Friday, 30 June 2006

CPT in Iraq

A couple of news pieces on the Ekklesia website giving some insight into the experiences of Norman Kember
and the future plans of the Christian Peacemaker Teams regarding their Iraq presence ...

'Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which has been actively promoting non-violence in some of the world’s hotspots for some 18 years, has confirmed that it remains committed to working in Iraq – having reflected on the lessons of the high-profile kidnapping of four of its members from November 2005 to March 2006.

Speaking to the BBC last week, CPT co-director Doug Pritchard said that a “number of people” are lined up to engage in work inside Iraq. He could not reveal details for security reasons, but said that Christian Peacemaker Teams felt that it was appropriate to respond to continuing requests from Iraqi partners.'

...'he said that they were able to contribute to “a different kind of relationship between the West and Iraq”, by representing an alternative to occupation, sanctions and coercion – which has often been backed by the Christian rhetoric of President Bush and his supporters on the US religious right.

As for the efficaciousness of CPT’s work, Pritchard stressed that “any kind of construction of civil society is very slow after 30 years of repressive dictatorship under Saddam Hussein and now three years of war and uncertainty.'

In-ter-dependence day is tommorrow - and then what?

Tomorrow, a few days in advance of Independence Day in the US, an event is being held in London to mark 'Interdependence Day', complete with their own Declaration of Interpendence. In an article about this project, an initiative of the Open University and the New Economics Foundation, Joe Smith writes
'Both globalisation and global environmental change invite us to extent greatly our notion of who counts in politics. For the drafters of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 the drastic revision of political sovereignty they proposed seemed natural: the time had come for change wherein governments would be "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". In our own era, we have arrived at a time that demands change on a similar scale.' ... 'we can dare to rethink the way the world works, but that this will require sustained effort in both intellectual and cultural spheres. .... None of us, and no one alive, can afford to be too shy in asserting that another world is necessary as well as possible. '

All power to the elbows of this initiative. More information about the Interdependence day initiative... here.

British nuclear weapon replacement

A report from House of Commons Defence Committee was launched today, asking a lot of hard questions about the continued relevance of nuclear weapons as a tool for building global security. One piece in the Guardian describe the report as 'hard hitting' (Richard Norton Taylor) and Kate Hudson , Chair of CND says the report 'bristles with rage at the government. It inveighs against the Ministry of Defence's refusal to give evidence'. Kate Hudson concludes: 'It can only be hoped that this report, added to widespread public and parliamentary pressure, will enable an outbreak of democracy to take place. In a recent ICM poll commissioned by CND, 81% said that they thought the decision should be made by parliament.'

In a longer informative and analytical piece on Open Democracy, Paul Rogers writes: 'In the coming weeks and months there may well be a debate on plans to replace Trident - Britain's submarine-carrying ballistic nuclear-weapons system - and it is probable that Labour will, in due course, make its decision. There could be some discussion in parliament and there might even be a vote, though few doubt the outcome. "Middle England" will no doubt remain comforted by Britain preserving its civilised, semi-great-power status by retaining the capacity to kill tens of millions of people'. - now that's getting to the nub of the matter.

Paul Rogers concludes his piece thus: ' Although the publicly acknowledged "declaratory" policy remains one of "last resort" use of nuclear weapons, the "deployment" policy involves the idea of nuclear war-fighting that fall far short of responding to nuclear attach on Britain. This is the long-standing reality. It could certainly liven up the forthcoming debate on replacing Trident if this enduring feature of Britain's nculear-weapons policy got a really thorough airing.'

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Change in the air? New thinking for a better world

Well, of course things are always changing. But might a change of mindset be possible in addressing some of the big security concerns of today?

Yesterday, the Oxford Research Group published a briefing paper on 'Global Responses to Global Threats: Sustainable Security for the 21st Century'. They identify the threats to global security as, in this order: 1) Climate Change, 2} Competition over resources, 3) Marginalisation of the Majority World and 4) Global Militarisation - and see 'sustainable security as the alternative to the prevailing 'control paradigm.'

