From 13 to 17 March 2017, the VCDNP and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) held their thirteenth intensive short course on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The course consisted of a diverse group of 26 diplomats from the permanent missions in Vienna, Geneva and New York, and from capitals. Participants represented 25 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, South America and Oceania. Women made up over 60 percent of the course participants, and approximately 40 percent of the lecturers.
The course offered participants an excellent opportunity to learn more about the non-proliferation regime and to expand their knowledge on international organizations based in Vienna. The course covered a variety of topics, ranging from a brief introduction on the fundamentals of nuclear physics to reflections on the most recent initiatives in the field of disarmament.
The timing of the course allowed for one session to be dedicated to the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) Meeting to be held in Vienna, Austria, in May 2017. Participants engaged in the session, which was open to the public, featuring Ambassador Mitsuru Kitano from Japan, Ambassador Rafael Grossi from Argentina, Mr. Pieter Hendrik Schroor from the Netherlands, and subject-matter expert, Ms. Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova from the VCDNP. The panel was moderated by CNS Director Dr. William Potter. The seminar focused on the prospects, objectives and challenges for the upcoming 2017 NPT PrepCom, with particular attention given to the relationship between the negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons that commenced in New York on 20-24 May 2017, and the NPT PrepCom.
Participants were also able to visit the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) International Data Centre and Radionuclide Station and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Laboratory and Incident and Emergency Centre. During the visits, participants gained first-hand appreciation of the work of the organizations and their contributions to the non-proliferation community.
The course provided an informal environment which allowed participants to interact with experts, ask questions in a candid manner and have an open debate. The lecturers included experts from CNS and the VCDNP, as well as senior officials from international organizations and academic institutions. The list of speakers included: Jacques Baute (IAEA); Danielle Dahlstrom (IAEA); Marc Humphrey (IAEA); Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova (VCDNP); Scott Parrish (NATO); Kyle Pilutti (MIIS); William Potter (CNS); Therese Renis (IAEA); Laura Rockwood (VCDNP); Ian Stewart (VCDNP/King’s College); and Bozorgmehr Ziaran (CTBTO).
The VCDNP also hosted a social event that brought together current course participants with VCDNP course alumni. The interaction provided a great opportunity for participants to exchange professional experiences and to widen their networks, both in Vienna and abroad. Prior to the social gathering, course participants engaged in an informal roundtable discussion with three Vienna-based alumni, who shared lessons they have learned while working in Vienna.
At the end of the course, participants completed an anonymous assessment. The survey results confirm the importance of the VCDNP short course in transferring knowledge about nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation to practitioners in a thought-provoking way. Highlighted below are some of the comments provided by participants (quoted as written):
“The course goes beyond my expectations. I couldn’t believe that a one week course could cover all the topics about nuclear disarmament.”
“The course was excellent for me as a new practitioner in the field. It was aimed at the right level and hugely enhanced my understanding of the disarmament and non-proliferation issues discussed.”
“The course is very useful because as a diplomat you have to be aware of most topical issues that happen in the world. And the disarmament is one of the most important of them.”
“The course gave the background of technical issues as well as the global measures taken in the processes of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. I am glad the current problems were very well and precisely described by the speakers.”
“Very good course to have an overview of the NPT and CTBTO. Field trips and explanations were very useful.”
The VCDNP extends its gratitude to the Carnegie Corporation of New York for making this course possible thanks to its generous support.