2020 Critical Issues Forum Announcement

March 25, 2020
Masako Toki

On behalf of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), we regret to inform everyone involved about the cancellation of all on-site activities of the 2020 Critical Issues Forum Spring Teacher-Student Conference due to the unprecedented situation inflicted by the global pandemic, Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The conference was originally scheduled to take place from March 27-28 in the Irvine Auditorium at MIIS, joined by four Russian high schools, five Japanese schools, and twelve American schools from all over the nation. The theme for this year is, “Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons: The Role of Youth as Change Agents.” The spring conference is a culmination of the annual educational program at CNS in which high school students from all over the world receive training to conduct semester-long studies on various nonproliferation and disarmament topics and present their research findings at the end of the program.

Given the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19 and other uncertainties, the CNS team has decided to bring the conference fully online. Our original alternative plan was to hold a synchronous online conference on March 27th to bring together all CIF participants from the US, Japan, and Russia. Unfortunately, the developments in the United States over the past few weeks have necessitated almost all high schools to close, making real-time coordination with our presenters impossible to be executed. As of today, this event has led us to suspend the synchronous online conference indefinitely. Nevertheless, we are still planning to provide a virtual platform for participants to review all the presentation materials and engage in self-paced conference activities, such as video greetings and discussion boards. Our goal for now is to ensure that our students can move forward with their projects and presentation plans without any extra stress or burden on their part.
Although the circumstances remain challenging, as someone who represents a research institution that strives to build a safer and more peaceful world, and an organizer of a youth disarmament education project, I believe that it is important for all of us to see this event as a valuable learning opportunity.

I have already been so motivated by the enthusiasm and persistence of this year’s CIF teachers. Therefore, first and foremost, I would like to thank all the teachers who have patiently guided and supported their students throughout the program. You all are doing amazing work! No matter what happens, your dedication to promoting disarmament and nonproliferation education for the future generations will always be everything that inspires the world during this unfortunate turn of events.

To our students: when you all look back on the year of 2020 and all the challenges you are going through, please remember that youth participation is the key to solving critical global problems. As affirmed by the United Nations and indicated in this year’s theme, “Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons: The Role of Youth as Change Agents,” youth has a responsibility to shoulder the future of the world. Becoming “change agents” in an ever more turbulent and chaotic world means having to overcome a lot of obstacles and disruptions every day. We are here despite all the odds to make sure your voices are heard, and we look forward to discussing all of your ideas and thoughts over the past semester. Please also keep in mind that all students’ final projects will be posted on our website when they are ready.

For all the participants in the CIF program — once again, I am so grateful for the time and efforts you have put towards the 2020 CIF Spring Conference!

For all the funders, advocates, and partners of CIF, I would like to express my sincerest appreciation towards all the generosity and support you have given us throughout this year’s program.

Thank you all so much for making CIF an unforgettable experience! Please take care, and best of luck with your future pursuits.

If you have any questions or concerns during this time, feel free to reach out.

Masako Toki
CIF Project Manager

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