Time flies when you’re having fun – and after 365 days in existence, though we are dealing with heavy often painful issues, Youth Fusion has had a blast of a year mobilising youth voices for a just, peaceful and sustainable tomorrow. Since the launch of our new platform last year, we have put several programs in motion, written educational blog series, started the Youth Fusion podcast, hosted webinars and events, and supported multiple initiatives to build cooperation between youth, legislators and civil society campaigners across the fields of peace, disarmament and climate action.
Like a year ago, we take today to commemorate UN Human Rights Day remembering that the UN has affirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would violate the Right to Life, and that there is a human rights based obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons globally. In this spirit – and to thank all of you who have joined and supported us through this first year – the Youth Fusion team is sharing some highlights from their experiences with our work to accompany this important December Friday.
Kazakhstan – YF Founder and Co-convenor
Despite the challenging times of the pandemic, Youth Fusion demonstrated resilience and provided an inclusive space for the voices of young people to be meaningfully present, heard and spread the message across the world. This resilience is built through supporting each other, collaboration and ideas turned into action. Thanks to the team efforts, we launched the projects and activities that are timely and actual to engage youth and also contribute to intergenerational dialogue. Dialogue in which nuclear issues are discussed through intersectional ways and in the nexus with climate and sustenance of peace, where young leaders and experts explore the opportunities for the actions. These discussions in cooperation with diverse partners took place in various formats through our events being held in virtual, hybrid and in-person mode. We welcomed new members and our membership grew not only in numbers, but also in quality. Our platform continues to attract more interest amongst the younger generation to engage locally and globally. We support youth actions and projects that are aimed to have impact and can bring positive changes via Peace, nuclear Abolition and Climate Engaged Youth (PACEY) Plus Award. It is exciting to see the ideas from project proposals coming into realization and we invite you to submit yours. Finally, on behalf of Youth Fusion we are grateful for everyone who was with us throughout the year and look forward to the next one.
Brussels/Prague – Youth Fusion Co-Convener
Writing this short reflection, I must admit I am having a hard time realizing it has only been a year since we launched Youth Fusion. It feels like yesterday! Yet, since last December, much has happened, and we certainly have much to report on. 🙂
Looking back at Youth Fusion’s first year, I can’t help but smile. Within just 12 months, we have launched a brand new website, with it exciting programs such as Youth Fusion Elders and Youth Fusion experts, we organized online and in-person events, and spoke with hundreds of young (and not-so-young!) individuals from all corners of the world. We partnered with UNODA’s Youth4Disarmament, The Embassy of Kazakhstan in London, PNND and many other organizations on campaigns and conferences.
And we are just getting started.
Being able to connect (with) so many amazing young people globally is the ultimate highlight for me. Every conversation – whether it is with a high-schooler or a PhD candidate – is a learning experience. So thank you to everyone who has engaged with us in the past 12 months, who has shared their stories and experiences, and who has been learning with us.
Another big thank you belongs to our program officers and volunteers. Without you and your passion, Youth Fusion could not exist. Similarly, I would like to thank all of our supporters, namely Basel Peace Office, for the financial and institutional help.
Finally, it comes as no surprise that even for us, this past year was a rollercoaster of events, emotions, possibilities… And I am beyond proud of Youth Fusion for adapting to the ever-changing situations, for working hard, for functioning as a support system to ourselves and others, for pushing us all further and farther.
Thank you everyone for being a part of this journey.
Michaela Higgins Sørensen
Denmark/South Africa – Youth Fusion Program Officer
I started volunteering at Youth Fusion through my internship at PNND in September 2020. The internship was part of my master’s degree in development and international relations with a specialisation in global gender studies and before I started, I was a complete newbie to the nuclear disarmament field. However, through my internship and volunteering at Youth Fusion, I realised just how relevant and intersectional this work is to many other global issues. I was determined to cultivate a path within the gender, peace, and security field from the beginning of my studies, but I didn’ connect the dots between gender and nuclear disarmament until I began my internship last year. Since then, gender and nuclear disarmament issues have been at the forefront of my mind, and I haven’t looked back.
The last year volunteering at Youth Fusion has been full of excitement, hard work, progress, and a lot of fun! Besides having a group of highly dynamic and impressive colleagues, the work is meaningful and has given me a strong sense of purpose. I feel very lucky to be able to use this platform to work on gender, peace and security issues, engage with experts in the field, expand my network, run events in collaboration with various partners, and put nuclear disarmament on the agenda- all the while learning something new everyday. I am proud of our work and look forward to another productive year!
