Good afternoon! I am Under Secretary of State Bonnie Jenkins. Thank you for joining me along with the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs to open this wonderful panel of esteemed experts and rising leaders. I am always pleased when the current and future generations come together to address problems and find innovative solutions.
And, thank you to Nomsa for setting the stage, and High Representative Nakamitsu for her remarks. Broadening our perspectives on the impacts of nuclear decision-making to those that it directly affects is crucial. I have worked in the field of weapons of mass destruction, arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation for over 30 years. I know it does not surprise you when I say that I have often in those years been one of the very, very few women, and persons of color, in the places where policy decisions on “hard security” issues are made. Other areas of the world may or may not encounter the same types of discrimination and struggles that we do in the U.S., however, it is important that we all continue to push to remove systemic barriers and open the doors for all to enter.
Over the last 50 years, the area of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament, unfortunately, consisted of a large group of people that have similar backgrounds, experiences, and educations. While they bring their own perspectives to the decision-making table, others that are directly impacted by these decisions are not asked to participate. Why would that be? Perhaps it is because of the lack of recognition for the value that diverse perspective brings to the important issues of national security and here, nuclear policy making. Or it is the lack of diverse people seeing themselves in these fields.
In a study conducted by a non-governmental organization (Ploughshares Fund), a growing number of younger generations are becoming more deeply involved, and more persistent in their desire to see more diverse representations in the fields of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. When asked about the three most important challenges in this space, over 46% of women, and 100% of genderqueer/nonbinary individuals, identified stasis and risk aversion as one of the most challenging aspects of crafting new and innovative solutions. The fact that interest and investment in the field is dwindling does not help, either. More than 60% of respondents identified a dwindling, and less diverse number of funders as the main issue, and around 38% felt that infighting and turf battles between organizations were hindering progress.
We can address these issues and ensure that we are acknowledging all voices by being deliberate and strategic. For example, when we hold panels and discussions on these important topics, it is sometimes easy to focus in on the easiest pathways: meetings that are only convenient for our time zones, or topics that fail to address the varying nuances of other cultures and histories.
Discussions about the impact of nuclear deterrence and arms control is often very Western-centric, neglecting to identify the impact these measures may have on others. And approaches and actions concerning non-proliferation and disarmament still tend to be Western leaning. The considerations and response towards arms control and deterrence in Southeast Asia, may look very different from responses in Africa, or in Europe. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament, and in order to create strong and long-lasting solutions, each approach must be tailored to the needs of those that are impacted both here and around the world. This is why we hold review conferences such as these- to assess and update our approaches in a constantly changing environment.
But we have seen better progress: as we shifted into a virtual environment during COVID-19, global accessibility increased, and opportunities became more abundant for those commonly left out of these conversations. As the U.S. is a prominent member in these discussions, I continue to take action and make it my prerogative and mandate to ensure that these spaces remain open and accessible for all around the globe. In doing so, I have welcomed into these discussions some amazing individuals who increasingly contribute to policy considerations, both inside and outside governments.
I am eager to turn this discussion over to this great panel of leaders tackling tomorrow’s national and international security challenges as, I know they each bring their unique insights and perspectives on the way forward. Once again, thank you for joining us today, and I will hand the floor over to Nomsa.