Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Alternatives to nuclear proliferation

'Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the former US president John F Kennedy's prediction of a world with 20 or 30 countries with nuclear weapons could become a reality.'

... reads the report on The Guardian's website last Friday.

Further on in the article, we read:

'He said: "Nukes breed nukes. As long as some nations continue to insist that nuclear weapons are essential to their security, other nations will want them. There is no way around this simple truth.

"No one has seriously taken up the challenge of developing an alternative approach to security that eliminates the need for nuclear deterrence. But only when such an alternative system is created will nuclear weapon states begin moving toward nuclear disarmament. And only when nuclear-weapon states move away from depending on these weapons for their security will the threat of nuclear proliferation by other countries by meaningfully reduced."

Mr ElBaradei said diverting some of the billions of dollars spent on weapons towards improving health and education in undeveloped countries would help to reduce international tensions.'

Thursday, 25 May 2006

A few bits of positive peace news today...

Firstly, from the UN news centre:

Sri Lankan judge wins 2006 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education
A 79-year-old Sri Lankan judge, who was Vice President of the United Nations International Court of Justice, has won the 2006 UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Prize for Peace Education.
Judge Christopher Gregory Weeramantry received the $40,000 award in recognition of what UNESCO Director-General Ko├»chiro Matsuura today called “his ongoing commitment and concrete undertakings in support of the concept and culture of peace through his long and fruitful career."

Secondly, a press release from CND

CND Celebrates Victory, Calls for an End to Missile Defence Plans in Europe
For immediate release: 24 May 2006
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today welcomed the announcement by a Pentagon official that interceptor missiles for the US ‘Son of Star Wars’ missile defence system will not be sited in the UK, according to the Scottish Herald newspaper. The official cited the strong domestic opposition to the ongoing occupation of Iraq as a primary reason for this decision.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “This is a strong indication of the growing power of peace campaigning in the UK, especially as it comes together with the news that RAF Fairford is ruled out of a role in any possible attack on Iran for the same reason. This is a victory for peace and democracy. The majority of the British people want no part in these preparations for further militarisation and war.”

And finally information about a new Leeds-based initiative

Peace School
Have you ever wondered what peace really looks like? Is peace more than simply the absence of violence? What does it mean to be a genuine peacemaker?... These are some of the questions that the community of participants grapple with on the Peace School programme.

If you are someone who cares about peace and justice; wants to journey with others to a richer understanding of peace; enjoys questioning assumptions and engaging in lively discussion; values taking time out to reflect and learn; likes to hear new perspectives, and share your own; wants to explore how to be a peacemaker in every area life; then Peace School could be for you.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Mixed messages on arms control...

Back in September 2001 there was an international embargo against arms exports to Afghanistan. A few months later, this was lifted, although it was clear that the US / UK etc military action had not quite brought peace and democracy to the country. An article reproduced on the website "Common Dreams" reports that the US is now planning to fund - to something in the region of $400 million - the export of massive quantities of arms from Russia to Afghanistan. The article states:

"If fully trained it will provide a formidable force against insurgents and potential foreign aggressors, including Pakistan where tensions are high on the southern border.
'This is completely refitting the Afghan army for the long term and it should stop a resurgence of the Taliban in its tracks,' a British arms expert said. 'The order will take a year to make and deliver but the Russians are used to large quantities.'
A senior British officer said: 'The point of getting Afghanistan up and running is so they can take on their own operations.
'This deal makes sense if we are going to hand over military control to them.'
Some observers pointed to the irony of the deal, because when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan the Americans sold Stinger surface-to- air missiles to the Mujahideen to enable them to shoot down Moscow's aircraft."

Meanwhile, Oxfam is one of agencies behind the Control Arms campaign, whose week of action is now underway ... from the Oxfam website:

" From May 22 – 28, over 900,000 signatories of the Million Faces petition will be presented to key decision makers in many countries around the world by Control Arms activists.
This is all part of the drive to keep up the pressure for an international arms trade treaty as the crucial United Nations Small Arms Review Conference draws ever closer. We will be posting reports of events around the world on this page as they come in.
Meanwhile, there is still time for you to add your support by supporting the petition or passing it on to friends and family.
Join the Million Faces Petition at http://www.controlarms.org/"

And read their material on the human cost of armed violence here.

Friday, 19 May 2006

Peace people in Iran

The US branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) currently has a delegation visiting Iran. Why? This is how they explain it:
As a pacifist organization committed to nonviolent social change, the Fellowship of Reconciliation is constantly working for global peace with justice, and for reconciliation. One way to accomplish this goal is by facilitating direct dialogue and promoting people-to-people diplomacy among citizens of countries whose governments are in conflict.
Read more about the delegation here.

Individual comment from Emily Johns, a British person with the delegation can be found on the Justice not Vengeance website. She writes...

Near Isfahan there is an underground storage facility for the nuclear programme. If this is bombed by the USA, then Physicians for Social Responsibility have estimated that the singer, the rollerskater, the lovers and grandmothers and three million other people will be killed within 48 hours.

We in Britain must make sure that this armageddon never happens.

We must immediately make our government commit to us that USAF Fairford and Diego Garcia will not be used by United States bombers, and insist that our governement lifts the fear of death from the Iranian people and enters into face to face negotiations with their government now.

