After a brief hiatus from the E-News during October due to First Committee, we’re back with lots of information about what we’ve been doing and what’s coming up next.
At this year’s First Committee, states had an opportunity to shake things up at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which hasn’t negotiated a treaty since 1996. Unfortunately, after much dialogue and debate, the Committee was only able to adopt a baseline resolution that seeks to explore and consolidate options for moving forward. A more ambitious proposal was withdrawn before it went to a vote.
In the words of former Canadian Ambassador Paul Meyer, the outcome means states decided to “kick the can down the road” and hope that “maybe something will happen to get us out of this mess” over the next year. He noted, “The metallic sound of tin scraping against asphalt echoed along First Avenue only briefly.”
As we look ahead to the upcoming NPT review cycle, among other things, this can-kicking syndrome must be overcome. A can kicked too far for too long becomes dented beyond repair; it may even disintegrate. This is not a viable strategy for enhancing international security, to say the least. Civil society is working vigorously to deal with priority issues immediately, whether its preventing the construction of a new nuclear weapon facility in New Mexico or the construction of a naval base on an island of peace. RCW looks forward to keeping you informed and connected as we strive for concrete, immediate action and results.
Ray Acheson, Project Director
UN General Assembly First Committee concludes
The 66th session of the UNGA’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security concluded on Monday, 31 October 2011. Reaching Critical Will monitored the month-long deliberations and action on resolution. Resources can be found on our website:
First Committee Monitor
Draft resolutions, voting results, and explanations of vote
Other papers and documents
There was much anticipation this year that the General Assembly would take responsibility for the failure of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the Geneva-based multilateral negotiating body, to engage in substantive work since 1996. Several delegations floated various resolutions to this end:
The draft resolution submitted by Austria, Mexico, and Norway (L.21/Rev.1) put the CD on notice: it urged the CD to adopt and implement a programme of work next year, but it also had a contingency plan: for the General Assembly’s 2012 session to consider alternatives for beginning substantive work on all four issues on the CD’s agenda.
The draft resolution submitted by the Netherlands, South Africa, and Switzerland (L.39) did not provide a mechanism for initiating work this year or next but instead seeks to slowly explore and consolidate options for moving forward.
The Canadian delegation’s resolution (L.40**) seeks only to begin work on a fissile materials treaty and it does not have a mechanism for triggering negotiations on this treaty at any particular time. It resolves to “consider options” for negotiations at the 67th General Assembly session if the CD fails to do so during its 2012 session.
After fifteen years, it is gravely disappointing that the majority of delegations could not reach agreement on a more robust proposal that actually seeks to begin substantive work within a reasonable time frame. It is even more alarming that many of the states opposed to such a proposal are some of the same states that claim to have as their highest priority the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time frame.
These delegations expect such negotiations to take place inside the CD, yet they demand preservation of the consensus rule, which the nuclear weapon possessors have been using as an instrument of veto for the last fifteen years. They demand nuclear disarmament, yet hold it hostage to the preservation of an institution established during an intense period of arms racing. They call for efforts to revitalize the CD through strong political will—the ingredient that many states argue is missing—yet do not seem to have the will themselves to consider alternatives. They accuse the draft resolutions dealing with the CD as distracting from the “core task” of CD member states, which is to forge consensus on a “balanced” programme of work that gives equal treatment to the four “core” issues. However, this task has been attempted for fifteen years to no avail—which has in fact distracted from the CD’s real core task, which is to negotiate disarmament treaties.
In reality, it is the non-nuclear weapon possessors to which the stalemate does the most damage, as Algeria’s delegation pointed out last week. Yet many non-nuclear weapon states, including Algeria, continue to argue that the consensus rule is a way of protecting national security interests of all states at the same level and not simply the most powerful among them. But the nuclear weapon possessors are the only states using this rule as a veto. Thus it protects those that possess nuclear weapons, which they use as an instrument of power in their relations with other states.
The nuclear weapon possessors, a tiny minority of countries, benefit from the stalemate in the CD. The decision of certain non-nuclear weapon states to block proposals for beginning substantive work on the issues they purportedly care most about would only seem to harm their own interests. Nuclear disarmament, prevention of an arms race in outer space—these are not priorities for nuclear weapon possessors. But possessor states, and the coffers of their military-industrial complexes, are the ones that benefit from the failure of the General Assembly to adopt L.21/Rev.1 or even more robust proposals for beginning substantive work on disarmament. Indeed, as a new study by the British American Security Information Council has found, the coming decade will see “new nuclear arms races and a huge amount of money (hundreds of billions of US$) being spent” on nuclear weapons.
