Photo: Ilya Kursenko second from right with Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and two other members of the CTBT Youth Group. - Photo: 2019

Why I Became A CTBTO Youth Group Member

By Ilya Kursenko

MOSCOW (IDN) – It all began with a question to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2016 during the plenary session of the 20th anniversary of CTBTO, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. I asked him back then: “What can the youth do to change the world?” Right after the session, I got invited to join the newly founded Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Youth Group and respond to the question by myself.

And so I did, and experienced the unbelievable power of action. Of action that is allowed to the youth and the way in which CTBTO encourages young people to actively participate in the great mission of CTBT – to end nuclear weapons tests everywhere in the world.

The main reason for becoming a CTBTO Youth Group member is the opportunity to belong to something deeply meaningful and important. CTBTO provides such an opportunity more than extensively. We are encouraged to act and supported by all means to realize our potential, creativity and talent both for the sake of our own future and for the future of the whole world.

Without my active participation in the Youth Group I would have never imagined how to get to the highest-level meetings, participate in the discussions with well-established political and public figures. I never expected anyone to believe in me and my capacity. But CTBTO did and accepted me the way I was, without almost any background to join the important fight for the total elimination of nuclear weapons tests.

Since that moment I have betrayed neither the values of this fight, nor have I spared any effort to contribute to CTBT entering into force. This is the reason why I go to sleep and wake up every morning. And I know that every day that I have spent doing something for CTBT I have spent doing something good for the world and for the humanity. This is exactly my purpose.

Summary of my activities

Over the years of my active involvement with the activities of the CTBTO Youth Group, I have participated in the Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union that took place in San Francisco, United States. I got the opportunity to help spread the word of CTBT by working at the booth we had at the large hall alongside with many others.

However, what made our booth in San Francisco unique was the fact that by the end of the Conference we had no posters, no brochures, no business cards left. We had given everything. And people would not take it all by themselves. I remember well how I would combine this brochure with that; how I would roll up the huge maps and we would just give them to people who were passing by. I used to greet more than 500 people before lunch and probably the same number after lunch, though taking more than 20-40 seconds to tell them about CTBTO.

I felt responsible for making sure that CTBTO staff does not have to carry anything back to Vienna (headquarters) and made sure we give out everything to advertise CTBTO to the maximum extent. The staff told us that this was the first time in their career they saw such an active involvement and dedication.

We did not get paid for what we did but we just believed that we had to get involved, we had to care and we had to worry because this was a global cause – to end nuclear weapons tests. Maybe this was my naïve, but even if it was, it was honest and sincere. I still keep CTBTO objectives in the depth of my heart.

The second event I got the privilege of engaging with was the Conference in Astana, capital city of Kazakhstan. This conference was dedicated to stressing once again the importance of banning nuclear weapons tests.

We visited the Soviet nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk and this was a life-transforming experience once we saw how all around us was emptiness and death. I would never want to see any further nuclear test taking place anywhere on Earth and I am ashamed as the member of the humanity to acknowledge that just some 50 years ago we started the destruction of the planet we all lived on. This must never repeat again.

The third opportunity was attendance at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly session in New York in September 2018 that I availed of to spread the word of the global youth against nuclear weapons, against nuclear testing. We were listened to, we were supported. I had the unique and once in a lifetime opportunity of hosting a live discussion with the former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Angela Kane in the United Nations official channel.

All of these incredible things were carried out by a 20-year-old me. I am just like you – looking for a place to belong, hoping to succeed in life and to realize my potential to the full extent. And when the whole world seemed unwelcoming to me, there was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization opening its doors for me and my desire to positively shape the world.

I have always wanted to be involved in meaningful things, and what could be more meaningful than sparing no effort in making nuclear testing go into history once and forever. With every new committed global citizen like you and I joining the efforts we are one step closer to making CTBT a universal law. And we will get this done. Because we are the youth that understands how  fragile our world is. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 February 2019]

Photo: Ilya Kursenko second from right with Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and two other members of the CTBT Youth Group.

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IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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