecture 1: Introduction to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regimes, Amanda Moodie, Research Associate, International Organizations & Nonproliferation Program
12:00 PM -1:30 PM (PST) Lecture 2: 2015 NPT Review Conference and the Humanitarian Initiative, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, Director, International Organization and Nonproliferation Program CNS, Washington DC
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM (PST) Lecture 3: Nuclear Weapons in Today’s World: Where Are We, How Did We Get Here, and the Future, Dr. Jeffrey Knopf, Program Chair, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, MIIS
Thursday, December 4th
3:00 PM – 4:30 PM (PST) Lecture 4: What are nuclear weapons? Scientific Perspectives. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Adjunct Professor & Scientist in Residence
Friday, December 5th
9:30 AM – 10:30 AM (PST) Lecture 5: Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Impact of the actual use of nuclear weapons Masako Toki, Project Manager, Nonproliferation Education Program and CNS Research Associate
Monday, December 8th
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM (PST) Lecture 6: Effects of the Use of Nuclear Weapons, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Adjunct Professor & Scientist in Residence
Tuesday, December 9th
3:00 -4:30 PM (PST) Lecture 7: Advancing Nuclear Disarmament: The Role of P-5, Benjamin Pack, CNS Research Associate
Wednesday, December 10th
10:30 AM -12:00 PM (PST) Lecture 8: Role of Civil Society in Nuclear disarmament, Rhianna Kreger, Managing Editor, The Nonproliferation Review & WMD Junction
Thursday, December 11th
2:30 PM-3:00 PM (PST) Introducing Peace and Disarmament Education in Hiroshima by Chinobu Takami and Gerald O’Sullivan, Hiroshima Jogakuin High School
The Critical Issues Forum (CIF) project team is planning to have the Spring 2015 students conference in Hiroshima, Japan to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Students from United States and Russia will join Japanese students to discuss nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. We hope that this conference will not only educate our students but produce future leaders who will continue to increase the momentum toward a world without nuclear weapons. The conference is tentatively scheduled for April 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
We will continue to post more information on our site as our Spring Conference approaches, so please visit us again!
Although, many believe that high school students are too young to be engaged in issues related to nuclear safety, security, nonproliferation and disarmament, this type of conventional wisdom can often be a hindrance to engaging stakeholder in the most innovative and fresh ideas for tackling the world’s pressing challenges. As was evident at the 2012 Critical Issues Forum (CIF) conference, the world’s future leaders are ready to get involved in important discussions related to global peace and security.
The spring 2012 CIF conference was held in Vienna, Austria, as a side event of the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT PrepCom). This year’s conference was held on April 30 at the Vienna International Center (where the PrepCom occurred), and on May 1-2 at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano gave the keynote address, highlighting his enthusiasm in disarmament and nonproliferation education.
The CIF program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to promote nonproliferation education of high school students and teachers. This year’s conference was co-sponsored by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation (VCDNP), and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education and the NPT Review Process
Disarmament and nonproliferation education at all levels, including secondary education, was the subject of the Secretary General’s report on the UN Study on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education, and also is highlighted in the Action Plan of the 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document. The co-sponsors of the CIF conference hoped that by providing high school students with an opportunity to observe part of the 2012 NPT PrepCom and facilitating their interaction with senior diplomats and officials from international organizations, the CIF event would serve as a concrete example of how education can promote nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.
Since the Austrian government and CNS opened the VCDNP in February 2011, the VCDNP has been conducting numerous nonproliferation and disarmament education activities in cooperation with the Austrian MFA. In conjunction with this development, CNS and the Austrian MFA together with the VCDNP decided to conduct this year’s CIF spring conference as a side event of the NPT PrepCom.
Overview of the 2012 Program
The annual cycle of the CIF program started with the teachers training workshop held in December in Monterey. Based on the education curriculum developed by CNS on this year’s topic, “Nuclear Safety and Security,” students with guidance from their teachers, worked diligently on their projects and submitted two papers in preparation for the conference.
Students selected from five US high schools and five from Russia’s closed nuclear cities as well as one school from Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the final conference in Vienna. In addition 10 students from the Austrian Red Cross High School and several students from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna joined the conference as observers.
While many youth delegations from civil society participated in the NPT PrepCom, CIF high school students were the youngest group among them. Since high school students are not generally allowed to participate in the NPT related meetings, they were granted a special exception to the age limit for participation in the NPT PrepCom.