“Since joining the CD in 1996, Austria has never seen one day of substantive negotiations there,” remarked Ambassador Strohal during First Committee’s debate on disarmament machinery. “We are being told that security interests are at stake, as if the negotiation of disarmament treaties were a threat. It is particularly odd that this argument is used by states with nuclear weapons in their arsenals.” However, he argued, we know that “the negotiation of disarmament treaties increases the security of the international community at large, especially of the vast majority of states not possessing nuclear weapons.”
Some questions thus arising from this year’s First Committee are: Why is the CD, an institution whose rules of procedure and limited membership undermine collective security, so revered by some of the non-nuclear weapon states? What benefit do they derive from the continued stalemate? They may be concerned about losing an institution historically identified with nuclear disarmament, without having anything solid to replace it. However, such worries should be outweighed by the costs of continuing indefinitely with the status quo.
The ever present question that plagues any attempt to move forward, given the lack of political will to a) negotiate on any of the four core issues; b) establish an alternative process or structure for such negotiations; and/or c) abandon the four core issue approach and focus on one encompassing treaty such as a nuclear weapons convention: If there is no will, where is the way?
Civil society and many non-nuclear weapon states grow weary of calls for political will. The mantra has been repeated for fifteen years and we are no closer to nuclear disarmament. In fact, that goal becomes more elusive as modernization programmes are put into place, as billions of dollars are sunk into the weapons laboratories, and as states around the world continue to shelter under nuclear umbrellas and include the potential use of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines. The continued economic, political, and security investments in nuclear weapons undermines the development of collective security. The failure of the General Assembly to accept responsibility for and initiative substantive work on nuclear disarmament doesn’t just mean that international agreements prohibiting such weapons do not exist but that sustainable security itself becomes increasingly unobtainable. “It is not just the disarmament process that is put into question,” argued Mr. Hermoso of the Philippines, “but the multilateral process as a whole is at stake.”
High-level meeting on nuclear safety and security
In response to the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan in March 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a high-level meeting on 22 September 2011 on the margins of the UN General Assembly's sixty-sixth session. The meeting focused on strengthening the global nuclear safety regime and ensuring maximum nuclear safety standards. Read RCW’s full report on the meeting and see government statements online.
In advance of the high-level meeting, the UN Secretariat released a UN system-wide study on nuclear power. RCW provided anassessment of the UN study.
Reaching Critical Will also facilitated a global civil society study on nuclear power, which was released on 11 September, six months after the disaster at Fukushima. The study, Costs, risks, and myths of nuclear power, is a collaborative work of non-governmental researchers, scientists, and activists. It was released on 11 September 2011, six months after the disaster at Fukushima. The report includes civil society analysis of nuclear power infrastructure and government policies from around the world. It also articulates arguments against the common myths of nuclear power in its relationship to safety, the environment, renewable energy, climate change, economics, and more.
At the high-level meeting on 22 September, the majority of delegations that took the floor reiterated the importance of nuclear power for meeting their countries’ energy needs, while the countries that have rejected nuclear power because of its dangers to human health and the environment were too reserved about criticizing the continued use of nuclear power as a form of energy or about countering claims that it can ever be safe, clean, or economical.
Most participating delegations concluded that nuclear power remains a viable option for meeting their energy needs, though several others (including Austria, Germany, Greece, and Ireland) have rejected nuclear power and are looking to renewable energy and energy efficiency as the key to a safe and sustainable future.
Most delegations highlighted the international nature of nuclear disasters and the effects on the environment and human health, though many still reiterated that the decision to develop nuclear energy is a sovereign one.
The vast majority of participating delegations supported strengthening global nuclear safety measures and mechanisms; strengthening the role of the IAEA in nuclear safety; and developing further international coordination in disaster preparedness and response.
Several states indicated they would be willing to submit to “peer review” inspections of their nuclear facilities, including France.
Most states recognized that public confidence in nuclear power has been shaken by Fukushima and acknowledged the need to improve transparency in all aspects of nuclear power. However, several delegations seemed to think that the main goal is to “reassure” the public that nuclear power is safe and clean rather than actually listening to their population’s demands for cessation of use or development of nuclear power.
