Edinburgh PhD student interns with Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation

Dagmar Medeiros worked with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

Dagmar Topf Aguiar de Medeiros, a PhD student working under the supervision of Dr Kasey McCall-Smith and Dr Navraj Singh Ghaleigh, was involved with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) at the time of the organisation's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. You can read below an account of her time with the campaign:

"When I moved to Edinburgh September 2016 to start my PhD at the Law School, I joined UN House Scotland as an intern. There I participated in the organisation of a nuclear non-proliferation conference at the Scottish Parliament entitled ‘Humanitarian and Environmental Costs and Responsibilities of Nuclear Weapons’, which took place in December 2016. This experience got me increasingly interested in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and I joined WILPF and SCND as well. UN House Scotland, WILPF and SCND are all three official partner organisations with ICAN. Several months later I applied for the position as Intern on the Scottish Delegation of Civil Society, attending the Ban Treaty negotiations in June in New York. The Scottish Civil Society Delegation to New York consisted of Janet Fenton, Amy Christison, Flavia Tudoreanu, Andy Hinton and I. We were in constant communication with campaigners back in Scotland throughout our time in New York as well.

In New York we started every morning with a strategy briefing led by ICAN. During these meetings we would identify points to focus on that day and distribute responsibilities. For example, I spent the first three days of the negotiations on the monitoring team headed by Beatrice Fihn. This entailed taking extensive notes of all the statements made by each state’s delegate and feeding these back to the rest of the team. All statements were compiled into a massive spreadsheet. This spreadsheet was then analyzed at a meeting at the end of each day and the information distilled from it used to identify which of our points were successfully getting across to delegates, which areas we needed to raise our efforts in, and also providing us with insight into the specific concerns each delegate brought to the table in the negotiation room.

On other days I was working with Daniel Högsta to monitor attendance during negotiations. We would walk through the room and note down which countries were participating in the negotiations, as there are otherwise no official records of this. This information was shared with the president of the negotiations, Whyte Gómez, at the end of each session as well. Furthermore, it allowed us to identify which states we needed to lobby to try to get them to participate in the negotiations.

During lunch breaks our team would split up and attend the various side events hosted on the topic of nuclear disarmament. Our Scottish delegation also had the great opportunity to host a side event of our own, titled ‘Scotland can disarm the UK’, which was set up as a panel event and during which I presented a short paper on the unique Scottish legal position as an unwilling host state (in a technical legal sense Scotland is not considered a host state as it is a part of the UK, which is a nuclear armed state, but the situation is unique because the devolved Scottish government opposes nuclear weapons yet must host them according to the UK’s overall deterrence policy).

During our time in New York we also visited the British mission to engage with our representative on the matter of the UK’s nuclear policy. ICAN played a role in the coordination of various campaign groups organizing visits to the missions of countries relevant to them. We also participated in the Women’s March to ban the bomb.

Other activities that were a part of my responsibilities were networking with other campaign groups, writing a daily blog, helping with social media output regarding the negotiations, contacting various media outlets with updates and conducting interviews with journalists interested in the Scottish view on the treaty. (I myself participated in interviews by Japanese and Swedish media). Upon my return to Scotland I wrote a some blog posts and delivered a number of presentations (and am continuing to do so) to raise awareness and spread the news of the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty. Currently we are still meeting in Edinburgh as well to strategise on the continued campaign to get the UK to disarm as well. Now that there is an official treaty which makes nuclear weapons illegal under international law, our campaign’s motivation has increased and we are looking for new opportunities and angles to utilise in our campaign to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Overall, the cooperation with ICAN was really great. I was able to learn a lot about strategic campaigning from their experienced campaign and benefited from the coordinated approach they took, which was able to maximize the impact of every civil society present at the negotiations. I was impressed with the way in which tasks were divided in a way that allowed everybody present to maximize their opportunity to contribute. ICAN seemed very aware of the range of experience and skills of all the campaigners involved and it always felt more like a natural cooperation than any type of imposed structuring. I loved how each group respected the contributions that other groups could make to the overall campaign. There was a real spirit of cooperation and collegiality."