Positive news about explosive remnants of war

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the 20th ratification on May 12 of the 2003 Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War. This ratification ensures the entry into force of the Protocol, which is the first multilateral treaty of international humanitarian law requiring parties to an armed conflict to clear all unexploded and abandoned ordnance that threatens civilians, peacekeepers and aid workers after the fighting is over. (From a press-release )

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Briefings for disarmament

Two useful briefings for those wanting to take action on the arms trade and nuclear weapons ... Firstly, Quaker Peace and Social Witness's Peace and Disarmament programme have put together an excellent pack on Trident, about which they say:

"Would you like to know more about the UK's nuclear weapons and help to make sure that they are not replaced? You can: Quaker Peace & Social Witness has produced a new campaign pack a vailable free (although donations are welcomed). For your pack, please email Kat Barton and David Gee at disarm@quaker.org.uk giving your name and postal address. We will send you one copy unless you state otherwise.

The pack includes a briefing about nuclear weapons in the UK, an action ideas sheet, a list of key arguments against replacement and postcards and petitions to use in your Meeting or peace group and local community. Thanks to research by the Oxford Research Group, the pack includes a 'decision-makers' list - key officials and Parliamentarians with a bearing on the Government's decision. There are also instructions for making paper cranes, which we are suggesting are enclosed with letters to decision-makers. Folding paper cranes is also an ideal activity for children over 9 and young people's groups."

Meanwhile, with Stop the Arms Trade Week coming up - 3-11 June - CAAT's briefing on the Defence Export Sales Organisation (which they would like to see shut down) is very informative. The briefing concludes:
"Despite the very different circumstances that pertain today [than from when DESO was set up] - the supposed separation of the arms industry from government via privatisation, the internationalisation of the arms industry, and the complete change in the role of surplus UK equipment - 40 years on, DESO still exists. There have always been strong ethical reasons for shutting DESO, but now it is difficult to see ANY public interest in retaining it. DESO remains open not because of the national interest, but as a result of inertia and arms company influence."

Read the briefing to find out more.

Monday, 15 May 2006

More on CO day

Further to my posting on 12 May, I see The Independent newspaper has quite a good overview about conscientious objection and about the focus of the day this year in particular. It's at: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article484148.ece

Jam tommorrow?

Interesting item in the Bradford University Peace Studies News about the PeaceJam event that they hosted in March. PeaceJam, started in Colorado, desribes its work... " PeaceJam is an international education program built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody. The goal of PeaceJam is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers who will transform their local communities, themselves and the world. "

Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel Peace Laureate who died last year, was keen to see a UK branch of PeaceJam set up. Following a public lecture on Friday 24th March, Mairead Corrigan Maguire (the Nobel Peace Laureate for this event) spent the following two days contributing to the conference with young people. In the Peace Studies newsletter we read: "Young people came from schools in Bradford, Pontefract, Coventry and London and spent two days in discussion with Mairead, talking with their peers in 'family groups' led by student mentors, and learning practical peacebuilding skils. They will come back in November to attend the PeaceJamSlam, a one-day conference where they will report back about how they put their PeacePlan into action and receive more training...."

The article concludes: "If you know of a school or youth group that would be interested in participating in next year's PeaceJam, contact Fioan Macaulay at f.macaulay@bradford.ac.uk."

Friday, 12 May 2006

The right to refuse to kill

This weekend will see a number of events marking International Conscientious Objectors Day, although the actual day is Monday 15th May. Read more about it at War Restisters International .

There's lots going on in the US over this period under the heading of "Operation Refuse War", WRI writing about their focus on... "the situation of and support to US war resisters: GIs applying for conscientious objector status, going AWOL, or finding other ways to get discharged from the military. War Resisters' International has joined with many US peace organisations to organise International Conscientious Objectors' Day in the USA - a series of international events under the title Operation Refuse War, culminating in an International Conference of Resisters to Global War in Washington DC from 13th-14th May 2006."

In the UK, I know there are ceremonies in Birmingham and Manchester - and presumably also in London's Tavistock Square, but details seem in short supply. The Manchester event is in the Peace Garden, St Peter's Square, from 1-2pm.

Alternative approaches to the Iran crisis

In an article on Open Democracy, Scilla Ellworthy addresses the question "How can the crisis over Iran be resolved without resort to violence?" Rather than talking in general terms, she is as usual specific, advocating citizen's diplomacy (especially by women), supporting young Iranians in finding creative responses and challenging the hypocrisy of the UK and US in keeping and developing nuclear weapons whilst denying them to others. She concludes: "In this situation, political maturity is essential to avoid an escalating disaster. Every grain of foresight has to be employed by those in Tehran, Washington, London and Brussels. But it is not only a matter for diplomats. " Read the full piece here:

Thursday, 11 May 2006

Starting off

Not quite sure how useful this tool will be, but there doesn't seem to be a blog linked to any of the peace organisations in Britain at the moment and we get so much information coming our way that it seems a pity not to share it. We're hoping this will be of interest to Quakers and others, in Britain and further afield. It's not about campaigning, but encouraging a wider awareness of peace initiatives, so that it can't be said that taking up weapons or fists is the only realistic response to conflict. Let's see if this little online journal can be a simple contribution to increasing the peace.... If you have been, thanks for reading!