By Harriet Hanssen, SCRAPweapons Social Media and Communications assistant and MA student at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS
As SCRAP followers will remember, Monday October 15th saw SCRAP director Dr. Dan Plesch chair the discussion of the Standing Committee for Peace and International Security at the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) 139th assembly. The assembly of the Committee, which meets twice a year, provides a space for representative member parliamentarians to hear from the panellists, and express the views, concerns and commitments of their home state towards topics which continually drive for international peace. Held in the International Conference Centre, Geneva (CICG), located close to the Place des Nations and the United Nations’ office, the setting for the assembly felt relevant and poignant toward meaningful modern discourse of an holistic approach to disarmament and non-proliferation. Being the first practical foray of this reporter into the real-life world of multilateral diplomacy, this bright and crisp October day promised interesting engagement with an ever-developing subject, which is increasingly relevant and crucial to the security of future generations.
The continual refocus of the Committee for Peace and International Security proves the commitment of the IPU to the prevention of conflict and maintenance of peace. On the 15th of October, the committee’s assembly was focussed on the importance of comprehensive disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons. This focus shows consideration of the UN Secretary General’s recent disarmament agenda, a focus increasingly shared by an encouragingly conscious and vocal presence in the international community.
In an introductory video, the 1540 Committee Chair, Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz, emphasised the importance of international collaboration to achieve increased implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1540, to work towards the common objective of “preventing the catastrophic use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by non-state actors”, and also commended the commitment of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs to facilitating the ability of states to do this.
Mr. J.I. Echániz, President of the IPU Committee on Peace and International Security, highlighted the contribution of SCRAPweapons’ work to Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ new disarmament agenda, Securing Our Common Future, a successful contribution which assists in motivating new generations of SCRAPpers and further young advocates for disarmament.
The following statements from the panellists, Ambassador Janis Karklins, Ms. Kersten Vignard and Ms. Silvia Mercogliano, all of whom are prominent figures in the international disarmament community, concentrated on the crucial position of parliamentarians in the strive to effectively achieve global disarmament. Ms. Vignard, Chief of Operations and Deputy to the Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, used her remarks to comment on the uncertainty and unpredictability of new weapons technologies given rapid advancements in data protection, AI, privacy and vehicular autonomy. According to Ms. Vignard, the unprecedented way in which such technologies are interwoven with new weapons systems calls for the motivated application of the world’s best young minds to understanding the risks such combined technologies present. Ms. Mercogliano focussed on the Secretary General’s new agenda, and stressed that while the agenda invites the international community into a refreshed dialogue surrounding disarmament, this opportunity for dialogue must be taken with new energy and intention for change.
Panellists Ms. Kersten Vignard, Ambassador Janis Karklins and Ms. Silvia Mercogliano address the representatives at the IPU in an assembly of the Standing Committee for Peace and International Security, chaired by Dr. Dan Plesch
Comments from a number of representatives, including India, Korea, Thailand, South Africa, China, Ukraine, Palestine, Chad, Bahrain, United Kingdom, and Sudan, displayed a range of perspectives which highlighted the immense variety in the views held by parliamentarians across the globe. Most notable was the contribution from Chad, who spoke on behalf of a nation in the continued “fight for survival against poverty and the lack of food security”, and placed blame for continued killing on the unrelenting making and trading of weapons by states, in a world where schools do not teach the young how to prohibit arms production. Chads impassioned comments prompted helpful response from panellist Ambassador Karklins. Also significant were comments from Bahrain, who echoed Chad’s emphasis on the responsibility of individual states, whom Bahrain attested should put aside their own selfish interests and realise that disarmament contributes to our common interest of peace.
The level of passion by which some representatives outlined their positions “inspired” panellist Ms. Vignard, and is indicative of how an increasing number of countries are engaging with disarmament as a conversation which is developing in prominence, and can no-longer be ignored. Indeed, the whole day of discussion, which further included opportunity to meet with representatives from PNND (Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament), as well as SCRAP committee member Marc Finaud of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, proved that while emerging dialogues surrounding disarmament have made positive progress in recent months and years, there is still a crucial audience to engage with if advocates want to successfully achieve peace through global disarmament.