What do Auckland Grammar School, Albany Senior High School and St Cuthbert’s College have in common? They all are participating in “Schools’ Peace Week 2017 – Aotearoa New Zealand, 30 Years Nuclear Free”, from August 7 to 11!
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act, on June 8th. To honour this legacy, The Peace Foundation has themed Schools’ Peace Week 2017 on “Aotearoa/New Zealand – 30 Years Nuclear Free”. Schools’ Peace Week is now ten days away and the 125 schools registered are getting ready to celebrate the country’s outstanding nuclear free history.
It can be easy to take New Zealand’s nuclear free status for granted so it’s crucial to take a look back at history to remind ourselves how it happened – far from being a birthright, it was a long and back-breaking process that could not have been successful if it was not for the work of diligent activists, civil society and parliamentarians from the anti-nuclear movement.
Globally, knowledge about nuclear weapons has declined which is why it is important to educate young people on the dangers of nuclear weapons so that their generation can continue this resistance. So how do we engage the youngest generation today?
“NZ became nuclear free 30 years ago and none of today’s school children were alive at that point [so] SPW is going to help you understand what it means to become nuclear free”, said Tamkeen Saeid, Schools’ Peace Week Ambassador, who studies at the University of Auckland. “To me it means that the government of NZ really cares about the safety of the people that live here and it has taken steps to make sure we are safe from any nuclear disaster. I think it gives a signal that any country can do it.”
The world is getting there indeed: on July 7, two-thirds of the United Nations member states voted to adopt a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Lucy Stewart, Youth Programmes Coordinator at the Peace Foundation, participated in the negotiations in New York as part of the delegation representing NZ civil society. She felt immensely privileged to have had the opportunity to witness history in the making. By clearly stating the illegitimacy of nuclear weapons in international law, the Treaty stigmatises nuclear weapons and broke a 20-year-old deadlock in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.
To maintain this fantastic momentum, let’s now head to the next step: getting the NZ government to be within the first 50 countries to sign and ratify the Treaty after September 20th. During Schools’ Peace Week, students can write letters to their MPs as an incentive to support the Treaty.
The Peace Foundation team is available during Schools’ Peace Week to meet students from participating schools and deliver presentations themed around ‘Aotearoa/New Zealand – 30 Years Nuclear Free’. If your school wishes to get in touch with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can watch our promotion video for Schools’ Peace Week 2017 on the Peace Foundation website and social media platforms. Register here for participation.
Our awesome ambassador Tamkeen speaks about Schools’ Peace Week and her role for NewHubs.