Norway’s delegation argued that nuclear safety cannot be dealt with in isolation from nuclear security, non-proliferation, and disarmament and that nuclear safety efforts will be complementary to efforts to promote a world free of nuclear weapons.
Brazil railed against nuclear weapons as a source of global insecurity and P5 privilege.
The Marshall Islands called for remediation of the affects of nuclear weapons testing to which its population was subjected.
The Secretary-General made several suggestions for action, including:
forwarding his final summary to the General Assembly plenary, the Fourth Committee, the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, and the 2012 NPT preparatory committee;
having the General Assembly ensure that the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has all the necessary capacity and resources to accomplish its task;
encouraging the 2012 NPT preparatory committee to consider allocating specific time to discuss nuclear safety and security;
urging all states to become party to and to implement all relevant international nuclear safety and security instruments;
recommending that the preparatory process for Rio+20 consider addressing nuclear safety and security issues;
asking the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to study ways to enhance capacity of its members in order to strengthen the link between the international nuclear response system and the international humanitarian coordination system; and
encouraging the G8 to further develop its nuclear safety and security initiatives, taking into account the issues raised by the Fukushima disaster.
2012 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee
Preparations for the next NPT review cycle will soon begin. The first Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) will be held in Vienna from 30 April to 11 May 2012. Information on NGO accreditation will be released in February 2012. In the meantime, there are two things you can do if you’re interested in participating in the PrepCom:
Exhibition space in the building in which the PrepCom will be held is extremely limited and arrangements need to made months in advance. If you have been anticipating creating an exhibit, firstname.lastname@example.org please contact RCW immediately.
Whether or not you are planning to attend the PrepCom, consider getting involved in drafting civil society presentations to the meeting. NGOs are generally allocated time to address PrepCom delegates in an official meeting. You can subscribe to the listserv we use to draft presentations by going to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/npt_presentations.
Information on hosting side events, attending the PrepCom, and more will be available in early 2012, so please stay tuned to the RCW E-News for details.
RCW publication: 2010 NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report #2
On 29 September 2011, Reaching Critical Will presented its monitoring report on the second pillar of the 2010 NPT action plan as a part of a joint project on NPT Action Plan Monitoring together with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
In this second report, Reaching Critical Will has reviewed the implementation of the actions on non-proliferation contained in the 2010 action plan. A report on nuclear energy was released in June 2011, and a report on nuclear disarmament will be released in January 2012.
Edited by Beatrice Fihn • Research by Beatrice Fihn, Mia Gandenberger, and Gabriella Irsten
Update on Jeju Island
The government of the Republic of Korea is currently constructing a naval base on Jeju Island, officially named the “Island of World Peace”. The base will be one of the largest in the world and is located just under 300 miles from the Chinese mainland. It will be home to both US and ROK warships, including 20 large destroyers, two aircraft carriers, two nuclear submarines, the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, and 6,000 soldiers. At this moment many activists and even the democratically elected mayor are in prison for rejecting this dangerous and illegal military project.
A recent report from Macgregor Eddy, WILPF US and the Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons and Power in Space, indicates that nine people were arrested on 7 and 8 November (all released now). Three activists were illegally arrested during their silent protest at the Shilla hotel where the Tenth United Nations-Republic of Korea (UN-ROK) Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation was being held. All were released on 9 November along with an activist who has been arrested inside the naval base business committee in the morning of same day on different charge.
The UN-ROK conference was held on Jeju Island from 7–8 November 2011. This year’s topic was on “The Past and Future of Disarmament and Non-proliferation.” Eddy notes, “It is ironic that the very disarmament conference was held at the Shilla hotel that is owned by the Samsung, one of the main Jeju naval base construction companies and about 5min. car distance from the very site of the enforced base construction, the Gangjeong village.”
She further reports on the action taken by protestors at the conference:
On the morning of Nov. 7, Han Jung-Ae, one of our colleagues held the yellow banner that read ‘no naval base,’ in silence inside the conference room. Her activity was soon deterred by the conference host staffs.
In the afternoon of that same day, the Gangjeong villagers and peace activists had a press interview near the conference room to demand the prompt stop of illegal naval base construction, pointing out that any true disarmament conference should pay attention to the base construction and the purpose of disarmament conference should not go together with the NUCLEAR naval base. In a sign, a connection between Hillary Clinton and Lockheed Martin was also emphasized.
