CTBTO’s Dr. Lassina Zerbo Spoke at CIF Spring Student Conference in Nagasaki

May 1, 2017
Masako Toki

From April 3-5, 2017, students from the United States and Russia joined Japanese students in Nagasaki, Japan, for the annual Critical Issues Forum (CIF) conference on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation education. The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) cosponsored the conference as part of the CIF program, in partnership with Kwassui High School in Nagasaki and the Nagasaki Council for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki City, and Nagasaki University). This is the first time that the CIF conference has been held in Nagasaki, and the second time it has been held in Japan: in 2015, the CIF convened in Hiroshima to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombings.

CIF student participants with Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO

CIF student participants with Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the CIF program. Since its inception in 1997, the CIF program has engaged thousands of American and Russian high school students and introduced them to a variety of nonproliferation and disarmament issues. The project began engaging schools in Japan in 2013.

The three-day conference included two days of student presentations at Kwassui High School, where all the participating schools shared their semester-long studies on this year’s topic, “Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and its Role for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.” Six high schools from across the United States and four high schools from Russia’s closed nuclear cities joined the seven Japanese high schools from different parts of the country at the conference in Nagasaki.

On April 4th, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO) spoke to participants at the public symposium portion of the CIF conference, which was held in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum Hall. In addition to his inspiring keynote address, Dr. Zerbo also partook in the students’ panel discussion moderated by Professor Keiko Nakamura at the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University. Nagasaki Mayor Mr. Tomihisa Taue, Nagasaki Governor Mr. Hodo Nakamura, and a Member of House of Councillors of the Japan’s National Diet, Dr. Kozo Akino, among others, attended the symposium to congratulate the CIF participants.

To further enhance their understanding of the horror of nuclear weapons use, teachers and students toured the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and listened to the testimony of a hibakusha, an atomic bomb survivor. Students also visited the Nagasaki Peace Park, Nagasaki Hypocenter Park, and the Shiroyama Elementary School, the now-closed elementary school from the Hypocenter that lost over 1,400 pupils as a result of the atomic bombing.  The school was designated as a cultural heritage site by the Japanese Government, and Dr. Kozo Akino explained its significance when he guided the CIF students on a tour of the space.

International Students’ Conference

On April 3 and 4, students presented the findings from their semester-long studies on this year’s CIF topic. Following an opening statement by Masako Toki, CIF project manager, and welcoming remarks by Mr. Atsushi Ohiwa, the principal of Kwassui High School, and Mr. Takashi Yuguchi, the president of the Kwassui University, the students watched a video message from Mr. Kim Won-soo, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs of the United Nations. In his message, Mr. Kim congratulated participants for holding such an important conference to promote awareness of the importance of CTBT and nuclear disarmament in Nagasaki.

Over the course of the 2016-17 academic year, CIF students focused their research on the concept of nuclear test bans and creating a world free of nuclear weapons. Specifically, CIF students investigated the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), as the United States, Japan, and Russia have an important role to play in facilitating this treaty’s entry into force. The CIF project enabled students to explore the concept of international nonproliferation and disarmament regimes more broadly, and how the CTBT can facilitate momentum toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Students studied nuclear weapons testing history and efforts to prevent nuclear weapons testing throughout the academic year. They also examined how the CTBT was negotiated, its current status, challenges, and future prospects. Students also investigated the CTBT’s unique verification regime. All of the high school students’ presentations demonstrated their understanding on the importance of the CTBT to the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regimes. Each of the presentations contained creative and innovative ideas that demonstrated a solid understanding of the topic which they cultivated during their semester-long research undertakings.

Student Presentation Highlights

In a comprehensive presentation by the host school, students from Kwassui High School demonstrated an in-depth, thoughtful analysis of this year’s topic and their determination to work for a nuclear-weapons-free world. In accordance with the title of their presentation, “Pandora’s Box was Opened: The Role of the Young in a Divided World,” the Kwassui students raised awareness about the increasing number of international conflicts around the world and the important role of civil society and youth education in achieving nuclear disarmament.

