WASHINGTON (Arms Control)—Professor Areg Danagoulian and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were selected as the 2019 Arms Control Persons of the Year through an online poll that drew participants from over 100 countries. The annual contest is organized by the independent, nongovernmental Arms Control Association.
Professor Danagoulian and his team were nominated for their work developing an innovative new nuclear disarmament verification process using neutron beams. This process addresses the fact that parties to arms control treaties more often destroy delivery systems than warheads (e.g., the U.S. dismantling B-52 bombers for compliance with START). This leaves large stockpiles of surplus nuclear weapons, increasing risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. Instead, the neutron beam test authenticates the warheads’ isotopic composition without revealing it, enabling a verified dismantlement of nuclear warheads.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association remarked, “This innovation paves the way for more effective arms control agreements, inspections, and enforcement. Professor Danagoulian’s MIT team has brought the best science to arms control and provided a creative solution that can reduce nuclear threats and enhance security.”
This year, 10 individuals and groups were nominated by the Arms Control Association staff and board of directors. All of the nominees demonstrated extraordinary leadership in advancing effective arms control solutions for the threats posed by mass casualty weapons during the course of 2019.
This contest is a reminder of the diverse and creative ways that dedicated individuals and organizations from around the globe can contribute to meeting the difficult arms control challenges of today and the coming decades. It is a hopeful way to close out 2019 and begin 2020.
The runner-up was Afghanistan’s first all-female demining team, nominated for completing landmine work in Bamyan province, the first of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces to be declared free of landmines. The women were trained by the Danish Demining Group as part of a United Nations Mine Action Service pilot program working with Afghanistan’s Directorate of Mine Action Coordination.
“The courageous efforts of the Afghan demining team exemplifies women’s empowerment and engagement in peace and security and underscores the importance of humanitarian disarmament,” said Kathy Crandall Robinson, Chief Operations Officer of the Arms Control Association.
Online voting was open from Dec. 12, 2019, until Jan. 8. A list of all of this year’s nominees is available online.
Previous winners of the “Arms Control Person of the Year” are:
- 4,000 Anonymous Google Employees whose open letter to company leadership led to Google ending its work on “Project Maven” with the Pentagon (2018);
- Diplomats from Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, and Costa Rica who secured the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017);
- Tony de Brum and the government of the Marshall Islands (2016);
- Setsuko Thurlow and the Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (2015);
- Austria’s Director for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Ambassador Alexander Kmentt (2014);
- Executive-Secretary of the CTBTO Lassina Zerbo (2013);
- Gen. James Cartwright (2012);
- Reporter and activist Kathi Lynn Austin (2011);
- Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and Thomas D’Agostino, U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator (2010);
- Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) (2009);
- Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his ministry’s Director-General for Security Policy and the High North Steffen Kongstad (2008); and
- U.S. Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) (2007).