In the evening of that same day, two activists-Park Yun-Ae and Benji D’amour attempted to distribute the leaflets to the conference participants who gathered at the governor Woo’s dinner invitation party.
And on Nov. 8, five activists arrived to the hotel to have a silent protest around 11am. Kang Young-Sil entered the conference room and held the banner as Han did on Nov. 7. She was then asked to leave the room by conference host staff and held the banner again outside the room along with Dr. Song Kang-Ho and Choi Sung-Hee.
When hotel workers demanded them to leave, saying it is the private property of the Shilla hotel, the three demanded to let them enter the conference room because the conference was about not private matters but about human beings in the world, held by the U.N. and ROK government and paid by South Koreans’ tax.
As the three continuously insisted, the hotel called the police. The police, saying that they are arresting them as criminals taken in an act of crime, since they refused to respond to hotel’s demand to leave the hotel, violently caught an arm of Dr. Song Kang-Ho at the same time.
There was no Miranda notice. The warning was done at the same time of arrest without giving the three to decide on the matter of their leave or not. Since the arrest procedure was done illegally and violently, the three protested. Still the police officers, all male, violently dealt with Dr. Song, causing his clothes [to tear and wounding his leg].
When Sung-Hee Choi continuously protested them in words, they even threatened her that they can charge her with ‘obstruction of business,’ and ‘special obstruction of government affairs.’ The police also threatened a peace activist who was taking photos and Benjamin D’armour who protested the police, alongside Kang and Choi.
About 30 minutes after Dr. Song’s was taken away to the Seogwipo police station, she and Kang Youngsil were also carried to it, by the female police who arrived later.
The three, in protest to the illegal arrest held the silence protest or denied most of police investigation inquires except for saying the arrest itself was illegal.
The three were carried to the Dongbu police station in the Jeju city around 6pm on the day and finally released at 7pm on Nov. 8. The charge applied to them was ‘refusal to leave.’
They were joined by Mr. Park Sung-Soo (called Dungree, filmmaker) who have been arrested in the morning inside the naval base construction business committee to where he entered to protest on the human rights violation on a woman reporter who has filed a suit to the national human rights committee, against the navy who used the slanders of sexual harassment and prevented the free activity on news reporting by commanding her to remove all the photos in her camera. The charge applied to him was ‘violation of domicile.’
The illegal and indiscriminate arrests on the villagers and activists are continuing despite people’s indictment of the navy and police and protest against it.
Other recent articles and news
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) welcomes three new members, all ROK activists on the Jeju Island issue: Youn-Ae Park, Regina Pyon, and Sung-Hee Choi!
The mayor of Gangjeong village, where the naval base is being constructed, joined Mayors for Peace while in police custody in August 2011.
Noam Chomsky and Matthew Hoey have written an article published in Japan Today: “Planned naval base on Jeju Island has security implications for Asia,” 13 October 2011.
Al Jazeera has a documentary video about the Jeju Island naval base struggle.
16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence 2011
16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence is a global campaign initiated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership. This year it will take place from 25 November to 10 December 2011. WILPF’s mission, values, and strategy are particularly related to this year’s 16 Days Campaign theme, which is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”
In 2011 the WILPF 16 Days of Activism campaign will centre around the slogan: “Blow the Whistle to Redefine Security”. During the 16 days campaign, WILPF will be calling for reduction of military spending, the redefining of security, and the challenging of those profiting from conflict. Our campaign is directly related to the theme of this year as it focuses on peace and security in relation to women and the society at large. 16 WILPF national sections around the world (in all regions) will take part in the campaign. For examples of actions that will be taking place in WILPF sections and more information on the campaign, please see WILPF’s PeaceWomen project.
IANSA publication: Why Women? Effective Engagement for Small Arms Control
Why Women? Effective Engagement for Small Arms Control
Author: Corey Barr with Sarah Masters
Publisher: IANSA Women’s Network
Given the ongoing questions and challenges to women’s participation in peace and security, this publication aims to show why it is important to include women in small arms control and disarmament initiatives by consolidating information and opinions from experts on gender and security issues.
It is based on interviews with 17 practitioners from around the world as well as a review of relevant materials and documents. The publication includes sections on: Recognising existing engagement and leadership; Taking into account the various roles promoting gun violence/undermining peace and security; Better understanding the problem; Making programmes more effective; Democratising peace and security; Challenges; and Areas for action.
