While the months of August are usually prone to long vacations around the United Nations, this year has been remarkably busy and full of activity, with more to come. At the end of July, the UN General Assembly hosted a plenary meeting on the Conference on Disarmament, to determine what should be done with the negotiating body that hasn’t conducted negotiations since 1996. The result: some governments want to reform the CD, others don’t. Some want to take negotiations outside the body, others don’t. This year’s UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security will likely address this issue further—hopefully settling the matter so that the CD’s 2012 session is not another empty year. A full report of this plenary meeting is available from RCW.
During the first week of August, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held its international Congress in San José, Costa Rica. Women from around the world came to discuss the organization’s programme and priorities for the coming years, leading up to WILPF’s 100th anniversary which will be celebrated in 2015 in The Hague. A summary of the meeting is below and a full report will be available soon.
Finally, for the rest of this month, Reaching Critical Will staff and interns will be busy preparing for the upcoming 66th session of the UN General Assembly. The general debate will begin on 21 September; the high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security will be 22 September; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Article XIV Conference will be 23 September; and First Committee begins on 3 October. Please see below for details on NGO participation in some of these events. Furthermore, RCW has been doing research and writing for the second NPT action plan monitoring report, on non-proliferation, due out in September 2011.
In anticipation of the high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Reaching Critical Will is coordinating a civil society report on nuclear power, which will incorporate views from NGOs from around the world. This report will be released online in early September so check the website!
Ray Acheson, Project Director
WILPF Statement on the 66th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On 6 and 9 August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. WILPF deplored these bombings and pays respect to the victims of this atrocity every year. In March this year, WILPF also expressed its grief for the loss of life and devastation in Japan resulting from the disaster at its Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. It is a terrible tragedy that the very nation that sustained and survived an attack with nuclear weapons is today sustaining more radiation exposure and contamination.
The development, manufacture, testing, deployment, and sharing of nuclear weapons continues today. The threat of the use of these weapons still exists. The arms race is continuing.
All of the states that currently possess nuclear weapons have plans to modernize these weapons in the coming decades. The Obama administration has committed to spend $185 billion dollars over the next 20 years to modernize the US nuclear arsenal and delivery systems and the facilities used to build these weapons. He made this commitment in exchange for US Senate ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. For a minimal arms control treaty, the administration in essence pushed the possibility of nuclear disarmament off the US agenda for any foreseeable future. This also provides cover for other states to keep their nuclear weapons and for others to acquire them.
This commitment to invest further in nuclear weapons comes at a time of global economic crisis. It is a classic, heartbreaking example of wasted financial and human resources. The money and scientific effort could be better put to use in creating jobs, building homes and schools, providing health care, developing renewable energy technologies, and so much more.
Nuclear weapons do not exist in a vacuum. They are inherently linked to the pursuit of corporate profits over human security, political corruption and secrecy, environmental devastation, negative effects to health of human bodies, especially women’s bodies, and the undermining of human security, collective international security, and peace. Nuclear weapons are in violation
Many governments still accord political and economic “value” to nuclear weapons. This value must be dispelled by dismantling the myth of nuclear deterrence and by highlighting nuclear weapons’ incompatibility with international law.
WILPF calls on all nuclear weapon possessors to cease their plans for the modernization of their nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and related infrastructure as a step toward the good faith pursuit of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapon free world. WILPF calls upon these governments to redirect funds spent on nuclear weapons to meet human and environmental needs and to pursue policies that are consistent with achieving nuclear disarmament.
WILPF also expresses solidarity with the people of Ganjeong, South Korea in their struggle to stop the construction of a military naval base which is designed to host US Aegis destroyers that will carry missile “defence” systems. Military bases are a visible structure of militarism and imperialism; they undermine more constructive forms international cooperation and engagement; and they perpetuate militarism and military spending. On 6 August 2011, WILPF stands with the local villagers and their international supporters facing the power of the military to protect their homes, livelihoods, the environment, and peace.
This statement is also available online in HTML and PDF.
WILPF message of solidarity to the villagers of Jeju Island
From its International Congress in San José, Costa Rica, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) expresses solidarity with the people of Ganjeong on Jeju Island, South Korea in their struggle to stop the construction of the naval base. Military bases are a visible structure of militarism and imperialism; they waste economic resources of the “home” country and destroy environmental, social, political, and financial resources of the “host” country; and they undermine the lives and livelihoods of local people. Violence against women and girls around military bases is a particularly aggravated problem that results from the interconnections of militarism, imperialism, racism, and sexism. Overseas bases also undermine more constructive forms international cooperation and engagement and perpetuate militarism and military spending.
On 6 August 2011, WILPF lends its voice to the local villagers and their international supporters standing up to the power of the military to protect their homes, livelihoods, the environment, and peace. On a day that we have marked every year since 1945, deploring that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, we take strength in knowing that the struggle for peace and against militarism continues all over the world.
