2011 has been an incredible year so far. The Middle East and North Africa have seen revolts against the economic and social inequalities induced by neoliberal capitalism and sustained by corrupt regimes. There have been massive earthquakes in New Zealand and workers-rights protests in Wisconsin, USA. And now the world is watching in horror as the consequences of the converging crises of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown continue unfolding in Japan.
Our world is being shocked by the ongoing effects of natural and capitalist disasters. But governments and civil society around the globe have the opportunity to significantly alter our excessively militarized, over-consuming, socially and economically inequitable world to one that promotes just and fair economic policy, sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy, and nonviolent settlement of conflicts.
The UN Security Council’s decision to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and to use force in order to protect civilians demonstrates the failings of our current world order, wherein an internationally unregulated arms trade allowed the Libyan government to acquire weapons to use against civilians; wherein legal national and international mechanisms to protect civilians have been supplemented by military action; wherein the international community’s response to the crisis is armed force. With different international priorities and mechanisms, different options would have been available to prevent or respond to this crisis.
On 12 April, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) will release its figures on global military spending for 2010. It is anticipated that the known military expenditure SIRPI is able to track (which does not account for all such spending) will be at least 1.6 trillion USD. While military expenditure increases every year—including during this current economic crisis—investments in conflict resolution, peace building, and development lag far behind.
In response to the release of SIPRI’s figures, civil society groups around the world will be holding events to mark a Global Day of Action on Military Spending. Many governments and NGOs have already offered strong suggestions on how to reduce military spending and set up alternative forms of cooperative security arrangements that don’t require wasting trillions of dollars on weapons that could never help address the problems we’re facing now and that will get worse in the future, like climate change and food shortages. Unfortunately, our current projected path means that the only possible response to these challenges is going to more weapons and more war. We need to start changing this path now, because soon, it will be too late.
Ray Acheson, RCW Project Director
Japan’s nuclear crisis
WILPF released the following statement on 15 March 2011: The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) grieves for the loss of life and devastation. WILPF women from all over the world express support and solidarity to our WILPF sisters and the people of Japan. We are deeply concerned for those missing, wounded and traumatized people who face risk of disease and aftershocks.
As radiation releases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility have daily increased, so too has our profound concern for future generations. Radiation is long lasting and has inter-generational effects, as the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki know only too well. It is a terrible tragedy that the very nation that sustained and survived an attack with nuclear weapons is today sustaining radiation exposure and contamination.
Recently a statement was made by a group of Hibakusha—A-Bomb Survivors from Japan who have been appointed by the Japanese Prime Minister as “Special Communicators”. They asserted that radiation, whatever its source, is a major threat to humanity and the environment and called for phasing out all sources of radiation—from uranium mining, nuclear reactors, nuclear accidents, nuclear weapons development and testing, and nuclear waste—and for investment in renewable, clean energy for a sustainable future. WILPF endorses this call.
Because it has always been the most expensive and most dangerous way to boil water to turn a turbine, because the potential for catastrophe inherent in nuclear energy has always been apparent, WILPF has always opposed nuclear energy. The devastating situation in Japan should not have been necessary to wake people and governments up to the truth about radiation and the truth about the dangers inherent in nuclear energy.
We must also face the economic truth. Nuclear power is not cheap. The nuclear industry has received enormous government subsidies—paid for by the taxpayer—for underwriting of construction, liability caps and insurance for clean up and health costs. By providing massive direct and indirect public funding, the nuclear industry has taken what could have been invested in renewable and clean energy.
The value of uranium stocks has plummeted by more than 1.5 billion USD in response to Fukushima. Anti-nuclear rallies have erupted in Germany and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to inspect the country’s reactors and hold a special nuclear summit with other European leaders. In the United States, senators have called for a moratorium on the construction and licensing of new nuclear power facilities. The EU energy chief Günther Oettinger has said that Europe should consider whether it can meet its energy needs without nuclear power. In fact the whole world must meet its energy needs without nuclear.
