Bucking the Trend, Some Powers Did the Right Thing
Nine Ways and Places that People Spread Peace
This review of 2009 was gleaned from various news services around the world and made up an issue of the newsletter, Good News Service, #15: Nov-Dec, by the Peace & Social Concerns Committee, Monthly Meeting of Friends in Ottawa. It was circulated in a ThirsterGram by fellow Portlander (Oregon) Robert Textor, organizer of the Thirsters worldwide and author of the original US Peace Corp bill. The editor (below) is a Thirster and an Officer in the Order of Canada where he is one of the key promoters of a declaration aimed a abolishing nuclear weapons.
by Murray ThomsonPeople who refuse to give up can get results. Some of them operate for years at a time without publicity or glory, often on minimal salaries, and sometimes at great risk to life and limb. Yet their efforts percolate up.
1. Belgium Slashes Military Spending
Belgium will slash military spending in the next three years, and about 30 military installations could be closed. As part of the savings drive, the army would only have two combat brigades, or around 6,000 troops. The number of F16s fighter jets would fall from 60 to 54, with six planes being mothballed. Belgian troops are deployed in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the DR Congo, and Lebanon. Even before the cuts, Belgium was spending around 1.1 % of its GDP on defense, well below the two percent level sought by the NATO military alliance.
2. Africa Now a Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone
The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, entered into force last year, 2009, on July 15. The Treaty was agreed to in 1995. Since then, all 53 African states have signed on, due in part to the role of persistent civil society attention. The Treaty:
* prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste in Africa;
* prohibits the testing of any nuclear explosive device and, in effect, fulfills the basic conditions of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on the African continent;
* confirms provision of the Non Proliferation Treaty, including the pledge of all signatories not to develop, produce, or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, as well as the commitment to enter into comprehensive safeguard agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, to verify each state’s non-nuclear-weapon status. Twenty-one states have yet to conclude such agreements.
3. Cities Join “Mayors For Peace”
During November 156 new members joined the movement of local authorities demanding the elimination of all nuclear weapons by 2020. As of December 1st Mayors for Peace counted 3,396 member cities and municipalities, in 134 countries and regions. Of the new members 64 are from Japan, 33 from Costa Rica, 31 from Spain, 7 from Cameroon, 6 from France, 3 from Ecuador, and one or two from Australia, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran, Malaysia, Philippines, Portugal, UK, and USA. Mayors for Peace is aiming at 5,000 members during the upcoming NPT Review Conference in May 2010.
4. World Council of Churches Calls for NATO to Advance Nuclear Disarmament
The World Council of Churches, with the Canadian Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, have written to the NATO Secretary General, Prime Minister of Sweden, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, President Barack Obama of the USA, and President Dimitry Medvedev of the Russian Federation. The letter:
* Strongly affirms the joint statement by Presidents Obama and Medvedev on 1 April 2009 in London and the US President’s appeal for a world free of nuclear weapons on 5 April/09 in Prague.
* Looks to the US and Russia to take an important early step towards that goal in the new START follow-on agreement.
* Calls for NATO to respond in kind, with a clear endorsement of the new call for a nuclear weapons free world and by deciding in NATO’s new Strategic Concept that nuclear sharing should be ended and US nuclear weapons based in NATO’s non-nuclear weapon member states should be eliminated.
* Calls for the European Union to equally endorse the new call for a nuclear weapons free world in the EU Common Position for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, also reflecting that the EU includes two nuclear weapons states and four member states with nuclear weapons on their soil.
* Calls for Russia to address its vast number of tactical nuclear weapons and resume the hopeful process of unilateral reduction started in 1991 by both the US and the Soviet Union/Russia.
“We acknowledge the steps NATO has taken to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons. We also welcome the commitment of the new German government to have all nuclear weapons withdrawn from its soil… Now is the time to continue the trend.”
5. Order of Canada Recipients Call for a Weapons Convention
426 recipients of the Order of Canada have called for international negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention -- a verifiable treaty on the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. A Model Convention was presented to the UN in 1997 and has now been formally supported by 125 of its member-states. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a speech titled “Five Steps to a Nuclear-Free World,” stated that “all countries could consider negotiating a nuclear weapons convention, backed by a strong verification system.” The Canadian government, unfortunately, though supporting the NWC in principle, states that accepting it as a part of its foreign policy is “premature”.
6. Chinese General Looks to Asteroid “Rotblat”
When the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid after Joseph Rotblat, who was signatory to the 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto and the guiding spirit of the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs that helped prevent the use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, Pan Zhenqiang, retired Chinese general, responded: “How wonderful to know that Joe would always be watching us over the sky! This should inspire all of us to work even harder for a world free of nuclear weapons.”
7. Right Livelihood Award
Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation & Disarmament (PNND), will receive the 2009 Right Livelihood Award in recognition of “his effective and creative advocacy and initiatives over two decades to further peace education and to rid the world of nuclear weapons.” Other 2009 laureates include David Suzuki of Canada, Rene Ngongo of DR Congo and Catherine Hamlin of Ethiopia. Ware was a member of the team of scientists, lawyers and educators who developed the NWC, now adopted by the United Nations and with the support of 125 member States. He has also played a leadership role in developing the World Court Project.
8. Garden of Forgiveness In Beirut
A unique public park in downtown Beirut has risen from the ashes of Lebanon’s sixteen-year civil war. Surrounding the Garden of Forgiveness are three mosques and three cathedrals, reflecting the two dominant religions. The ruins of several past civilizations are preserved on the ancient grounds. Tree-lined walkways, water fountains, sculptures, and benches are part of its blueprint. But construction was halted when the Israelis invaded Lebanon in the summer of 2006, resulting in an almost total shut down of the centre of Beirut. The Garden is far from finished, and it is difficult to predict the date of completion until soldiers, now occupying a third of the park, move out. Despite political conflicts which threaten it, Alexandra Asseily, a Beirut resident, says, “Many people are beginning to feel the necessity of some space where reflection can take place. Many religious and political leaders now talk of reconciliation and forgiveness, whereas before, this was seldom the case.”
9. Voluntering for the Peace Force In Sudan
Peace Force volunteer Angela Pinchero, who was a witness for peace in Sri Lanka and now Sudan plans to write the stories of non-violent courage and community cooperation by civilians affected by violence of which she has firsthand knowledge, citing the sacrifice, risk, strategy, and the impact, including the community response to threats to an individual or members of the community. What enables and sustains these individuals? What influences do these actions have on the community where they live? How can such influence and impact be understood, recorded, and extended by other programs? And how can their actions be evaluated and safely shared?
For the news sources, for the rest of the article which cited environmental gains, too, and to subscribe to Murray’s “Good News Service”, write Editor Thomson at mothom at sympatico.ca
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