A special discussion with UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Mr. Kim Won-soo was held on 9 September, 2016 at Seoul Global Center in Seoul under the theme of “Disarmament and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” More than 150 youths participated in the special discussion which was moderated by Dr. Kilaparti Ramakrishna, Director of ESCAP-ENEA Office, and organized by World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) in cooperation with ESCAP-ENEA Office.

The Under-Secretary-General outlined the difference of scope between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the SDGs. While eight MDGs are targeted towards developing countries with a focus on poverty reduction, health and education, 17 SDGs are interconnected goals that concern all UN member States, he said. It is estimated to cost $2 to 3 trillion to tackle all global goals, compared to the MDGs which cost $130 to 140 million a year. In this regard, Mr. Kim underlined that it is necessary for governments, NGOs, and private sector to pool financial resources in a collaborative manner.

Current demographic trends suggest that the median age of the world population is 25 to 26 years old. In Africa, it goes down to even younger than 20. As such, the Under-Secretary-General said SDGs will have the greatest impact on youths and therefore, youths should play a more active role in promoting and implementing the SDGs. As mentioned in the ‘Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do’ published by the United Nations, Mr. Kim urged the youth to stay informed and use their networks to disseminate information, for example by organizing exhibits and contests. He stressed that it is important to educate others to free the world from nuclear weapons which currently amounts to 15,000 worldwide.

When asked about the current state of multilateral disarmament efforts, Mr. Kim explained an important shift of states from both ‘like-minded’ and ‘non-aligned’ groups including Austria, Ireland and Mexico who convened meetings focusing on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. After forming strong initiatives, they will push for a resolution on nuclear prohibition treaty this fall. The Under-Secretary-General expressed hope that the Republic of Korea will play a bridging role in this process.

Mr. Kim said flexibility and creativity are the two key elements for finding a common ground, which will allow for all countries to participate in disarmament negotiations. On the role of the United States as the first nuclear power, Mr. Kim said it is incumbent on the United States to show leadership by reducing nuclear warheads and setting the tone for countries like Russia and China.

The Under-Secretary-General wrapped up the discussion by quoting advice from the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the youth: “Aim high and remain optimistic. Put your two feet on the ground and be realistic in order to find real solutions to build the future you want.”

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