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Organizers encouraged students from diverse backgrounds to apply such as Indigenous, female and LGBTQ+

In October, undergraduate and graduate students from around Oʻahu gathered at the East-West Center for a three-day workshop to engage on nuclear policy issues. The workshop featured lectures from leading experts, group discussions and a crisis scenario exercise. In addition to discussing policy issues at the global level, students also thought critically about the ways nuclear policies impact Hawaiʻi and the Asia-Pacific region.

“This workshop may very well be the first time deterrence, nonproliferation and disarmament have been discussed on the UH Mānoa campus since the Reagan administration,” said Brien Hallett, professor in the Matsunaga Institute for Peace at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

The Honolulu Nuclear Policy Workshop was organized by the Truman Center for National Policy in partnership with UH Mānoa’s Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs and Center for Pacific Islands Studies and the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center. It was the latest in a series of workshops the Truman Center has convened in cities such as Chicago and Atlanta with the goal of diversifying the pipeline of people working in U.S. nuclear security. This diversity ensures a more comprehensive representation of communities affected by those policies and fosters a more inclusive policy making process.

Encouraging diverse perspectives

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Discussions highlighted links between nuclear policy debates and its impact on Hawaiʻi and the Asia-Pacific region

No prior expertise with nuclear issues was required to apply for the workshop, and the organizers actively encouraged applications from women, people of color, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ students. Thirteen undergraduate and graduate students from UH Mānoa, Hawaiʻi Pacific University, Chaminade University of Honolulu and University of the South Pacific were selected to participate.

“I came away with a new perspective and more confidence in my ability to discuss nuclear policy issues,” said Monica Orillo, a graduate student in Asian Studies at UH Mānoa.

The first day of the workshop kicked off with sessions addressing the dawn of the nuclear age and nuclear deterrence led by Lily Wijtowicz from the Truman Center. The second day included a breakout session on proliferation in East Asia and a lecture on deterrence in East Asia by David Santoro from Pacific Forum, a Honolulu-based non-profit foreign policy research institute. The third day began with a session on nuclear disarmament led by Jana Wattenburg from Aberystwyth University, followed by a lecture on why nuclear testing matters for Hawaiʻi by Lilly Adams from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Nuclear weapons, public health, environmental preservation

Throughout the workshop, discussions highlighted the links between nuclear weapons, public health and environmental preservation. Participants explored the continued risks that nuclear weapons pose to people around the world, especially those in historically underserved communities. Students were encouraged to think critically about the policy making process and to consider how the inclusion of new voices could impact their communities and the world.

“Prior to the workshop, I had never thought about viewing nuclear politics through a gender lens, or using feminism as a tool for world peace, or that increased gender representation at nuclear arms control and disarmament discussions could potentially shape a different kind of foreign nuclear policy,” said Elizabeth Yen Tzu Liew, a student in the UH Mānoa Master’s in Asian International Affairs program.

The workshop concluded with a panel discussion on careers in nuclear policy featuring speakers working in a variety of fields. Liew said, “This experience was instrumental in inspiring me to see the myriad of career opportunities where nuclear politics could merge with soft power, my area of interest, and that one need not be a nuclear scientist to pursue a career related to nuclear policy.”

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