WILPF urges all governments to cease plans to construct new nuclear power reactors; to stop mining uranium; to phase-out nuclear power in their energy mixes; and to refrain from promoting nuclear power as a means to combat climate change. Governments should accelerate and enlarge their support for the development of renewable and non-carbon emitting sources of energy and for energy conservation. They should join the International Renewable Energy Agency to work towards a rapid transition to the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy worldwide.
International Women’s Day Seminar: women and disarmament
On 7 March 2011, WILPF hosted its annual International Women’s Day seminar on disarmament. This year, the seminar focused onUnited Nations General Assembly resolution 65/69 on “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control,” which was adopted without a vote in 2010. Participants discussed the importance of including the women, peace, and security agenda within the international security agenda in general, and in the disarmament and arms control agenda in particular. This approach has received increased attention during recent years, but the international security community often ignores the importance of gender in discussions on disarmament. The seminar had speakers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom, who all highlighted the linkages between women, peace, security, and disarmament in their national and regional contexts. They emphasized the problems that ever-increasing militarism causes for human security and for women in particular.
Seminar participants also produced a statement delivered on 8 March to the Conference on Disarmament, which called for every disarmament and arms control measure to “make a contribution to preventing armed conflict, preventing the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, and seriously reducing the culture and economy of militarism.” The statement explains:
In a world of increasing economic inequalities and political instabilities, and shrinking natural resources and environmental deterioration, weapons continue to be tools of violence and oppression for those that use them and tools of financial gain for those who make and sell them. The Conference on Disarmament must help realize the mandate of article 26 of the UN Charter, which demands “the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources” through “the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments.” Right now, negotiations on an arms trade treaty are ongoing at the UN General Assembly, but article 26 goes beyond the mere regulation of the arms trade to the regulation of armaments themselves. It foresees a redirection of military expenditure, implying that the system of regulation will afford security by other means.
A full report on the seminar will be available soon on the WILPF website.
Getting to an arms trade treaty
The second preparatory committee of the UN negotiating conference on an arms trade treaty (ATT) concluded on Friday, 4 March 2011 after a week of deliberations on specific elements on the potential treaty. Delegations thoroughly debated scope (types of weapons and activities to be covered by the treaty), criteria and parameters (upon which arms transfer decisions would be based), and provisions forinternational cooperation and assistance, including victim assistance. Towards the end of the week, the Chair of the PrepCom, Ambassador Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, released a revised Chair’s draft paper.
Reaching Critical Will, along with Global Action to Prevent War, Oxfam International, and the International Action Network on Small Arms, provided joint monitoring and analysis through a blog and a daily printed digest, the ATT Monitor. RCW also posted statementsand other primary documents online. You can track the progression of the dialogue through these resources.
On the first day of the PrepCom, Reaching Critical Will outlined some key points of WILPF’s position on a future ATT, which it will further elaborate before the next PrepCom in July 2011. In addition, WILPF Sweden explained the relationship between the ATT, women, and gender. Our colleagues from other NGOs also contributed arguments for why the treaty should include ammunition, victim assistance, a gender perspective, and more. This joint reporting and analysis project will continue in July 2011 with the next PrepCom.
Santa Barbara Declaration on nuclear deterrence
On 17 February 2011, a group of policy experts released the Santa Barbara Declaration on Nuclear Deterrence following a two-day conference on the issue. The declaration outlines the illegality and risks of nuclear deterrence and calls for its replacement by humane, legal, and moral security strategies.
Also see media coverage of the conference: Thalif Deen, “Civil Society Challenges Nuclear Deterrence Doctrine,” Inter Press Service, 24 February 2011.
Citizens’ Affirmation on the criminality of nuclear weapons
The Institute for Law, Accountability and Peace (INLAP) and World Court Project UK have launched a Citizens’ Affirmation on the Criminality of any use of Nuclear Weapons, and invite anyone to endorse. The Affirmation says:
I consider that any use of nuclear weapons for any purpose what-so-ever by my government or anyone else would be a Crime Against Humanity and a War Crime. I refuse to accept any use or threatened use of nuclear weapons in my name or on my behalf and call upon the government to renounce and prevent all uses of nuclear weapons.
