The Voices Gorbachev/Shultz Legacy Youth Award for 2023 continues the nuclear disarmament legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev, Nobel Peace Laureate and former U.S.S.R. President; and George Shultz, former
U.S.A. Secretary of State and co-founder of Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. The winner is announced today – the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the second annual Nuclear Prayer Day. The award will formally be presented to Yogev Von Kundra on September 26, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
Yogev is a grassroots social justice, peace, and environmental activist in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee. He is also a farmer, a social worker for autistic children, and the treasurer of the Appalachian Peace Education Center.
As a citizen of this great nation with thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the world, we do not need any more bomb making material. I plead with you to reject this license!” Yogev Von Kundra
East Tennessee has a deep history regarding nuclear weapons. The Oak Ridge National Security Complex was built as part of the Manhattan Project for the purpose of enriching uranium for the first atomic bomb. Today, the entire nuclear weapons complex is undergoing a modernization process at the expected monetary cost of two trillion dollars. An element of Y-12’s modernization plan is to transfer from government control the process of purifying uranium for the bomb to BWXT-Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS), a private corporation in Erwin, Tennessee.
As an activist, Yogev is on the forefront of peaceful protests against this plan and has led the campaign to stop the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from licensing nuclear weapons material processing at NFS. Yogev helped organize and presided over the People's Hearing for Nuclear Awareness and led the rally outside the Erwin Courthouse where the NRC was meeting. He has made public presentations and has also written forcefully on behalf of his community to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to which he stated: “As a citizen of this great nation with thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the world, we do not need any more bomb making material. I plead with you to reject this license!”.
As a young leader, Yogev has recruited his contemporaries in the effort to stop the proposal to move from Y-12 to a private corporation, the purification of uranium for the secondaries of nuclear weapons. His grassroots activism intends to stop US nuclear weapons production in the long term and to prevent NRC licensing of NFS nuclear weapons work in the near term. Yogev continues to work tirelessly to educate his community on the impacts of the use of nuclear weapons, "with respect for my elders and mentors, I walk in their footsteps and put my hope in youth, like myself, to carry the torch of progress together.”
This is the fourth time that the Voices Gorbachev/Shultz Legacy Youth Award has been given. The first Voices Youth Award was given in 2020 to the President and Founder of Green Hope Foundation, Kehkashan Basu, a UN Human Rights Champion who has been named as one of the Top100 SDG Leaders in the world. The second award was given in 2021 to Sahil Shah, a Policy Fellow at the European Leadership Network and former Policy and Outreach Consultant to the Office of the Executive Secretary at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). In 2023, the third award was given to Youth Fusion of Abolition 2000 for their leadership in advancing inter-generational cooperation on peace and disarmament, human rights aspects of the nuclear arms race, and for their innovative and interactive methods to engage youth in nuclear disarmament issues.
Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons is part of United Religions Initiative, the largest grassroots interfaith network in the world. URI builds bridges by encouraging members to work together on practical projects that enhance civil communities and promote understanding between people of different religious and cultural traditions. URI has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. At present, URI has 1141 Cooperation Circles in 110 countries, with over one million members.
The award will formally be presented to Yogev Von Kundra on September 26, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.