Nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation education What role

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Nuclear disarmament and non-
proliferation education: What role
should Australia play?

April 2009

w     Tim Wright (President)
e   Dr Aron Paul
m 0400 967 233       Abigael Ogada-Osir
                     Flavia Contreras-Perez
                     Clinton Barnes
                     Misha Byrne
                     Dr Ruth Mitchell
1 Why Disarmament Education?
1.1 The Peace Organisation of Australia (POA) is committed to promoting peace and human
    security through education. We consider the process of nuclear disarmament to be inextricably
    linked to the opinions, emotions and knowledge of populations. In other words, disarmament
    necessarily involves entire peoples, not merely governments, and takes place beyond the halls of
    the UN and the offices of political leaders — in school classrooms, at public forums, via the
    media and in our homes.

1.2 If we are to succeed in the quest for a world free of nuclear weapons, disarmament education
    must play a central role. Only knowledge and understanding can create an environment
    conducive to disarmament, while their opposites — ignorance and irrational fear — will simply
    lead to the further build-up of arms. In a broad sense, disarmament and non-proliferation
    education will help us to move from a global culture of war to one of peace.

1.3 According to a landmark UN study carried out in 2002, disarmament education should be
    education for disarmament, not merely education about disarmament. POA considers this an
    important distinction. The study argued: ‘There has never been a greater need for education in
    the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation … Changing concepts of security and threat
    have demanded new thinking. Such new thinking will arise from those who are educated and
    trained today.’1 Australia has on five occasions endorsed the study’s recommendations in the
    UN General Assembly.2

1.4 Disarmament and non-proliferation education should have the following aims, among others: (1)
    it should people’s minds to the dangers of nuclear war; (2) it should encourage populations to
    critically assess the merits of various nuclear doctrines, such as first strike, high-alert status,
    nuclear deterrence and nuclear umbrellas; (3) it should promote public debate on proposals for
    achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world; (4) it should find answers to difficult technical, legal and
    political questions relating to nuclear disarmament; and (5) it should create a culture in which
    fear and intolerance have been replaced by compassion and a feeling of solidarity towards fellow
    human beings.

1UN General Assembly, United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education (30 August 2002).
2See UN General Assembly resolutions 63/70 of 12 January 2009, 55/33 E of 20 November 2000, 57/60 of 22 November
2002, 59/93 of 3 December 2004 and 61/73 of 6 December 2006.

2 The Australian Government’s role
2.1 In various international forums, from the UN General Assembly to the Conference on
    Disarmament and review meetings of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),3 Australia has expressed
    a firm commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament education. While no treaty
    provision specifically requires Australia to promote or facilitate education of this kind, Article VI
    of the NPT requires it to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament and to attain that goal and
    Article 10 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requires it to
    provide education that ‘promote[s] understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations
    and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further[s] the activities of the United Nations for
    the maintenance of peace’.4

2.2 Australia has not in any systematic fashion sought to implement the recommendations of the
    2002 UN study into disarmament and non-proliferation education. In fact, on three occasions,
    Australia declined invitations by the UN Secretary-General to report on its progress towards
    implementation. POA encourages the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to work
    with other government departments and civil society in promoting and facilitating disarmament
    education. In particular, we call on DFAT to engage in a dialogue with the Department of
    Education, Employment and Workplace Relations on this subject.

2.3 POA urges the Australian Government to include disarmament education in the curriculum of all
    primary and secondary schools. The benefits of disarmament education should be thoroughly
    explored in the review of existing state and territory curricula and in the planning of a national
    curriculum. Disarmament education should also be offered as a course of study for
    undergraduate university students wherever possible, and the government should award
    scholarships to postgraduate students wishing to carry out research into disarmament.

2.4 It is important that disarmament education also take place beyond formal educational institutions
    — that is, via the mass media, in community consultations carried out by the government, at
    public forums and through the campaigns of non-government organisations. All facets of
    disarmament should be thoughtfully debated and examined, including questions relating to law,
    politics, health, science and human security. POA encourages the Australian Government to
    consider a wide array of options for promoting disarmament education ‘beyond the classroom’.

3 Opened for signature 1 July 1968, 729 UNTS 161 (entered into force 5 March 1970).
4 Opened for signature 19 December 1966, 993 UNTS 3, 6 ILM 360 (entered into force generally 3 January 1976; entered
into force for Australia 10 March 1976).

3 Civil society’s role
3.1 In January this year, UN member states including Australia recognised ‘the importance of the
    role of civil society, including non-governmental organizations, in the promotion of disarmament
    and non-proliferation education.’5 At last year’s review meeting of the NPT, Australia specifically
    commended civil society for its role in promoting nuclear disarmament. POA encourages the
    government to work cooperatively with civil society in promoting disarmament education by
    creating opportunities for dialogue and sharing ideas and information.

3.2 POA is proud to be a partner to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
    (ICAN), which has introduced thousands of people around the world to the idea of a nuclear
    weapons convention — a new treaty to help realise the decades-old promise of a nuclear-
    weapon-free world — and has produced a 50-page nuclear disarmament education booklet for
    primary and secondary school students. The Australian Government could assist in the
    dissemination of this valuable educational resource, which consists of activities in the areas of
    language, art, drama, social studies and outreach. Specific activities include:

              Hosting a mock UN debate on nuclear disarmament;
              Role-playing a crisis situation involving nuclear weapons;
              Designing a peace symbol and folding paper cranes;
              Using the Internet to promote nuclear disarmament;
              Conducting an opinion poll/survey on nuclear weapons; and
              Organising a disarmament art or writing competition.


5   UN General Assembly resolution 63/70 of 12 January 2009.


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