The initiative is based on the very successful Declarations of Public Conscience that World Court Project UK initiated in 1992 to support the International Court of Justice case against nuclear weapons – and which were very influential in demonstrating to the ICJ judges that the ‘dictates of public conscience’ referred to in the Hague and Geneva Conventions clearly indicated widespread public aversion to nuclear weapons. You can endore online at www.nuclearweapons-warcrimes.org or via their facebook link.
Trident and International Law
A new book, edited by Rebecca Johnson and Angie Zelter, has been published on the UK’s nuclear weapons stationed in Scotland.
The UK government in Westminster controls nuclear policy decisions even though Britain’s nuclear submarines and warheads are all based in Scotland, at Faslane and Coulport. The Scottish Government therefore has responsibilities under domestic and international law relating to the deployment of nuclear weapons in Scotland.
This book presents the key papers and documents from an international conference on “Trident and International Law: Scotland’s Obligations,” in Edinburgh in 2009. The findings should be of interest to lawyers, policymakers, and citizens with interest or responsibilities in legal and nuclear issues, public safety, and human security. While focusing on Scotland, this book raises serious questions for nuclear weapon deployments worldwide.
The book is available for purchase online or through Trident Plougshares.
Disarmament work amidst a global crisis
New York City, USA | 20 March 2011
Disarmament advocates and activists from Reaching Critical Will/WILPF, the Western States Legal Foundation, and the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace are hosting a discussion at the Left Forum to reevaluate the kinds of movements needed for disarmament progress and the role disarmament work should play in broader movements The panelists are working on a broader project intended to spark debate on the path forward for disarmament work, and hope to obtain suggestions for the project from Left Forum participants. Attendance requires registration to the Left Forum.
Disarm Domestic Violence
Stockholm, Sweden | 31 March 2011
WILPF Sweden, in cooperation with Amnesty International, Parliamentary Forum, and the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation, is hosting a seminar Disarm Domestic Violence. The purpose is to explore and discuss the relationship between small arms and light weapons and violence against women. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chernobyl: 25 Years After, Stop the Nuclear Timebomb – Abandon Nuclear Power Now!
International IPPNW Public Congress
Urania, Berlin |8–10 April 2011
The Congress will provides information on the effects of Chernobyl; analyse the risk potential of the nuclear chain; offer solutions for a world free from the nuclear threat; and introduces possibilities for action. View the programme, speakers, and register online.
Global Day of Action on Military Spending
12 April 2011
The global day of action is scheduled to coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) new annual figures on world military expenditures. On this day, people on all continents will join together in joint actions to focus public, political, and media attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities. Find an event near you or submit your own.
Japan’s nuclear crisis has caused a re-think of nuclear power around the world
US nuclear weapon protesters argue for their right to contest US nuclear policy in court
13 protesters admit they willingly crossed the line onto federal property at the Y-12 nuclear facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee during a protest 5 July. They face federal misdemeanor charges of trespassing, with a trial set for May. Their lawyers want to put US nuclear policy on trial instead, arguing weapons production at Y-12 violates international humanitarian standards. Charles Moxley, a professor at Fordham School of Law in New York and treasurer of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, took the stand at Friday’s hearing to back up their argument. “The policy of (nuclear) deterrence in the U.S. is that we have these weapons, and we have the right to use them,” Moxley testified. “If it's unlawful to do something, it’s unlawful to threaten to do something.” (Source: Matt Lakin, “Activists argue for right to protest at Y-12,” Knoxnews.com, 4 March 2011.)
Robert Green, “Breaking Free From the Nuclear Deterrence Scam,” The Huffington Post, 25 February 2011.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), International Women’s Day Statement to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, Switzerland, 8 March 2011.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Statement on Japan’s nuclear crisis, 15 March 2011.
Hugh Gusterson, “The lessons of Fukushima,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 16 March 2011.
Jonathan Schell, “From Hiroshima to Fukushima,” New York Times, 16 March 2011.