The publication is available online at:
Note: Among those interviewed include WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees, WILPF DRC President Annie Matundu, and WILPF-Reaching Critical Will Director Ray Acheson.
Fourth Review Conference of Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)
14–25 November 2011 | Geneva, Switzerland
IAEA Board of Governors
17–18 November 2011 | Vienna, Austria
Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty
28 November – 2 December 2011 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Seventh Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
5 –22 December 2011 | Geneva, Switzerland
NGO in New Mexico files second lawsuit to halt proposed $6 billion bomb factory
The Los Alamos Study Group filed a second lawsuit under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) seeking accurate, up-to-date analyses of the feasibility and impacts of alternatives to a proposed $6 billion plutonium building at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The building, the “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement” (CMRR) Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), was first proposed in 1999, when it had with an estimated price tag of $375 million. Since then the CMRR project has evolved in stages into a sprawling $4.5 to $6.5 billion endeavor involving two new main buildings, demolition of an existing one, and many sub-projects spread across 14 technical areas at LANL. Today’s CMRR-NF (by far the largest structure in the CMRR project) would store up to six metric tons of plutonium—enough to rebuild the entire U.S. strategic arsenal—and would have up to 300 kilograms of this difficult material in process. Estimated CMRR costs have ballooned by a factor of ten since Congress first approved the project as a line item in 2004. Even now, after appropriations of more than $458 million for the CMRR-NF building alone there is no firm cost estimate for it, no completed design, and no clear explanation of its missions.
Last August the Study Group filed a lawsuit in the New Mexico federal district court seeking a fresh environmental review of the much-changed CMRR project. In response, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) promised to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and to hold back initial construction until the SEIS was completed. After extensive briefing in the case, Judge Judith Herrera dismissed the case in May in anticipation of the final SEIS, which she thought might resolve the NEPA compliance issues. In her opinion, Judge Herrera suggested the Study Group file a second lawsuit after the SEIS process was completed, should a controversy remain. Today’s filing is that lawsuit. The Study Group is also diligently pursuing review of Judge Herrera’s decision in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Local businesses in Santa Fe are also opposing the proposed facility, expressing concern about negative impacts from the lab's long-range role in expanding nuclear weapons production.
NASA intends to launch a Mars rover fueled with plutonium
Activists are concerned that a launch accident could lead to the dispersal of the Curiosity rover’s 10.6 pounds of plutonium. Previous Mars rovers have been solar powered. NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission says a launch accident discharging plutonium has a 1-in-420 chance of happening and could “release material into the regional area defined … to be within … 62 miles of the launch pad.” The EIS says “overall” on the mission, the likelihood of plutonium being released is just 1-in-220. The EIS says the cost of decontamination of areas affected by the plutonium would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.” The mission itself has a cost of $2.5 billion.
In an article on the planned launch, Karl Grossman indicates some suggested actions. Pax Christi Tampa Bay is asking people to call, email or write NASA and state “that until they can launch spacecraft without nuclear materials aboard, they should not launch at all.” Also, it is calling for people to contact the White House “and tell President Obama that Curiosity should stay safely on the ground until it can be launched without threatening us and future generations.” A petition to the White House—“Cancel the Launch of the Mars Rover Curiosity by NASA Which is Powered by Dangerous Plutonium-238”—has also been put up on the Internet for people to sign.
Protests over nuclear power in India continue
M.V. Ramana and Suvrat Raju, “A nuclear chain reaction,” The Times of India: The Crest Edition, 24 September 2011.
Praful Bidwai, “India: People’s power vs. nuclear power,” The Daily Star, 17 October 2011.
Praful Bidwai, “Low-level nuclear deception,” The News International, 12 November 2011.
M.V. Ramana and Suvrat Raju, “Why Kudankulam is untenable,” The Hindu, 12 November 2011.
Belgium aims to phase out nuclear power by 2025
Belgium’s main political parties have reached an agreement to shut down the country’s two nuclear power plants on the condition that they can find alternative sources of energy to prevent energy shortages.
Guido Westerwelle, “Germany Can Do Without Nuclear Power,” The Wall Street Journal, 22 September 2011.
“A-bomb survivors question world’s reliance on nuclear energy,” The Mainichi Daily News, 27 October 2011.