In January, we welcomed Benetick Kabua Maddison, the Executive Director of the Marshallese Educational Initiative and Adviser to RTT, to New York.
Together with Benetick, we participated in a series of events on nuclear justice and youth empowerment.
On Saturday, January 14, we participated in a special panel on nuclear disarmament as part of the 22nd Annual Columbia Model United Nations Conference and Exposition (CMUNCE). At this breakout session, Benetick highlighted the humanitarian and environment impacts of nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. He explained how popular culture appropriated Bikini Atoll as both a swimsuit and a cartoon show, where the main characters live in Bikini Bottom.
Following Benetick's presentation, Dr. Ivana Nikolic Hughes, the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, shared about the destructive forces of both the U.S. and Russia's nuclear arsenals. She underscored the absolute imperative of nuclear abolition and why we need to ban nuclear weapons. Seth Shelden, the UN Liaison of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, discussed the significance of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Christian N. Ciobanu, the Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of NAPF and Project Coordinator of Reverse The Trend, discussed the positive obligations of the TPNW, the heroic interventions by Kiribati on nuclear justice, as well as youth empowerment in the field of nuclear disarmament affairs.
On January 18, diplomats, civil society, academics, and youth celebrated the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and discussed the treaty’s promises and its future, particularly as they pertain to affected communities. The event, entitled “From the Pacific to the Steppes: Engaging with Frontline Communities on the TPNW,” was graciously hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan in New York, with a sizable audience joining virtually as well. NAPF was proud to help and participate in the event, which was co-organized by Kiribati and Kazakhstan, the Co-Chairs of the Informal Working Group on Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW. Our youth initiative, Reverse the Trend: Save Our People, Save Our Planet, The Prospect Hill Foundation, and the Marshallese Educational Initiative (MEI) also co-sponsored the event.
Offering a perspective on the Marshallese experience, Benetick Kabua Maddison of MEI shared the tragic legacy of U.S. nuclear tests that rendered parts of the Marshall Islands uninhabitable and decimated the country and its people ecologically and culturally. However, Mr. Maddison reminded the audience that the Marshallese were not passive victims and had stood up to the United States both during and in the aftermath of the tests. In this regard, he discussed his perspectives on the current COMPACT negotiations between the U.S. and the Marshall Islands. Examining the international community’s support for victims, Mr. Maddison asserted that the TPNW remains the best hope for the international community to eliminate nuclear weapons, giving survivors of nuclear testing one of the best tools to regain socio-political agency against their perpetrators.
On January 19th, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), our youth initiative, Reverse The Trend: Save Our People, Save Our Planet (RTT), the Marshallese Educational Initiative (MEI), Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), the Roosevelt Network at Drew, Drew's l'Association Francophone, and Drew's Collegiate Model UN sponsored a hybrid event at Drew University entitled “Examining the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.” The speakers included: Benetick, Executive Director of the Marshallese Educational Initiative; Tamatoa, an Equity Rises Youth Campaigner for RTT and MEI; Hannah, the UN Advocacy Fellow for Outright Action International; Seth, the UN Liaison of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and Board Member of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; and Annamaria, the Social Media Coordinator for the NAPF. The event was moderated by Christian N. Ciobanu, the Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for NAPF and Project Coordinator for RTT.
Benetick Kabua Maddison discussed the impact of nuclear testing on his home country of the Marshall Islands, a chain of 29 atolls located in the middle of the Pacific. When speaking about the experiences of his people, Mr. Maddison explained that “many Bikinians trusted the U.S and believed that they would return home;” even though the U.S went on to cause devastating environmental contamination, which has prevented people from moving back to Bikini. Moreover, Mr. Maddison discussed the way in which the Marshall Islanders have used activism to spread awareness about their nuclear legacy and the danger of nuclear weapons more broadly.
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