The students worked very hard to investigate formidable challenges related to the issues of nuclear safety and security, which have major impact on global peace and security. These issues are not new, but the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident reawakened the world to the fact that while the probability of nuclear accidents or attacks may be low, should they occur, the potential consequences are enormous.
CIF Conference Special Session at VIC
During the session held at the Vienna International Center (VIC) on April 30 as a side event of the NPT PrepCom, IAEA Director General Mr. Yukiya Amano gave a keynote address. Mr. Amano began his talk by mentioning why he became interested in nonproliferation and disarmament issues. He encouraged the young people in the audience to pursue their goals and dreams, and find something they can be passionate about. He also engaged students during the question and answer portion of his talk. High school students enthusiastically asked many substantive questions ranging from current proliferation challenges, such as the nuclear issues in North Korea and Iran, to youth involvement in the NPT Review Process.
High school students from Franklin High School in California, and Gymasia 164 in Zelenogorsk, Russia presented in front of delegations to the NPT PrepCom. These two schools worked together remotely, communicating via email and Skype to create a combined presentation. Their presentation focused on the attitudes of developed and developing nations towards nuclear safety and security. Using several country case studies, the students’ presentation was very insightful and convincing. Many participants who observed the presentation were very impressed by their high quality presentation.
The students’ presentation was followed by a testimonial of a Special Communicator for a World Without Nuclear Weapons designated by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Masahito Hirose, an atomic bombing survivor from Nagasaki shared his experience with the students and participants during this event. For most of CIF students it was their first time to listen to such a story directly. Inspired by his experience and continuing and ever growing passion for nuclear disarmament, many of these high school students expressed their determination to contribute to making progress toward a nuclear weapons free world.
Representing co-hosts, Japanese Ambassador Toshiro Ozawa, Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, and Mr. Ronald Sturm from Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs congratulated students for their great work.
Sessions at the Diplomatic Academy
The CIF spring conference reconvened on May 1 at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna where all the participating schools presented their findings on nuclear safety and security. Students presentations ranged from global challenges of nuclear safety and security to issues related to their local nuclear power plants.
Student presentations were creative and innovative based on their thorough studies. Gymnasium #41 from Novouralsk, Russia’s presentation linked nuclear safety and security issues to the philosophical teachings of Emmanuel Kant. The students investigated past nuclear power plants accidents and threats of nuclear terrorism in an effort to answer overall philosophical questions posted by Kant.
Choate Rosemary Hall from Connecticut discussed nuclear safety and security issues using the Indian Point Nuclear Reactor facility in Buchanan, New York due to its proximity to their school. Their presentation included the history of this reactor including site selection and design, the company, accidents that have occurred at the plant, the plant’s upcoming recertification in 2013, the security of the plant, and the economic and political factors that have formed and will continue to form the basis for all discussions about this plant. They focused on possible changes in plant design and ways to address the safe storage of nuclear waste.
Santa Catalina School from Monterey participated in the CIF program for the first time. They discussed the intricate psychological sociological, economic and political effect of a cyber-attack on a nuclear facility through outlining past cyber-attacks.
This year’s CIF welcomed a new school from Bosnia and Herzegovina, United World College in Mostar. They presented their studies on challenges related to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and proliferation issues. In addition, the students introduced their schools’ unique plan to integrate nonproliferation issues in its cross disciplinary activities. Each school’s presentation was followed by a question and answer session where students actively engaged.
Graduate students specializing in nonproliferation at the Monterey Institute who participated in the NPT PrepCom also contributed to a successful CIF conference sharing their experience and expertise. Four CNS students, Karen Hogue, Jennifer Dahnke, Amanda Sayre, and Sophie Manoukian shared their motivation to study nonproliferation issues, and encouraged high school students to continue to study this important subject. Tamara Patton, a second year student currently interning at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva presented “Geospatial Tools for Nonproliferation and Disarmament Research” demonstrating how to construct accurate digital 3D models of buildings such as nuclear reactors, using aerial satellite imagery and shadow measurement techniques in Google SketchUp and Google earth. These graduate students presentations increased the high school students’ interest in nonproliferation issues particularly using technology to contribute to nonproliferation and disarmament research.
Ms. Olga Martin, Program Manager, Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, representing the US Department of Energy, the major funder of the program, congratulated students on their excellent work, and discussed the importance of science in international security, while encouraging students to continue to study this important issue.