Students from Connecticut’s Choate Rosemary Hall, a veteran school in the CIF project, offered innovative proposals in their presentation, including a moratorium on modernizing existing weapons systems. Framed as a first step toward a world free of nuclear weapons, the Choate students’ proposal aimed at developing trust between the United States and Russia. Students also proposed the redirection of resources to humanitarian purposes instead of weapon systems upgrades.

Students from Kansai Soka Senior High School from Osaka, Japan presented findings derived from a survey they conducted among their fellow classmates to determine their level of awareness of the CTBT and nuclear disarmament issues. According to the survey results, while the majority of their classmates were interested in nuclear disarmament, they were not aware of any activities to promote it, though they would be interested in participating in them. The CIF presenters from Kansai Soka emphasized the importance of engaging high school students in nuclear issues in a personal way. The students proposed a three-year plan on “Education for World Peace.”

Students from Dr. Olga Mohan High School from Los Angeles highlighted the importance of political will in bringing the CTBT into force. In order to influence policy makers, the students proposed community initiatives to enhance nuclear literacy by engaging youth through education and outreach activities.

Students from School No. 41 in Novouralsk, Russia highlighted the importance of the CTBT’s entry into force in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and analyzed the reasons why those countries that have not ratified the treaty have yet to do so. The students highlighted the importance of continuing efforts, particularly dialogue and education, to promote CTBT entry into force.

All the students challenged themselves to find a solution to these complicated problems, and each of the presentations was well researched and effective in raising CTBT and nuclear disarmament awareness among the younger generations.

View the students’ presentations (to be completed soon.)

Guest Speakers

This year, the students’ conference featured three notable guest speakers. The first was Dr. Masao Tomonaga, chairman of the Nagasaki Global Citizens Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, and director emeritus of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital. He focused on the humanitarian impact of the use of nuclear weapons. As a medical doctor in Nagasaki, he has consulted with and treated numerous atomic bomb survivors, and as a result, he is an effective and moving advocate in making sure Nagasaki is the last city to ever experience nuclear devastation.

Students also heard a lecture by Dr. Fumihiko Yoshida, vice director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University, who encouraged the students to come up with creative ideas to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Lastly, Ms. Vanessa Zenji, consul for public affairs at the US Consulate in Fukuoka, emphasized the importance of collaboration between the United States and Japan to create a more peaceful world.

Public Symposium

View the Agenda

Dr. Zerbo’s keynote address video.

The CIF conference culminated with the public symposium at the Atomic Bomb Museum Hall, which featured addresses by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, Nagasaki Mayor Mr. Tomihisa Taue, Nagasaki Governor Mr. Hodo Nakamura, and a member of the Japanese parliament, Dr. Kozo Akino. The overarching topic of the public symposium was “Youth Education and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT): Their Roles for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida sent a congratulatory message to CIF participants, and he expressed his regret that he could not personally participate in the symposium due to the parliamentary schedule. Although he was not able to participate as he did when the CIF conference took place in Hiroshima in 2015, he reiterated his strong desire to work for a world free of nuclear weapons through youth education. As evidence of his commitment to youth education, the foreign minister again designated CIF participants as Youth Special Communicators for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. This is the second time CIF students have been endowed with such an important role by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Following the congratulatory remarks delivered the honorable guests who attended the symposium, Dr. Zerbo’s keynote focused on the efforts of youth to use nonviolence in making the world a safer place. He touched on several topics, including the extraordinary historical importance of Nagasaki, the importance of youth in nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, and the purpose of the CTBTO. Dr. Zerbo explained that Nagasaki is a stark reminder of the destructive power of nuclear weapons and underscored that the scars that resulted from the use of such weapons over seventy years ago are still visible, both in physical relics and in the people. He reiterated the importance of young people engaging in nonproliferation work and their embrace of nonviolence in conflict resolution.

Dr. Zerbo also spoke of the importance of the CTBT’s entry into force, explaining how it would help ensure that states do not engage in nuclear testing. He touched on the importance of bringing North Korea to the negotiating table and reaching a successful compromise through nonviolent means. Overall, Dr. Zerbo’s message was one of hope for the future of nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.

