Beds student invited to debate nuclear weapons UN Treaty

Fri 26 February, 2021
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A University of Bedfordshire student has discussed her involvement in a recent citizen assembly, which assessed the merits and disadvantages of the UK becoming a signatory of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Following a formal application process, Jacqueline Bunting, a final year Social Studies student, was selected to be a jury member of Peace Child International’s discussion about nuclear prohibition. The opportunity arose via the University’s Sustainability Forum – a partner of Peace Child International.

Reflecting on the opportunities that this high-profile event has offered her, Jacqueline said:

“When I first found out about the debate, I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to network and build on my experience of taking part in important events, having contributed to the University’s ‘Human Rights and Migration: Movement, Peace and Settlement’ conference in 2019.

“Having no previous knowledge of nuclear weapons, I had the unique position of total ethical bias. This allowed me to participate and engage purely based on the information presented to me.

“I found it such an honour to represent the University in this way and it was a real confidence-booster to get chosen out of so many applicants. The event has opened up a world of opportunity to me, having now been invited to attend the next model citizen’s assembly on climate change in March.

“Taking part has also peeked my interest in the subject of nuclear weapons, and I intend to write on the subject as part of my course’s Globalisation unit.”

The debate took place last month on 10th January, and on 22nd January the Treaty entered into force, becoming international law, although the UK remains a non-signatory.

The issue remains contentious: the UK Government does not support the TPNW despite a commitment to the Treaty from Scotland’s First Minister and Government, as well as the city authorities of Manchester, Edinburgh and Leeds.

This spectrum of opinion was laid before the jury in the form of arguments made by high-profile figures Fabrizio Hochschild (UN Special Adviser), Dr Rebecca Johnson (Founding President of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) and James McCormick (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Head of the International Nuclear Team).

Dr Helen Connolly, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Course Coordinator for MA Human Rights and Social Enterprise, took great pride in how her student represented herself and the University during the debate. She said:

“We are all so proud of Jacqueline and she’s an asset to the University. She really did hold her own through the event, and was articulate and composed in response to some highly complex and highly charged ideas and arguments.

“It was brilliant and rewarding to see her responding directly to the arguments presented by Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dr Rebecca Johnson! Jacqueline was not fazed and put her social science skills to good use by appraising the arguments put before her.”

For further information about the University’s Sustainability Forum and the opportunities it offers students visit: www.beds.ac.uk/sustainability/sustainability-forum

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