Meeting in Pugwash, NS, to mark 30 years of Student Pugwash

On 11 July 2009 ISYP organized the meeting: “A Strategy for Student/Young Pugwash: How Students and Young People can Influence the Peace Agenda in the Next Ten Years,” held in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada where the transnational movement for nuclear disarmament was launched in 1957. This meeting followed the 6th ISYP conference, “Core Dimensions of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century” held in The Hague, The Netherlands from April 15 to 16, 2009.

Climbing to the Top of the Mountain

International Student/Young Pugwash

We, the leaders of the International Student/Young Pugwash movement endorse this statement on behalf of the ISYP Executive Board:

Reporting on the Nuclear Freeze Movement in 1983, a young Columbia University undergraduate profiled two student-run disarmament organizations for the campus news magazine, The Sundial. In his assessment of their efforts he wrote “the narrow focus of the Freeze movement, as well as the academic discussions of first versus second strike capabilities, suit the military-industrial interests, as they continue adding to their billion dollar erector sets.” In the article titled Breaking the War Mentality he stated that one “is forced to wonder whether disarmament or arms control issues, severed from economic and social issues, might be another instance of focusing on the symptoms of a problem instead of the disease itself.” The student, Barack Obama, then expanded on these thoughts in a term paper on nuclear disarmament.

In 1983 the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union put the continued existence of the human race in doubt. Today the specter of the past remains: the detonation of just one of the thousands of remaining nuclear weapons in a city or population center would fundamentally change the world as we know it.

It is extraordinary to see the ideals of a young student translated into national and international policy a quarter of a century later. In Prague on April 5th, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama stated America’s “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Earlier that week President Obama joined with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to pledge that their two countries would work together to achieve “a nuclear weapons free world.”

For more than 50 years the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs has worked towards this goal and applauds the revitalization of the nuclear disarmament movement. The statements by Presidents Obama and Medvedev follow the remarkable pronouncements on a world free of nuclear weapons articulated in 2007 and 2008 by U.S. statesmen Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz. Their statements reinvigorated global discussion on a nuclear weapons free world presented in publications like Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate[1] and the 2009 Global Zero Action Plan[2] that details concrete steps designed to rid the world of nuclear weapons by the year 2030.

The time is ripe to reaffirm the belief that young people can and must take responsibility for the roles they can play in creating a world free of nuclear weapons. In Prague U.S. President Obama said “this goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence.” Much work is left to be done. A new generation of scientists and policy makers is needed to carry this bold vision through to completion.

Total abolition of nuclear weapons integrated into a wider context of international cooperation and peace is the ultimate goal. In his 1983 article, Barack Obama was skeptical that a nuclear freeze would address the economic and social issues that are the root causes of insecurity in the world. Without addressing the causes of conflict and de-legitimizing violence as a means of conflict resolution, any call for the abolition of nuclear weapons is merely symbolic and will not lead to an automatic outcome of peace and human security.

Today’s economically interdependent world is one that makes the calculus of Cold War nuclear deterrence increasingly inappropriate and the use of nuclear weapons practically unimaginable. It is perhaps in the growing economic, social, and political interdependence of a globalizing world that a new generation of scientists and policy makers can re-affirm their belief in the wisdom of a world with zero nuclear weapons in the context of nonproliferation, total disarmament, and perpetual peace.

[1] Publication available at:

[2] Publication available at:

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