An intro from Michaela Higgins Sørensen

Where to start?

The Nuclear Ban Week in Vienna that took place from the 18th – 23rd of June was what everyone in the nuclear disarmament space NEEDED. For the past 2 years, we have all been working tirelessly online, over Zoom, and on phone calls to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. It has been lonely, discouraging, and, at times, rather hopeless.

Considering the setbacks within this field, in regard to nuclear weapons possessing states violating the NPT, increasing and modernising their nuclear weapons stockpiles, resigning from the Open Skies Treaty and disregarding international law – the mechanisms that are designed to keep us safe – it has been increasingly difficult, to say the least (not to mention the the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine).

That is why the ICAN Nuclear Ban Forum, the Humanitarian Conference, and the MSP all came just when we needed them the most. After some postponements, planning, planning, and more planning, we finally all did it!

It was so lovely to see the people (in real life 3D!!) who I have been working with online for the past several years, and connect with them human to human. There was no agenda for the Zoom meeting where we had to fit one another in to talk about a specific topic, we were all in an environment where we got the chance to connect with new people and share ideas with them, and remind ourselves that we are all surrounded by fantastic, driven, and highly committed people.

I would also like to mention all the people who were not able to physically join because of visa issues or lack of funding that are also a HUGE part of this movement. It was very easy to hop over to Vienna from Copenhagen, but if you’re based outside of the EU- things become increasingly more difficult, which is important to acknowledge. There definitely needs to be some restructuring around this to ensure more inclusivity and representation.

The main messages I took away from Vienna Disarmament week are that none of us are alone in this, and that human connection is so important. Community is everything, and I am so glad to be a part of this one. Thank you to all the dedicated youths who were alongside me at Youth4TPNW organising this! You are all stars.

Nuclear Ban Week

Michaela with her fellow Youth4TPNW delegates at the UN in Vienna.

The Nuclear Ban Forum

Michaela’s first panel took place during the first part of the week at the ICAN Nuclear Ban Forum, wherein she spoke at the Colloquy Hall on ‘The TPNW – Sustainability Nexus’. This talk achieved its goals in presenting the interconnectedness of “nuclear weapons and sustainability”. The panelists discussed the nuclear weapons and sustainability narratives of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, and the call for the diverse nuclear impact narratives of different stakeholders to, together, push the nuclear weapons abolition agenda forward. The panel was moderated by His Excellency Ambassador/Dr. Toshiya Hoshino, and Yukino Yamaguchi and Iku Nakamura shared the panel with Michaela, who both came, respectively, from Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Michaela with Cristopher Cruz from the Atomic Reporters at the Nuclear Ban Forum, ft. the infamous Godzilla.

During the panel, Michaela highlighted the role of Youth Fusion in promoting intergenerational dialogue, an interdisciplinary approach, and an intersectional approach, in tackling nuclear disarmament issues. Both Yukino and Iku spoke about their activism and their experiences as third generation Hibukashas, and are role models within their communities. Yukino and Iku also touched on the importance of testimonials from nuclear bomb survivors, and are working on raising awarness on this topic. The panel was highly interactive, complex and truly highlighted the role of youths, and intergenerational dialogue, when it comes to nuclear disarmament.

Michaela Speaking on a panel at the Nuclear Ban Forum on the ‘The TPNW – Sustainability Nexus’.

Furthermore, during the panel, His Excellency Ambassador/Dr. Toshiya Hoshino promoted a project he is working on: Global Alliance “Sustainable Peace and Prosperity for All” (GASPPA). The goal of this project is to put the total elimination of nuclear weapons on the UN’s Global Goals, after the 2030 Agenda- for the next set of Global Goals. Check out the diagram below to see the plan:

How GASPPA Works.

Youth4TPNW at the MSP
During the First Meeting of States Parties (MSP), Michaela was on another panel that Youth4TPNW organised, as a side event, on ‘The Future of Youth Engagement with the TPNW’. The panel was brilliantly moderated by Youth4TPNW member, Victor Chelashow, and included Michaela Higgins Sørensen, Dr. Becky Alexis Martin, Paloma Munné, and Bedi Raclue. The panel was vibrant, and had a rich discussion between the panelists and the audience. Topics that came up were the importance of using the NPT and the TPNW alongside one another, as we need to use all the tools in our toolbox when it comes to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. Another topic that was important was the lack of opportunities for youths in the nuclear disarmament field as most UN internships are unpaid, as well as many others. All the panelists agreed that the TPNW is a fantastic and revolutionary treaty, but it needs youths to be a part of the change, and they need better support and access to the nuclear disarmament space. Education was another hot topic, and all panelists advocated for better education, across the board and on all levels, on nuclear disarmament.

Michaela on ‘The Future of Youth Engagement with the TPNW’ panel alongside Dr. Becky Alexis Martin, Paloma Munné, and Bedi Raclue.

The Nuclear Ban Week in Vienna was a busy week that was a whirlwind of nuclear disarmament activists, academics and enthusiasts coming together to celebrate a landmark occasion in nuclear disarmament history. From the music festival vibe of the ICAN Nuclear Ban Forum to the intense discussions at the MSP, history was made. This is just the beginning, and that is why it is now more important than ever for youths to get educated on these issues and get involved! Time is running out, and it is up to us to shape the future we want; a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future for all. 

Michaela’s very cool UN pass that she sleeps with around her neck every night & treasures forever and ever.

Article by: Michaela Higgins Sørensen

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