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Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament on Youth and Disarmament
August 10, 2023

Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament on Youth and Disarmament

As Delivered by U.S. Senior Advisor Mary Frangakis

Thank you very much, Mr. President. And thank you for organizing today’s session.

Through the combination of today’s session, the May 23 session on Disarmament and Gender in the context of Women, Peace, and Security, and the June 1 session on Disarmament Research and Education, we have had an opportunity to explore important and innovative ways of thinking more broadly about disarmament, arms control, strategic stability, and the work of the Conference on Disarmament. Some have argued that such topics do not qualify as core agenda items. However, if we want to achieve progress in global disarmament efforts, these issues and others must be discussed and integrated, rather than side-lined. After all, we are talking about the future, which should be of interest to all of us.

The United States believes that injecting new ideas and thoughts into our deliberations, while perhaps challenging, will ultimately improve both processes and outcomes. We believe it would be a mistake to dismiss the views of civil society actors, including women and youth, on grounds that they do not hold the responsibility of implementing disarmament measures, or on unsubstantiated claims that they are too naïve and idealistic, or too disconnected from harsh geopolitical realities, to make meaningful contributions.

At a minimum, we must hear these voices. The automatic dismissal of new ideas over the short term can only lead to problems over the longer term. So we need to be pushed out of our comfort zones. We need to be challenged. We need to be forced to justify and explain our national policies, as well as our collective outcomes, or lack thereof, to those who will carry the burden of those policies long after we’ve retired and passed the torch to the next generation. They have a moral right to know, understand, and participate, and we have a responsibility to share.

Today, we heard the young panelists provide us with their perspectives on disarmament and arms control and how we can best achieve our goals of a safer and more peaceful world, as well as a world ultimately free of nuclear weapons. I see, and recognize, their perspectives as invaluable and am grateful for their attention to these important issues. We must cultivate the new generation of arms control experts. Meaningful dialogue is the most effective learning tool, for them and for us. Just as they can learn from us, we also learn from them.

The United States and the P5 – despite our challenges – are still cooperating in this space through the P5 Youth Professionals Network. The group met in Vienna last week at the NPT PrepCom to discuss strategic risk reduction and transparency of nuclear doctrines, where they shared innovative ideas and opportunities for a way ahead for the P5 process. I also wish to commend the Republic of Korea’s effort in this domain with its “Youth, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation” resolution first adopted at UNGA 74 and which not only encourages participation of young people in disarmament discussions, but also calls on countries and international organizations to develop policies and programs for youth engagement on disarmament and non-proliferation.

In closing, I would like to extend a special thank you to the youth panelists who participated today. They are our future leaders and key agents for social change.