After the keynote address, four schools made a joint presentation. Choate Rosemary Hall, Rock University High School, Dr. Olga Mohan High School, and Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School emphasized the common theme of promoting the early entry into force of the CTBT and its role in a world free of nuclear weapons. This joint presentation offered a variety of perspectives including global approaches, local approaches, and social and scientific approaches.

Another highlight of the symposium was a panel discussion by students from each country with commentary provided by Dr. Zerbo. The panel was moderated by Professor Nakamura. Each student shared his or her own personal experience with nuclear disarmament initiatives and disarmament education, particularly on this year’s topic of the CTBT. After each student’s opening remarks, Dr. Zerbo asked him or her a question. As a result, the panel discussion was lively and interactive as students shared their own opinions and experiences candidly. While each student’s experience in disarmament education varied, all agreed that they are now more motivated to study diligently in order to be able to contribute to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in a meaningful way. It is clear that their experience in Nagasaki had an enormous impact on their decision to work for peace and security and that it enhanced their cross-cultural understanding and raised their awareness on the importance of the CTBT and nuclear disarmament.

The symposium facilitated a congenial, inspirational sense of mutual learning and understanding, not just among the CIF students but with the Nagasaki audience, as well. It was a remarkable opportunity for American and Russian high school students to be able to communicate with people in Nagasaki and to deeply understand the impact of nuclear weapon use and why they must never be used again. Professor Nakamura concluded the panel discussion by encouraging not only the CIF high school students but all the participants in the hall to continue inspiring friends and colleagues to make efforts in support of nuclear disarmament, all while learning from each other.

There was significant media coverage throughout the three-day event. Each day, NHK, Japan’s national TV station, broadcast highlights from the conference.

Also noteworthy was the opportunity that CIF students had to speak with Dr. Zerbo. In addition to the symposium, the CTBTO Executive Secretary engaged with students at an informal gathering immediately before the symposium in a dynamic and open exchange. His commitment to youth education to promote CTBT and nuclear disarmament inspired all CIF participants.


Over the past several months and under the guidance of committed teachers, the CIF students dedicated themselves to studying the importance and timeliness of the CTBT and its role in creating a world free of nuclear weapons, as well as its implications for international security.

Disarmament and nonproliferation education has become more important than ever given the uncertain international security environment. In this regard, having this conference in Nagasaki was especially meaningful to CIF participants, whose determination  to work toward nuclear disarmament to ensure that Nagasaki is the last city to experience nuclear devastation was strengthened as a result.

CIF participants observed the Nagasaki atomic bomb museum and visited the Nagasaki Peace Park and the Hypocenter Park. They listened to a hibakusha testimonial. These future leaders had the opportunity to learn from people in Nagasaki who experienced the horror of nuclear weapons first-hand and endured unspeakable ordeals while overcoming obstacles to make sure that nuclear weapons will never be used again. Such educational activities for the youth will undoubtedly have a positive impact on progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Participating Schools

United States
Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT
Harker School, San Jose, CA
Dr. Olga Mohan High School, Los Angeles, CA
Pacific Grove High School, Pacific Grove, CA
Punahou School, Honolulu, HI
Rock University High School, Janesville, WI

Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School, Hiroshima
Kaisei High School
Kansai Soka Senior High School, Katano
Kwassui High School, Nagasaki
Nagasaki Higashi High School
Soka Senior High School, Tokyo
Yokohama Senior High School of International Studies

School No. 41, Novouralsk
School No. 39 Ozersk
School No. 125 Snezhinsk
School No. 164, Zelenogorsk

Photo Gallery and Learn More

View the CIF report on the conference that includes numerous photos


This year’s CIF program is funded by the United States-Japan Foundation and Tom and Sarah Pattison Fund.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our co-organizers for their support in planning the 2017 Critical Issues Forum Conference:

Kwassui High School
PCU Nagasaki Council

We would also like to extend our appreciation to the following organizations for their kind support of the CIF conference:

Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA)
Nagasaki City
Nagasaki Prefecture
Nagasaki University
Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace.
Kwassui Alumni Association

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