top of page
CTBTO: Science and Technology Conference 2017

Vienna, Austria


“To Change Globally, you must Empower Locally”

By Andrew King

Founding Director of Nuclear Free Schools

This last week, June 26-30, my student, Cristopher Cruz,

and I were invited to attend the CTBT: Science and

Technology 2017 Conference in Vienna, Austria at the

Hofburg Palace. The conference was the sixth in a series of

conferences designed to promote closer relationships with

the scientific and technological communities with diplomats, policymakers, and the CTBTO. This year, the CTBTO invited college students and young professionals from over 50 countries to participate as Youth Group members at the CTBT Conference.

Surprisingly, Cristopher, along with Polina Kozhukhovskaya of Russia and Arashu Onodera of Japan, were personally invited by CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo as a means to include the voices of high school students in the nuclear disarmament discussion. Adamant about the role that the youth will play in the disarmament effort, Dr. Zerbo declared at the Closing Session of the Conference that “the future belongs to [them]…and we’re working to pass the baton. And that’s why we need the youth.”

We committed ourselves to learning as much as we could about the science, technology, and diplomacy of the nuclear disarmament regime so that we could take the knowledge back home. We learned about the International Monitoring System in great detail, and how the 337 facilities monitor for signs of nuclear tests through infrasound, seismic, hydroacoustic and radionuclide stations. We learned about public advocacy, capacity building, confidence building, and the local and regional challenges facing individual states. And we learned about the implications of the recent nuclear test ban treaty on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

At the end of conference, Cristopher was invited to share our disarmament initiative, the Nuclear Free Schools movement. The movement aims to promote disarmament awareness by having schools declare themselves “Nuclear Weapons Free Zones,” and then committing to educating their students about disarmament. He extolled the virtue of empowering students, and highlighted that is was incumbent upon the youth to see the path to nuclear free world to its conclusion.

Several keynote speeches by Dr. Zerbo, Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, and former UK Defense Secretary Lord Des Browne highlighted the noticeable presence of youth throughout the conference, and the enthusiasm that energized the conference. Dr. Zerbo specifically highlighted Cristopher and Pauline at both the Opening and Closing Sessions to emphasize the importance of involving youth in matters typically reserved for adults.

A personal treat was when Dr. Zerbo also recognized my 11-month old son, Roger, and welcomed him as the youngest member of the CTBT Youth Group. Both adorable and significant, Dr. Zerbo stated that “the future belongs to him. And you talk about being here for 20 years, so let’s hope that in 20 years he’ll be advocating for the CTBT, and maybe he’ll become one of the Director-Generals of the CTBT.”


When the week was done, and the conference was concluded, Cristopher and I were more energized than ever to take the disarmament fight local. So this fall, in partnership with the Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles, we will be embarking on three major projects:

  1. Refining a nuclear disarmament curriculum that is accessible to all teachers

  2. Hosting a Southern California Youth Disarmament Conference

  3. Pursuing California Legislation to include Disarmament Education in California EdCode

We’re excited about the progress we’ve made, aware of the obstacles in our path, and hopeful that others will join the movement. The Nuclear Free Schools movement is only one of many steps to a world without nuclear weapons. But it is one that firmly rooted in the belief to change globally, we must empower locally.

bottom of page