Also see Gloria Steinem, “The Arms Race Intrudes on Paradise,” New York Times, 6 August 2011; Christine Ahn, “Unwanted Missiles for a Korean Island,” New York Times, 5 August 2011; and the WILPF Statement on Jeju Island and the Naval Base, 8 June 2011.
For more information about the naval base and Jeju Island, please see www.savejejuisland.org.
Summary of WILPF Congress 2011
30 July–6 August 2011, San José, Costa Rica
Women, Peace, and Security—Transforming the agenda
“Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.” - Jane Addams
From 30 July–6 August 2011, women from around the world gathered together for the WILPF International Congress in San José, Costa Rica. WILPF , the oldest women’s peace organisation in the world, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015 when women peace activists will meet in The Hague again to honour and reaffirm the work and principles of their foremothers in promoting peace. This meeting in Costa Rica was the last official Congress—the highest decision making body of WILPF and the final authority—before the centennial event. Over 120 peace women travelled from twenty-four countries to discuss the theme “Women, Peace and Security—Transforming the agenda” and the work of WILPF members, sections, and international secretariat.
With great enthusiasm, the 2011 Congress formally endorsed five new WILPF sections—Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Spain, Mexico, and Pakistan—and recognized the innovative and strategic work that these groups have been doing on redefining security and advancing women as peacemakers. The Congress also adopted 11 resolutions, the international programme of work 2011–2015, and several statements. In addition to officially reviewing the work of organisation and its future direction, operational issues were dealt with including the election of the new executive committee and formation of new standing committees and working groups.
The new Executive Committee was elected with overwhelming support for the new International President, Adilia Caravaca (Costa Rica). Other elected officers include: Kerstin Grebäck (Sweden), Dr. Ila Pathak (India), Neelima Sinha (India), Martha-Jean Baker (UK) (Vice Presidents), and Nancy Ramsden (USA) (Treasurer). The outgoing Executive Committee and the out-going Co-presidents, Annelise Ebbe and Kerstin Grebäck, were thanked for their work.
This was a special Congress with the dynamic new Secretary General, Madeleine Rees, at the helm. She inspired and challenged the meeting to be creative, focused, and impactful. Madeleine articulated the integrated vision for WILPF 2011-2015 in an inspiring presentation that included personal anecdotes and her motivation for joining the WILPF movement. She described the integrated approach as a sort of “WILPF jigsaw” —where the many pieces of WILPF work fit together to form the whole. Directors of WILPF’s two Projects, Ray Acheson (Reaching Critical Will) and Maria Butler (PeaceWomen), presented their respective work and objectives to the Congress and were enthusiastically received by the WILPF members gathered in Costa Rica.
The Congress agenda was packed with discussions on WILPF themes and strategies for moving forward. Workshops and roundtables allowed for maximum participation and covered issues such as: environment; nuclear power and nuclear weapons; food sovereignty and security; UN Security Council resolution 1325; and armed violence against women. Young WILPFers (known as Y-WILPFers) also played a significant role in this Congress and organised the Gertrud Baer Seminar and workshops.
The resolutions adopted reflect WILPF position on the Arms Trade Treaty; forced migration; UN Women; nuclear weapons; UNSCR 1325 National Action Plans; the high-level meeting on the Durban Declaration; on the situations in the Middle East and Nepal; women in the Arab Spring; and on Costa Rican militarization.
Participatants also had a private viewing of The Whistleblower, a movie in which Madeleine, then head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia, is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave. Following the screening of this horrific story, which takes place in the late 1990s when trafficking was at its height, Madeleine shared with WILPFers her experiences, the challenges and problems of human trafficking, sexual slavery, torture, and the role of UN, corporate contractors, and governments in these complex issues, and how WILPF can make a meaningful impact in this work.
The success of the WILPF Congress 2011 was testimony to the extraordinary Congress Coordinator, Karin Friedrich, and the host, WILPF Costa Rica, and of course the many other WILPF Sections that contributed financially and supported the organising efforts, particularly members of the Congress organization group.
Mrs. Sonia Picado, President of UN Agency on Human Security, was honoured by WILPF Costa Rica and the Congress for her work. Anna Arroba Expert on Gender, Anthropology and Politics of the Body from Costa Rica and Sarah Masters of the International Network of Action on Small Arms (IANSA) made presentation to the Congress on the opening day.
A full report is forthcoming. All final documents will be made available on http://wilpfcongress2011.wordpress.com/
UN General Assembly plenary on the Conference on Disarmament
At the request of 49 member states, the UN General Assembly convened three plenary meetings on 27–29 July 2011 under agenda item 162, entitled “Follow-up to the high-level meeting held on 24 September 2010: revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations.” Statements from the meeting are available on the Reaching Critical Will website.
The plenaries acted as a gauge for state positions on the critical issues related to advancing disarmament through multilateralism, such as, should negotiations be pursued outside of the CD? Should the CD itself be reformed? What is the next logical treaty that should be attempted?
