In times of crisis, we achieve success only when we work together.
Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

Developments and trends, 2019

Through its Disarmament Information Programme, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs continued to provide Member States, the diplomatic community, non-governmental organizations and the public at large with unbiased, up-to-date and relevant information on multilateral disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control activities. In support of that objective, the Office issued the forty- third annual edition of its flagship publication, the United Nations Disarmament Yearbook, as well as a wide range of other written materials.

The publications of the Office for Disarmament Affairs included two new Occasional Papers, issued in October and November. In the first paper, United Nations Efforts to Reduce Military Expenditures: A Historical Overview, the Office provided a historical survey of efforts within the United Nations to reduce military spending as a distinct objective within broader negotiations on general and complete disarmament. The second Occasional Paper, Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention: 20 Years of Saving Lives and Preventing Indiscriminate Harm, contained analyses of achievements and shortfalls under the Convention during its first 20 years. Published with the aim of presenting diverse perspectives, the paper was composed of separate chapters written by pioneers and luminaries of the movement that helped achieve the adoption of the Convention and have committed themselves towards realizing its full implementation.

The Office also issued several ad hoc publications throughout the year, including Hypersonic Weapons: A Challenge and Opportunity for Strategic Arms Control, a study that considered novel long-range strike options under development by several nuclear-armed States in the context of potential implications for security, arms control and disarmament. The study, which was prepared on the recommendation of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, also included a review of options for addressing the implications of such weapons in a multilateral context. Meanwhile, in support of the United Nations SaferGuard Programme, the Office issued three practical support guides for applying the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines.

The Office for Disarmament Affairs also issued a new edition of the series Programmes Financed from Voluntary Contributions for the period 2018–2019. In that publication, the Office showcased concrete results of its partnerships with donors, while also highlighting the vital role of such support in attaining important disarmament goals.

The Office promoted the disarmament goals of the United Nations through a variety of media outreach and engagement activities undertaken throughout the year. Those included interviews of the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, with international television and print outlets on issues related to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. Furthermore, the High Representative published two opinion articles in which she advocated for efforts aimed at protecting civilians in combat zones and for placing gender issues at the heart of arms policy.

The main website of the Office for Disarmament Affairs (, which received over half a million unique visitors in 2019, continued to provide a vital means of communication with Member States, civil society, academia and staff members. Redesigned during the year with a more contemporary aesthetic, the website continued to provide a vital channel for disseminating new information, updates, speeches and remarks in the area of multilateral disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.

The International Day against Nuclear Tests on 29 August was commemorated at the United Nations in Vienna and New York, as well as in Nur-Sultan. The Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, Lassina Zerbo, joined six prominent authors from France and Madagascar in authoring an op-ed for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty by the eight remaining Annex 2 States, whose ratification is needed for the Treaty to enter into force. On 9 September, the Secretary-General and the President of the seventy-third session of the General Assembly delivered remarks during a commemoration held at the United Nations Headquarters.

The Office for Disarmament Affairs continued to support the General Assembly’s annual commemoration on 26 September of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which Member States established in 2013 to call for the urgent commencement of negotiations to prohibit the possession, development, production, acquisition and testing of nuclear weapons. A high-level plenary meeting took place at the United Nations Headquarters to mark the International Day, with statements delivered by the President of the General Assembly’s seventy-fourth session, the Secretary-General, delegates of 55 Member States, two permanent observers and two representatives of civil society.

In 2019, 25 diplomats and other officials participated in the United Nations Programme of Fellowships on Disarmament, bringing to 1,033 the total number of officials who had participated in the programme since its inception in 1978.

Meanwhile, as part of its continued engagement with Vienna-based organizations and entities, the Office for Disarmament Affairs continued to partner with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to administer the Scholarship for Peace and Security, a capacity-building and training programme that provided early-career professionals with 100 scholarships, 90 of which were reserved for women.

Another highlight of 2019 was the achievement of a number of milestones in efforts to increase youth engagement in the field of disarmament. By its resolution 74/64, adopted on 12 December, entitled “Youth, Disarmament and Non-proliferation”, the General Assembly reaffirmed the important and positive contribution that young people can make in sustaining peace and security. In addition, the Office for Disarmament Affairs launched a new youth outreach initiative, called “Youth4Disarmament”, with the aim of connecting geographically diverse young people with experts to learn about current international security challenges, the work of the United Nations and how they can be active participants.

Participants of the event “Youth Champions for Securing our Common Future”, organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the non-governmental organization Peace Boat. The event, held in New York on 11 October 2019, was part of the Youth4Disarmament initiative and featured keynote speakers, educational panel discussions, workshops and musical performances. The participating “Youth Champions” had the opportunity to engage with United Nations officials, diplomats and civil society representatives working towards disarmament worldwide.

Today’s youth: the largest generation in history

There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today, more than 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries. Recognizing today’s youth* as “the ultimate force for change”, the Secretary-General committed in his Agenda for Disarmament to create a platform for the sustainable entry of young people from all parts of the world into the field of disarmament.

As a contribution towards this platform, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs launched “#Youth4Disarmament”, an outreach initiative focused on 3 “E”s of Engagement, Education and Empowerment. The ultimate goal is to increase youth participation and create space for young people to make meaningful substantive contributions to facilitating progress on disarmament. Imparting knowledge and skills to young people empowers them to make their contribution, as national and world citizens.

Figures courtesy of UNFPA.

*While there is no universally accepted definition of “youth”, the Security Council defined the term to include people from 18 to 29 years old in resolution 2250 (2015), “Youth, peace and security”

In your opinion, is the use of nuclear weapons in wars or armed conflicts acceptable under some circumstances, or is it never acceptable?

Young people overwhelmingly believe the use of nuclear weapons in conflict is never acceptable.

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Most young people see nuclear weapons as a threat to humanity.

Source: “Millennials on War”, an ICRC survey of 16,288 respondents ages 20 to 35 in 16 countries* from 29 June to 1 October 2019. For more information, see

* Afghanistan, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russian Federation, South Africa, State of Palestine, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.