Representing the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Michiru Nishida, who studied nonproliferation issues at the Monterey Institute, expressed his view on the importance of nonproliferation and disarmament education while introducing the Japanese government’s initiative in this sphere.
At the closing ceremony, Mr. Ronald Sturm from the Austrian MFA congratulated each participant for his or her hard work and the extraordinary great outcome of the conference.
Other Conference Activities
CIF students and teachers also had an opportunity to participate in a tour of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), including a presentation on the verification regime, visits to the radionuclide rooftop station and the International Data Center. On the final day of their stay, the students and teachers enjoyed cultural activities in Vienna visiting Schönbrunn Palace and enjoyed a guided tour at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (museum of fine arts).
The CIF conference proved that in order to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education, it is essential for state parties and educational and research institutes to closely cooperate on this endeavor. CNS continues to make efforts to reach out to more schools in different countries, including in the Middle East and Asia, to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education.
Elucidating the importance that a program such as CIF has for the world’s future leaders, the concluding remarks of the students at the session held at the Vienna International Center in front of delegations to the NPT PrepCom noted:
We the students of the world, understand that we will one day be given the responsibility of leading and preserving our world, so we’ve found educating ourselves and participating in the disarmament and nonproliferation movements to be so incredibly important.
Amano, CNS Director William Potter, and CIF Project Manager Masako Toki at the CIF conference at VIC
CIF participants at CTBTO International Data Center
CIF Spring 2012 Conference Participants in front of the Vienna International Center, Austria
CIF Teachers at the VCDNP
CNS graduate students share their experience in nonproliferation studies and careers.
Elena Sokova, VCDNP Executive Director welcomes CIF participants at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna
Franklin High School Students play the piano at the CIF Conference closing ceremony
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano gives the keynote address
Masahito Hirose, Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor, shares his experience
Mr. Ronald Sturm and Ambassador Toshiro Ozawa
Olga Martin from Los Alamos National Laboratory with CIF students and teacher
Opening of the CIF Conference
Participants from UWC Mostar with Mr. Ronald Sturm, Austrian MFA, and Masako Toki
Santa Catalina School discuss cyber terrorism and nuclear security
Student from Presque Isle High School ask question after Amano speech
Students engaged in interactive activities during the session at the Diplomatic Academy
Students from Choate Rosemary Hall present on nuclear safety and security using case studies of their local nuclear power plant
Students from Franklin High School and Gymnasia #164 give presentation in front of PrepCom delegations
Students from Novouralsk, Russia discuss nuclear power plant accidents and threats of nuclear terrorism at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna
This year’s Critical Issues Forum (CIF), one of the flagship nonproliferation education projects at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), marked a significant milestone. For the first time in the sixteen-year history of the project, it engaged Japanese high schools from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities devastated by atomic weapons in 1945. The CIF is a unique nonproliferation and disarmament education project for high school teachers and students around the world to promote awareness of the importance of these issues. The project also aims to develop critical thinking skills of high school students, and to develop appreciation among participants of different national and cultural perspectives on complex but vital international security issues.
The 2013 spring conference, the culmination of the semester-long project, was held on April 19th and 20th at Santa Catalina High School in Monterey, one of participating schools in the project. At the conference, students from eight US high schools in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin, one Russian high school from the closed nuclear city of Novouralsk, and three Japanese schools from Hiroshima and Nagasaki presented their findings on this year’s topic, “Toward a World without Nuclear Weapons: Progress, Prospects, and Challenges.”
This year’s topic exemplifies the current status of nuclear disarmament. Since President Obama made his historical Prague speech in April 2009 pledging US commitment to the security of a world without nuclear weapons, achievements toward nuclear disarmament have been modest. Furthermore, three years after state parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT adopted a comprehensive Action Plan, progress on implementing its disarmament section remains very limited.
As the CIF conference was held just one week before the second session of the 2015 NPT Review Conference Preparatory Committee convened, CIF students were also closely following global nonproliferation and disarmament trends, using, among other resources, CIF staff and other civil society analysis of scrutinizing the progress towards a world without nuclear weapons.
Preparing for the Spring Conference
The CIF teacher’s workshop, held November 29-December 1, 2012, introduced teachers to this year’s curriculum, developed by the CIF project team in consultation with CNS experts, and provided instruction on how to conduct the CIF program with students. CNS experts delivered lectures on various aspects related to nuclear disarmament, progress, and challenges. After the workshop, each participating school’s students completed two “mini-projects,” under the guidance of CIF teachers, examining the complex status of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament around the world.
For each mini-project, students reviewed reading materials and education resources prepared by CIF staff to demonstrate their understanding of nuclear issues, particularly within the CIF’s four content domains: scientific/environmental, social/cultural, economic, and political /geopolitical.
The students’ work was divided into three steps. Step 1 helped students understand the concrete, fundamental facts underlying nuclear weapons and basic theoretical concepts. Step 2built on the knowledge gained in Step 1 by guiding students through the progress toward nuclear disarmament and remaining political and technical challenges. The final Step 3 project asked students to visualize their own solutions or scenarios for a world without nuclear weapons. At the spring conference, students presented their final project.
Each school delivered a final project as a group, ensuring that each presentation was very unique and creative, employing various approaches and methods under the common theme of Toward a World without Nuclear Weapons.
One of the veteran high schools, Franklin High School from Elk Grove, California, had two parts to its presentation: the first part was well-researched analysis on the current nonproliferation regime that divides the world into two categories: nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. In addition to these two categories, the Franklin students used European countries that host US nuclear weapons under NATO nuclear sharing policy to analyze cold war thinking of political alliances that still dominates the world.
In the second part of the presentation, Franklin students presented photos and pictures of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) and the effects of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The school collaborated with Japanese CIF high schools to collect these pictures prior to the conference, enhancing US and Japanese high school students’ cross-cultural communication experience.
The presentation from La Puente High School in Southern California incorporated a role-play to portray the current NPT regime, its challenges, and prospects toward a nuclear-free world. The school assigned three students to play the role of the United States, North Korea, and South Africa. Each “representative” described “their” country’s nuclear and security policy and its historical background. The La Puente students’ skit was entertaining, informative, and accurately delineated each state’s nuclear status.
Students from Santa Catalina School in Monterey presented their views on how to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. Students posed a question regarding the necessary steps we should take to move toward a more peaceful society. Through this query, they incorporated the important question of nuclear deterrence and the lack of enforcement mechanisms in the NPT regime. Students reviewed the variety of proposals, such as the establishment of an international fuel bank and a strengthened role of the United Nations for effective implementation of nuclear disarmament. After their presentation, Santa Catalina students facilitated an interactive session to discuss solutions to North Korea’s nuclear crisis in a small group. While most of the students recognized the difficulty and obstacles facing North Korea’s nuclear issues, they expressed their hope to achieve de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful way.
Choate Rosemary Hall, in its fifth year in the CIF project, introduced their careful and cautious thoughts on prospects for a world free of nuclear weapons. For the spring conference, students made efforts to clearly understand the facts and current status of nuclear weapons, and introduced concrete proposals as to how the world can realistically make progress toward the goals of a nuclear weapon-free world. Furthermore, students detailed the definition of their vision of a nuclear weapon-free world, as well as how to maintain such a world after having accomplished it.
Each school’s presentation was followed by an active question and answer session. It was obvious that all the students comprehensively studied nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation issues during the semester. They expressed keen interest in the current challenges facing nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Many questions were related to how to solve the current nuclear crisis in North Korea. Students also challenged NPT nuclear weapon states to have more constructive debates over the indiscriminate nature of the current NPT regime.
Japanese students’ presentations were naturally based on their own cities’ firsthand experience of nuclear devastation. While each Japanese school comprehensively studied current global proliferation challenges, their message was clear: the importance of understanding the real effects of the use of nuclear weapons against human beings and their long-lasting effects on both humanity and the environment. The first-time participation of Japanese schools brought fresh perspectives to the CIF project.
In addition, given the significance of US and Japanese high school students’ participation in this vital nonproliferation and disarmament education project, the conference drew significant media attention. A major Japanese media outlet, NHK’s (Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization) Nagasaki office interviewed participants and covered the conference proceedings to make a special documentary about the project.
Kwassui High School from Nagasaki used their presentation to connect with the personal experience of one of the students participating in the conference—that of her grandmother, a hibakusha—to emphasize the unknown, long-term dangers of radiation exposure. Kwassui students also introduced their school’s active peace initiatives, including their petitions for peace and nuclear abolition, which has been gathering signatures for over the thirteen years and is being recognized by the United Nations. The school also translated a Japanese book titled “Furisode no Shojo [Girls in Kimonos],” a story about two girls who died because of the atomic bomb, into English. This translation project is one of the activities conducted by the school’s Peace Studies Club. The purpose of this project is to show the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. At the end of the presentation, the students expressed their support for the idea of establishing a nuclear weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia, and their opinion that Japan should play a more active role in that effort.
