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The Future of the CTBT: Collective Goals and Strategies for Building Momentum
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Arms Control NOW

Authored by Nicole Edwards on October 3, 2016

The Arms Control Association brought together representatives from several like-minded organizations and visiting members of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's Youth Group for a September 23 discussion on the future of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. The session, hosted by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, addressed collective efforts to promote the CTBT and the challenges for mobilizing awareness and support for the Treaty in the near future.

Arms Control Association staff and CTBTO Youth members discussed the latter's strategies for outreach over breakfast during their visit to Washington, DC (Photo: Tony Fleming/ACA)The CTBTO Youth Group, a separate entity from the CTBTO, is an expanding group of next generation students, young researchers and graduates from countries around the world.

Earlier that week, Youth Group members came to Washington, D.C. to speak with representatives of Ploughshares, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Global Zero, and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) to better understand the motivations and goals of these organizations regarding the CTBT, and the strategies they have to achieve their goals.

These organizations are working to make the CTBT a nonpartisan issue in promoting nuclear nonproliferation and international security. In the CTBTO’s efforts to end nuclear explosions, their collective methods for building momentum are staying away from political strategy and instead working toward increasing funding for the advocacy efforts of the CTBTO, raising awareness in the public by providing more facts about technological advances that improve monitoring and test simulations, and, for Americans, encouraging the lobbying of their representatives in Congress.

Ploughshares advised the Youth Group to continue researching and writing, but believed the Youth Group’s biggest contribution at this point would be to continue to raise awareness and bring new energy to the cause. The organization recommended reminding people about the dangers of nuclear weapons, the possibility of losing materials to terrorists, and technological and human errors in the development and maintenance of nuclear weapons. These concerns, Ploughshares argued, are relevant to everyone, but people must be educated on the critical mass of the issue. Ploughshares stressed the importance of relevancy of the cause, as well as political achievability, and the value of relationships in advocacy efforts.

WAND gave insight in how to reach different audiences and make the CTBT relevant to everyone’s interests. They shared some means of networking and educating people, and encouraged the increased involvement of women in negotiations and on CTBT advocacy. Some parting words of wisdom on next steps included to lobby, to write however and wherever an opportunity to discuss the treaty arose, and to make support for it an international movement. As a grassroots organization, they believe the next generation around the world will serve as one of the strongest means of increasing wide-scale support for the cause.

Global Zero recommended combining forces with already established organizations as the best way to broaden networks and educate the public on specific issues. They emphasized the importance of educating people on nuclear issues first since CTBT is a very specific topic in nuclear nonproliferation. By piggy-backing onto other established organizations within the nuclear nonproliferation community, the CTBTO Youth Group could find more momentum in promoting the CTBT. Global Zero, along with WAND, also believes a grassroots approach is one of the best ways to build support for the treaty. They encouraged Youth Group members to think about how the CTBT first influenced them and to capitalize on that passion and interest in speaking to and educating others of their cohort about it.

NAE advised members to link nuclear weapons concerns to other global problems and suggested bringing together religious and scientific communities as allies on the issue. They cautioned against actions that might alienate these or other groups. NAE also pushed for peace across the globe, and posed theological arguments regarding nuclear weapons, such as whether or not nuclear weapons are a legitimate part of a nations national security. NAE recognized the lack of support for the issue and suggested retreats and meetings as a way to create a groundswell of support among youth who are just beginning to form their own opinions.

At the September 23 meeting, the CTBTO Youth Group recapped their experience in consulting with these groups and shared their own ideas for advocating for the CTBT. Their strategies reflect the call to "think global, act local" by building global connections that communicate the value and relevancy of the CTBT to local concerns like nuclear testing and community health issues. Overall, members believe a broader support system in the next generation, rooted in local community action, will help to create more energy to promote the core of the CTBT and its benefits to international security.

Dr. Lassina Zerbo (third from right) congratulated CTBTO Youth Group members on their discussions and strategic planning visit in Washington, DC (Photo: Dr. Lassina Zerbo/Twitter)After the meeting, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the CTBTO, met with the CTBTO Youth Group at the Arms Control Association. The Youth Group briefed Dr. Zerbo on the ideas they had discussed with the organizations and Dr. Zerbo offered words of encouragement. Having already given the CTBTO Youth Group’s report on the 20th Anniversary of the CTBT to Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s de-facto minister for foreign affairs, Dr. Zerbo’s efforts to unite and work with the next generation on the CTBT is well underway.

Nicole Edwards is the Fall Communications and Marketing Intern at the Arms Control Association and is a junior at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Author: 
Nicole Edwards