I’d like to encourage all youths from across the board to engage in nuclear disarmament issues, and so, to take Scilla Elworthy’s advice:
“There is a huge amount of education to be done here, and it is a matter of putting your thoughts into the media as fast and as eloquently as you can. Start running a blog, keep on social media with these ideas, and get into the institutes where these debates take place, have your question ready and put your hand up. It will stress you out the first time you do it, but you will get used to it.”
French/Prague– Youth Fusion Program Officer
I moved to Prague for an internship while I was studying for my Master’s degree in Development and International Relations. I worked for a semester with Parliamentarians for Non Nuclear-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and met most of the crew members that would end up starting Youth Fusion.
My area of focus during my academic journey always revolved around disruptive technologies, I wrote my master thesis on the impacts of cyberattacks on society, studied at length issues relating to artificial intelligence, automation, big data, social media and democracy, or even automated weapons. In that context nuclear weapons take the crown in terms of disruption, I knew about the issue before starting the internship but diving into the work of PNND and its partner organizations helped me realize a couple of things. I realized how most of us think of nuclear warfare as an issue from the past, peaking during the cold war and resolved by the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reality could not be further from this, a harsh fact that is only worsened by other technologies (advances in cyber capabilities, missile technology, space technology).
So when we were tasked to rekindle youth engagement with this contemporary issue (yes, they might have been invented in the 1950s, but are still threatening all of us now) the creation of Youth Fusion became our number 1 priority.
A year later we’re still going, one activity that was particularly close to my heart was the Podcast series “Youth Fusion Elders” which really attempts to grasp the wisdom of older peace activists, and distil that through a conversation, into something that can be listened to on your way to uni.
Something I would like to share for this one year anniversary is a process that really shaped my path as a person, as an academic, and now in my professional career: seek, shape, and share. Do the reading and build your understanding of the issue by seeking information, exchanging your understanding and shaping it with that of others, and sharing it around you with an open mind. Conversations at every level are needed and have an impact way greater than what you would think – whether they happen in Parliament or at the dinner table. This links perfectly into a quote from Mogens Lykketoft who was one of our first Youth Fusion Elder:
“Intergenerational discussion is always very important, we have a young generation that can educate their parents and grandparents at the dining table about what’s the reality is here.”
London/Stockholm – Youth Fusion Program Officer
A year ago, woken by my alarm at an agreeable 06AM to catch the Asia-Pacific session, I huddled up in bed with a tea, my laptop and no idea what to expect. I had just confirmed my internship with PNND, and now was the launch of “Youth Fusion” – whatever that meant… Little did I know that within the course of the next 12 months, this tight-knit team of brilliant youths – introducing the new name, visuals and ambitions for the Abolition 2000 Youth Network – would change my life. And I say change my life knowing that they are big words, as this is the closest I can come to understanding what it means for me to have become part of the Youth Fusion network: a small but oh-so capable part of a movement seeking to give voice to those most affected by today’s lethal combination of existential crises (from nuclear weapons to climate chaos and social inequity) and lack of future-thinking – that being us, the global youth.
This year has taught me the value and intricacies of global advocacy from your kitchen table, and the ever so growing significance of creating space and opportunities for intergenerational dialogue. A year of Youth Fusion activities has showed me that it is possible as a youth to gain a voice in a field so fraught with dinosaur-politics and toxic masculinity as nuclear disarmament, including how to start believing in this voice and the importance of fighting for others’ right to be heard.
Perhaps above all, this year has taught me the small but to-be-reckoned-with skill of making a podcast!? Producing the Youth Fusion Elders series has been an absolute bliss, from interviewing our Elders to editing and putting together a full podcast experience dealing with such large-scale challenges as nukes, sustainable development and youth participation, with passion, humour and hope. From the very first episode with lifelong Catholic peacemaker Bruce Kent to later conversations with the long-time and effective leaders of various peace and disarmament fields, tackling the nuclear weapons threat from all angles – science, politics, multilateralism, poetry – this journey has been nothing short of inspiring, educative and revitalising.
With listeners from six continents, 20 countries and of literally all ages – our hopes of making the Youth Fusion Podcast a truly global and intergenerational space have come true. We look forward to sharing more heartening and instructive conversations with you all throughout 2022, as we continue our second series Youth Fusion Experts – from which you can already enjoy a brilliant take on China’s No First Use and nuclear disarmament policies by Senior Nuclear Policy Program Fellow Dr Tong Zhao.
This morning I was luckily not awoken by my alarm at 06AM, but with tea and laptop still in hand, ready for another year of learning and sharing, dreaming and doing – I leave you with a timeless reminder from Bruce Kent:
“Everybody is capable of doing something, but not everybody is capable of doing everything. Don’t think you can fight all the battles – leave something to somebody else! But do what you do with imagination and perseverance and courage and get on with it – and that will be your reward.”