Before I begin to speak about where I have been and what I have been up to the past two days, I would like to first introduce myself to all of you. My name is Patrick and I am AIDemocracy’s new Global Peace and Security Fellow. I feel I can’t adequately express how excited I am to work with everyone (readers and contributors alike) on the Global Peace and Security Program and all of the issues that go into that.

Ok, now that I feel we have been properly introduced, I want to talk about one of those issues that seems to have come to the forefront of the Peace and Security field in recent months, nuclear weapons.

For the past two days, I have been consumed by a Nuclear Security Legislative Strategy Retreat that took place in Silver Spring, MD. This retreat had some of the best minds in arms control and non-proliferation present. Needless to say, throughout the retreat, I was often times simply trying to keep up with everything they were speaking about. Topics ranged from legislative strategy to try and get new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) ratified , to Defense Appropriations, to weapons modernization and life extension programs, to a whole host of other topics that are simply too numerous to list.

However, now that I have had time to digest the conference and process all of the discussions over the past two days, there are three major themes that I can gleam from it.

The first is that the highest priority for the community (referring to the community of NGO’s committed to nuclear non-proliferation, abolishment and/or arms control) is that START, although very modest in scope and a bit of a dissappointment for many, must be ratified by the Senate. It seemed to be the consensus among the attendees that if START is not ratified, then the chances of any progress on other agenda items, such as CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) are slim to none. As weak as START is as a treaty, at the very least it does provide a platform for the movement to progress forward, instead of being stopped dead in its tracks.

The second theme I found coming out of the retreat is a strong desire from all of the members that a serious strategy needs to be designed and implemented quickly to ensure that not only START gets ratified, but one that brings into the public’s view the importance of this issue and the support it needs to be successful. Messaging was repeatedly cited as a priority to address, due to the lack of a coherent message that does not sound too wonkish and academic. Creating a way for all of the groups to network and collaborate with each other so that individual efforts have an exponential impact was also brought up quite frequently. However, what was targeted as arguably the most important area to focus on was grassroots organizing. It was not overstated by anyone (including both attendees and guest speakers) how important the grassroots are, both for ratifying START and building a strong and impactful movement. And as a part of this conversation about mobilizing the grassroots, the topic of recruiting new demographics to the cause came about, which leads me to my third theme.

The community, as I said before, was comprised of some of the smartest minds in this field from many different NGO’s, but the downside is that it was mostly comprised of just those types of people. And the attendees recognized this. The discussion about recruiting new constituencies and bringing them into the fold included veteran groups, faith-based communities/organizations, and even business, but what made my day was that the youth were also raised as a key constituency to include in the community. We began to brainstorm some different ways to get youth involved, and we came up with some interesting ideas, but I am more interested in what you think.

How do we get young people involved in the issues surrounding the threats posed by nuclear weapons?

Please feel free to respond in the comments, or you can e-mail me at patrick@aidemocracy.org. I would love to hear what you think so that we can help answer the question of what we can do in the coming year to help young people tackle the problem of nuclear weapons.

Until next time…

Peace,

Patrick

Global Peace and Security Fellow

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