From an Executive summary of the paper:
"Governments will be unwilling to embrace these ideas without pressure from below. The authors argue that NGOs and the wider civil society have a unique chance to coordinate their efforts to convince government that this new approach is practical and effective. This will mean a closer linking of peace, development and environmental issues than has so far been attempted. New political leadership in the USA and UK in the coming years may well present the ideal opportunity for progress, but unless urgent action is taken in the next five to ten years, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to avoid a highly unstable global system by the middle years of the century."

Find out more here
Meanwhile, IPS News reports:
"a McMaster University professor now working in Afghanistan was in Ottawa to tell Canadian officials that their war against the Taliban is ill-advised....
Dr. Seddiq Weera, an adviser to the Kabul-based National Commission on Strengthening Peace in Afghanistan, is in a position to know. After visiting senior members of the Taliban, he concluded that the insurgents are ready to negotiate and that persisting in efforts to keep the losing sides in the civil war from participating fully in Afghan life will only intensify the violence."

".... At the core of Weera's proposal is a new commission with a broader mandate than the one he works for. 'Why not invest in a national peace initiative that can be a preventive measure? It will reduce the hostilities, isolate the terrorists and reduce the number of troops needed,' he told IPS.
And focussing on Africa, an article from a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, headed "Peace education missing in Africa`s conflict management" reads ....

'Though a vital element in peace promotion, peace education has always missed out in Africa`s approaches to build a peace architecture, African Union (AU) Commission's Deputy Chairperson, Patrick Mazimhaka, said here Monday.'

'"It is important that we find a place for education for peace in our syllabi at all levels of education... as we strive to build lasting peace and sustainable development in Africa," Mazimhaka remarked at the opening of a three-day international conference on Strategies for Peace with Development in Africa.'

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Not swooping but watching – towards abolition of WMD

Yesterday I was part of a group of Scottish Church and political figures, along with a number of British nuclear researchers and campaigners visiting Aldermaston - Atomic Weapons Establishment site in Berkshire. The Morning Star carries a photo and article about this on their front page saying that we ‘swooped on Britain’s nuclear bomb factory’. It was actually a bit too hot to do any swooping and most of us were instructed by the police to wait a in fenced-off area of the main-gate car park.

Eventually, three were escorted through the gate to present a letter of protest about the activities going on therein and about proposed new developments towards replacing the current Trident nuclear weapons system. We then inspected different parts of the site, from the other side of the security fence, including the area where building is now under way for the new laser testing facility. A Greenpeace press release gives more information about the visit and the participants.

Later in the day we attended, in central London, a launch meeting of the report of the WMD Commission, chaired by Hans Blix, former UN weapons inspector. Hans Blix greeted us all and highlighted some of the key points from the Commission’s 60 recommendations. The full report (Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms) can be downloaded as a PDF file and a summary and commentary is available from the US-based ‘Civil Society Review of the WMD Commission’

If the energy and commitment, to prevent a replacement of Trident, from the Scottish Churches and political parties can be spread to other parts of the UK, the government will have to take a bit more notice.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Building peace, from city to village

An article about the new mayor of the city of Leeds...

"Over the past year Leeds has spawned London's suicide bombers and a resurgence of support for the BNP – so is electing the city's first Asian Lord Mayor a futile gesture or a real chance for reconciliation? Rod McPhee asked Coun Mohammed Iqbal. Scrawled inside the Lord Mayor's visitors book in Leeds civic hall are a few simple words: 'Let's all be friends again.' "

and he goes onto say in an interview :

"If there's myths, ignorance and misunderstanding, whether it is among Muslims or the BNP, there's no room for that. This is a multicultural city and multi-cultural world."
But couldn't his election be viewed as cynical token gesture, an appointment born of positive public relations rather than merit? "My election is a positive step without a doubt," he said. "Yes, you could interpret it as a gesture, but it's a strong message that this city belongs to everybody.
"Someone living in one part of Leeds is no different to anybody else, we are all equal and we're all part of this city.


Meanwhile, in Portugal ...