Hiroshima’s Jogakuin Senior High School made a presentation based on the school’s historical experience in peace and disarmament education. Since over 350 students and teachers at Hiroshima Jogakuin died because of the atomic bombing, the school continues to emphasize the importance of peace and disarmament education. Jogakuin students are also involved in grassroots peace activities in the city. The students’ presentation highlighted that it is essential to promote disarmament education to accomplish the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
Another high school from Hiroshima, Yasuda Girls High School, focused on the impact of civil society on nuclear disarmament progress. The students also stated that we should not compromise on nuclear abolition and global efforts must go beyond controlling and reducing nuclear weapons. The students also demonstrated the effective use of multimedia with both visual and sound effects to promote the importance of nuclear disarmament.
The sole participating school from Russia, Gymnasium #41 in Novouralsk, fascinated the audience by presenting two possible, but opposite, ways toward the future: one toward a world free of nuclear weapons, and the other to a possible nuclear war. These Russian students from one of the closed nuclear cities that were established during the Cold War to make nuclear weapons and their essential ingredients are also directly and uniquely connected with nuclear issues since people’s lives there center on nuclear industry.
The conference featured keynote speaker Mr. Jon Wolfsthal, CNS Deputy Director and former Special Advisor to Vice President Joseph Biden for Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation. His speech focused on US nuclear weapons and nonproliferation policy, based on his own experience supporting the Obama administration’s negotiation and ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russian Federation, and the development of nuclear policy through the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and other security policy issues under the Obama administration. His speech raised enthusiastic questions from the students, many interested in how to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US security policy, and the alternatives to nuclear deterrence to maintaining peace and security in the world.
The conference also welcomed Mr. Tetsuya Iwata, Consul at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Since this year was the first time that Japanese high schools participated in the CIF project, it was significant to have a Japanese official working for improving US-Japan relations present at the conference. Mr. Iwata presented Japan’s disarmament and nonproliferation policy to the audience.
In addition, this year’s conference invited two graduate students of Masters in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies to share their experience and encourage high school students to study vital international security issues.
Sayaka Shingu, originally from Hiroshima, shared her own passion for nuclear disarmament given her background. She is currently interning at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in New York. She also worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for about one year, where she was granted a training period in the US to study nonproliferation issues. The other MIIS student, Jonathan Ray, who is focusing China’s nuclear issues, also shared the story how he came to be interested in international security issues. Many CIF students attending the conference were impressed by these two young professionals and raised many impassioned questions on current nuclear issues, including regional proliferation challenges.
All of the high school students participating in the CIF worked hard to master knowledge on this daunting topic over the past semester. They gave high quality presentations of their research and analysis and showed clear enthusiasm for the study of nonproliferation and disarmament issues.
Students were also able to become acquainted with fellow participants from around the United States, Japan, and Russia and build friendships that will contribute to better understanding across cultures.
It is encouraging that all the participating students’ presentations underlined the importance of education in order to accomplish a world free of nuclear weapons while recognizing the daunting challenges that need to be overcome. In this sense, students also have become more aware of the important responsibility that each CIF participant, the future leaders in nonproliferation and disarmament, need to bear.
This year’s CIF program is funded in part by the United States-Japan Foundation, supporting students from both countries who are studying the issues surrounding nuclear disarmament. The CIF program also receives support from the Chapman Foundation for students in Monterey.
Choate Rosemary Hall presents their solution to global nuclear proliferation
CIF participants enjoy the Monterey Bay Aquarium after the conference
CIF spring conference participants
Cushing Academy students introduce their nonproliferation education initiatives
Franklin High School celebrates with Masako Toki
Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School students present their school’s disarmament education materials to participating schools
Janesville Academy for International Studies students present, Shaping the Future
Kwassui HS students and teacher exchange opinions with a Santa Catalina student after their presentation
Mid Pacific Institute in Hawaii explore nuclear issues in the Pacific Islands
Participants from La Puente HS and CIF project manager Masako Toki
Presque Isle HS students answer questions after their presentation on, The Path to Nuclear Disarmament
Russian students’ creative presentation
Santa Catalina students during a Q&A session
Santa Catalina Upper School Headmaster Dr. John Murphy congratulate students