Prepared By: Emily Rubino, Director of Policy and Outreach at Peace Action New York State, Co-chair of the Youth Assembly Planning Committee.
On May 2, 2020, one week after the Online World Conference: Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Resist and Reverse Climate Change, For Social and Economic Justice, the first World Conference Youth Assembly event took place from 9am-11am EST (1:00-3 pm GMT, 10:00-12 pm JST). The event took place with over 370 Zoom participants from 50+ countries around the world, including the United States, Japan, Nepal, the United Kingdom, Kenya, and Germany. It was also live-streamed on Youtube, though there were some technical difficulties that prevented the livestream from starting at the very beginning of the conference. A full recording of the Youth Assembly can be found here.
Some of the initiating organizations of the Youth Assembly are: Peace Action New York State, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Amplify Youth, Soka Gakkai International, PEAC Institute, International Trade Union Confederation, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, American Friends Service Committee, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK), Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security, Gensuikin (Japan Congress against A- & H- Bombs,) Gensuikyo (Japan Council against A- & H- Bombs), International Peace Bureau, Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations), Peace Action, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, and Western States Legal Foundation.
The event welcoming and closing remarks were made by Rebecca Irby, founder and Executive Director of PEAC Institute and one of the core members of the Youth Assembly Planning Committee. The event was moderated by myself and Molly McGinty, Nuclear Program Associate at IPPNW and co-chair of the Youth Assembly Planning Committee. The conference was interpreted simultaneously in Japanese by Rieko Asato of Gensuikyoand Emiko Hirano of the New Japan Women’s Association (Shinfujin). We featured seven main guest speakers touching on different aspects of our main issue areas of nuclear abolition, climate change, social and racial justice:
- Franca Bruggen (Germany) and Kelvin Kibet (Kenya), IPPNW Medical Student Representatives
- Takahisa (Hisa) Taniguchi, Climate Activist from Osaka, Japan currently living in Germany
- Minoru Koyama, president of Democratic Youth League of Japan and Chihiro Tahara, Chair of “High School Student Paper Crane Project to connect Tokyo and New York” (Japan)
- Rachel McCave, Intersections International Program and Administrative Associate (USA)
- Yasmeen Silva, Partnerships Manager at Beyond the Bomb (USA)
Franca and Kelvin spoke to the medical aspect of COVID-19 and how that is impacting the world around us, tying this back to the threat of nuclear weapons. Hisa focused on the climate perspective, emphasizing the importance of movement building and taking action. Minoru and Chihiro spoke of their work as anti-nuclear activists, and the importance of working with Hibakusha and learning from our elders as we bridge the age gap in our organizing. Rachel spoke to how the current COVID-19 crisis disproportionately affects minorities and the poor, and also emphasized the importance of intercultural dialogue in combating prejudice. Yasmeen talked about the importance in movement building and how intersections in identity inherently affect how we go about organizing for our issues and why we must continue to connect them.
After each speaker’s initial presentation, panelists were each posed two questions from the moderators: “How do we merge our movements and make sure we’re not working in silos?” and “What advice do you have for young activists who would like to get more involved?”. We then addressed the audience questions, which were submitted throughout the event. Some of the questions were answered through text by the panelists, and others were answered out loud including questions on how to engage other young people on our issues, how to bridge the age gap in our organizing, and how we continue to effectively organize during this crisis and afterwards. There was also great conversation and exchange happening in the conference chat.
Our goal was to keep the Youth Assembly event as interactive as possible through the use of polls, the Q&A function, and engagement in the chat. We hope that this event will be just the beginning of the conversation, and that our next event, featuring regional breakout groups, will allow participants to be even more engaged and help us build a joint movement bridging the priorities of the nuclear, environmental, social, economic, and racial justice movements together. The Regional Breakout Group event will take place this Saturday, May 16th from 9am-11am EST (1:00-3 pm GMT, 10:00-12 pm JST). Please click here to register. For any questions or further follow-up, please email WCYA2020@gmail.com or check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages!