Charity Porotesano

As an inaugeral participant in the Pacific Young Leaders on Disarmament Program, I had the opportunity to represent American Samoa – — an unincorporated territory of the United States – alongside other young leaders from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Originally, I applied to the program because I wanted to learn more about security issues that concern the Pacific Islands. I also wanted to project these concerns to a wider audience through my own writings.

As part of the program, I had the opportunity to publish two articles on disarmament issues. The first was a thought piece that argued for the continued relevance of the United Nations on Conference on Disarmament (CD). The second was a policy brief that recommended a set of policy efforts that could strengthen the participation of Pacific Island Countries in the CD. Both were ultimately published and distributed by the Federation of American Scientists and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Writing is a very individualistic type of work. Nevertheless, this program taught me that writing can be very much a collaborative effort when it comes to policy advocacy.

As a Pacific Young Leader on Disarmament, I had the opportunity to interview senior diplomats and disarmament experts from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Their insights helped me to understand policy research and analysis from a very practical/technical perspective, which in turn helped me to write realistic articles that presented achievable policy recommendations.

At the time of my participation, I was a third grade teacher in American Samoa. As a teacher and a young person in my home of American Samoa, I simply didn’t have opportunities to learn about policy. That type of work has long been reserved for those at the departmental level – those that have worked in the government for a long time. Since American Samoa is very far from the U.S. mainland, opportunities to engage in international policy aren’t available either.

Thanks to this program, I had the opportunity to gain real-world experience on international policy. I also had the opportunity to learn from seasoned policy experts who are actual practitioners in the field. I therefore believe that we need more programs like the Pacific Young Leaders on Disarmament.

From my experience, this program keeps young college graduates engaged in international policy. And, it helps us gain the intellectual skills that we need to be better advocates for our island homes.