An analytical report and a summary of state positions are available from Reaching Critical Will online.
2010 NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report #1: “Peaceful uses of nuclear energy”
On 29 June, Reaching Critical Will presented a monitoring report on the third pillar of the 2010 NPT action plan as a part of a joint project on NPT Action Plan Monitoring. Reaching Critical Will, the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) are cooperating in a project aimed at providing a platform for examining the degree of implementation and operationalisation of the action plan in the three NPT “pillars”. The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the Geneva Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). Similar research reports on the other two pillars will also be released: non-proliferation in September 2011 and nuclear disarmament in January 2012.
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 is hosting a high-level meeting on 22 September 2011 on the margins of the UN General Assembly's sixty-sixth session. The meeting is expected to focus on strengthening the global nuclear safety regime and ensuring maximum nuclear safety standards. The meeting is also expected to entail a serious global debate on broader issues, including assessment of the costs, risks and benefits of nuclear energy and stronger connections between nuclear safety, nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation.
In advance of the high-level meeting, the UN Secretariat will also be releasing a UN system-wide study on nuclear power. Reaching Critical Will is facilitating a parallel civil society study, which is to be released early September. Check back soon for details.
Because of enhanced security measures during the general debate of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly, from 20 to 30 September, and in view of the limited capacity of the conference rooms, members of non-governmental organizations will be permitted access to the overflow room only, Conference Room 5. Their access will be honoured on the basis of the availability of seats in the overflow room and upon verification of valid United Nations passes and appropriate access cards issued for the High-level Meeting. Eligible representatives of nongovernmental organizations wishing to attend the meeting should inform Ms. Soo-Hyun Kim, telephone 917 367 3596, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Article XIV Conference
On 23 September, CTBT state parties will convene the seventh conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Treaty. Reaching Critical Will will monitor the meeting and post documents online. See the website for information on NGO accreditation and registration, as well as an application form for accreditation.
The Article XIV Conferences are opportunities for:
demanding the cessation of nuclear weapon development and modernization whether through explosive testing or any other means;
calling on those states that have not yet signed or ratified the CTBT to join the international consensus to end nuclear testing;
urging states with active nuclear weapon research programmes and test sites to take actions that would reinforce the CTBT and support its goals, such as refraining from activities at test sites that might be construed as CTBT violations, halting research, development and production of nuclear warheads based on modifications of existing designs, that give them new military capabilities;
examining ways and means of removing obstacles that delay entry into force of the CTBT;
supporting the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organisation in Vienna that has made significant progress in setting up the International Monitoring System and International Data Center, so that the CTBT's verification system is ready by the time the treaty enters into force;
condemning any future testing; and
calling upon governments, businesses, and people to take decisive action in reaction to any future testing.
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts
22–26 August 2011 | Geneva, Switzerland
Abolition 2000 Annual General Meeting
16 September 2011 | Geneva, Switzerland
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Conference
17–19 September 2011 | Geneva, Switzerland
UN General Assembly General Debate
21–30 September 2011 | New York City, USA
High-level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security
22 September 2011 | New York City, USA
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Article XIV Conference
23 September 2011 | New York City, USA
UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security
3 October–1 November 2011 | New York City, USA
Keep Space for Peace Week
1–8 October 2011 | Global
Film The Whistleblower opens
On 5 August, a new film that addresses the issue of human trafficking in post-war Bosnia opened in NYC and Los Angeles. The film has been premiering in other locations around the world since then. Starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave (who plays current WILPF Secretary-General Madeleine Rees, who was at the time the head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Bosnia), the film takes a stark look at the involvement of US contractors, UN peacekeepers, and local police in human trafficking. For more information and for release dates, please see the official website. In addition, WILPF has started a campaign against human trafficking, using the film to spearhead its efforts.
Japanese Prime Minster Kan hints at reviewing Japan’s nuclear fuel recycle policy
“We should hold discussions without making any prejudgment on whether we will proceed with the existing plan or review it,” Kan told a House of Representatives Budget Committee session. “I would like to begin full-fledged discussions on this since it is linked to our basic energy policy,” Kan said. The premier made his remark when asked by an opposition lawmaker if the government intends to halt the policy which includes the development of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, after he recently said the country should gradually reduce its reliance on nuclear power. The reactor is key to the state’s nuclear fuel cycle policy using plutonium extracted through reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. (Source: “Kan hints at reviewing Japan’s nuclear fuel recycle policy,” Kyodo, 20 July 2011)
Hiroshima Peace Declaration, 6 August 2011
Nagasaki Peace Declaration, 9 August 2011
Amy Goodman, “From Hiroshima to Fukushima: Japan’s atomic tragedies,” The Guardian, 10 August 2011.
Gloria Steinem, “The Arms Race Intrudes on Paradise,” New York Times, 6 August 2011.