"On May first, the Tamera University “Monte Cerro” was launched. For the next three years up to 200 participants from different parts of the world will study the development of peace villages and the social and spiritual foundations for a non-violent culture of peace. ",

we read on Peace Journalism

"During the Summer University from July 31st to August 10th interested individuals are very welcome and are invited to visit Tamera for a short period to participate in the various seminars that will be offered for study. For more information consult the website or call +351- 283 635 306."

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Getting hotter

From this distance, it seems unlikely that the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will make any great difference to the situation in Iraq. One violent act seems to beget another and another; the conflict seems far too hot for this latest US military action to make any major difference. The IPS news service, for instance, carries an article headed "US Military hides many more Hadithas", in which the training and tactics of US troops on the ground is revealed as being inadequate at their best and brutal and insensitive at their worst.

Max Hastings in The Guardian, meanwhile, commenting on the acquital of three British soldiers for the drowning of an Iraqi teenager concludes:

"It would have been monstrous to convict three guardsmen for actions that are overwhelmingly attributable to the circumstances into which they were thrust. By contrast, if George Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfel and Lord Goldsmith had been in the dock, a guilty verdict would have been the only proper one."

Here at home, actions by police in Tower Hamlets, apparently to locate some terrorist weapons (and in doing so, shooting one young man) are seen stoking up tensions. Faisal Bodi, writing in The Guardian, suggests that
"... this type of policing comes at a high price: the alienation it engenders not only acts as a recruiting sargeant for anti-state violence, it also lays the foundation of internal civil unrest"

And in the same paper, Timothy Garton Ash reflects that in Frances alienated young ethnic-minorities are still angry.
" 'It's too late,' several people told me in the batter housing estates. A generation has been lost. Despair has turned to fury. Every little spark will produce another explosion. A community activist who has worked on one of the worst estates for 14 years told me that, if something radical is not done to improve the life-chances of the youn, 'C'est la
guerre ... c'est la guerre avec madame la France.' "

The London police's apology today to the people of Tower Hamlets - and an indication of a willingness to build bridges - offers a glimmer of hope that there is a wider understanding that a more collaborative and respectful approach is needed. And on a very different issue, perhaps we can gain some small hope from the government's appointment of a special representative on climate change, charged with building new international partnerships to tackle this burning issue.

Same blog, different template

I've decided to go for this different format and style for the blog, as I think it's clearer and easier than the previous one. Other than that, nothing else has changed. No comments received yet - it would be good to know whether this is proving useful to anyone.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

UN Peacekeepers remembered and Non-violence to be promoted

One of the earlier entries on this blog was about the Conscientious Objectors day events around the world. Last week, I notice, was the fourth year that the UN has marked "UN Peacekeepers’ Day". It reports that:

"More peacekeepers died in the service of the UN in 2005 than in any other year in the last decade. While performing their official duties in difficult and dangerous circumstances, 124 peacekeepers from 46 countries lost their lives to violence, disease and accidents. A
further 32 have fallen in the line of duty so far in 2006."

"There are currently more than 72,000 “blue helmets” and 15,000 civilians serving around the world in the Organization’s ever more multidimensional and complex peacekeeping operations."

Quakers will vary in levels of support for military action. Nearly all will have opposed the Iraq invasion and occupation, but many will also be sympathetic to the military playing a peace-keeping role.

Meanwhile, notice has come through of the second Forum for Non-Violence , to be held in London over 21-23 July, with QPSW's Turning the Tide as one of the promoting organisations. The aims of the forum as long and wordy, but in brief:
1) To promote the ethic and practise of active non-violence as the only valid methodology of social and political action for the present time
2) To promote the relationship between individuals and groups working in the field of non-violence and
3) Establish permanent contact with those groups and individuals with the interest of jointly developing and organising activities of the forum.

This year's forum - entitled "UK Forum for non-violence - Dialogue for Action" and is advertised as ...
"A weekend of presentations, workshops, film showings, interchange among groups and individuals, etc., all related to the theme of non-violence: an opportunity for people working in the field of non-violence to hear each other's aims and activities and to create closer ties for the future. Cost £25/£20."