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In the lead-up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, MacArthur and other U.S. foundations supported civil society organizations working to reduce the risk from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Scientific convenings and research from grantees such as Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology helped seed support for new policy efforts to reduce nuclear threats.

A key example of this important work was Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR). The CTR program started in 1991 with what is known as the Nunn-Lugar Act, co-sponsored by Senators Sam Nunn, a Democrat from Georgia, and Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana. The Act authorized $400 million to fund the destruction, dismantling, and security of weapons of mass destruction—including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons—in the former Soviet states.

Though it faced initial opposition, evidence from MacArthur-supported studies helped generate the will and votes to pass the bill. In this video, Senator Nunn—now Co-Chair of the board at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a MacArthur grantee—discusses his work on the act and the essential role that evidence and cooperation played in bringing it to fruition.


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