Press Release

Student Essay Contest Winners Brief UN Officials at Harvard to Address WMD Threats

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For Immediate Release: September 30, 2016
Contact: Jim Baird: [email protected](202) 478.3413
The Stimson Center announced today Enrique de Vega Gonzalez of Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Madrid, Spain, is the winner of the first ever United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 International Student Essay Contest. Resolution 1540 obligates U.N. Member States to develop and enforce legal and structural measures to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). De Vega Gonzalez won for his essay on Tunisia. Kyle Pilutti of Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in Monterey, California, came in second place for her essay on the United States. The contest drew submissions from students in 44 countries around the globe on how best to implement U.N. Security Council resolution 1540. These top winners presented their ideas to U.N. officials, experts, and media at an award ceremony at Harvard University today. Ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi, Chair of the 1540 Committee and Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, presented the awards at the luncheon discussion with proliferation experts and students from many Boston-area universities.

“As we see attacks on cities around the world, keeping the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of extremist organizations and terrorist groups is becoming even more important,” said Stimson Center Senior Advisor Debra Decker, who coordinated the contest. “Fresh ideas are needed. It is heartening that students from around the world stepped up to address this challenge to help prevent the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.” 

The U.N. Security Council 1540 Committee and the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs collaborated with the Stimson Center to create the international essay competition for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The governments of the United States and Finland provided support to Stimson for the project. Contest partners included the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, South Korea, and the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa. Following contest guidelines, essayists submitted suggestions on how best to implement Resolution 1540 in a country of their choice. A panel of 10 advisory judges reviewed the submissions and made recommendations, which were then further vetted by Stimson Center judges. All submissions were considered in a blind judging that evaluated clarity, feasibility and ease of implementation, and potential for WMD risk reduction. Eighteen finalists were selected. From these 18, a separate panel of judges directly involved in the work of the U.N. Security Council 1540 Committee selected the first and second-place winners. Three additional outstanding entries were deemed worthy of honorable mention, they are: Adrian Alvarado of Université de Lyon for an essay on the Russian Federation; Landon Poe and Sreelekshmi Rajeswari Poe of the University of Cambridge for their essay on Qatar; and Hannah Rifkin of Bryn Mawr College for an essay on Turkmenistan.

Several consistent themes ran through the contest submissions, including: the need to assist countries in developing risk assessments to better target their nonproliferation efforts; the importance of broader public appreciation of the risks posed by WMDs; and the value of developing societies and supporting positive engagements within and among countries so that violent acts — including from WMDs — are anathema.

The winners received cash awards from the Washington Foreign Law Society, and — for the top two — the opportunity to attend the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference in November in Brussels. The top five essays were published in a new Stimson Center report released today titled, Countering WMD Proliferation: The Next Generation’s Ideas. Abstracts of the 18 finalist essays were also published on the Stimson website.

Stimson is a nonpartisan policy research center working to solve the world’s greatest threats to security and prosperity.

For contest information, click here. For more information about the event, click here.

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