Regular readers of this Newsletter will know that a group of seven ‘middle power’ countries — Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden — is calling for a new agenda for nuclear disarmament, designed to overcome the stalemate into which we have become locked after years of conventional arms-reduction negotiations.
The New Agenda Resolution “Towards a Nuclear-Free World” containing a series of pragmatic but determined steps towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons was first introduced at last year’s UN General Assembly. This year it was re-introduced in a slightly modified form to take account of the objections raised in 1998 by the nuclear weapons states, but once again Britain voted against the resolution on the grounds that it was incompatible with a “credible minimum deterrent”! Most of our NATO allies had the courage to defy the United States at least to the extent of formal abstention.
It simply is not widely enough known that this country regularly votes at the UN against measures of multilateral nuclear disarmament — in the company of Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Monaco, Poland and Romania (plus the nuclear weapons states).
Similarly, there is no general awareness that an impressively detailed draft Model Nuclear Weapons Convention already exists, prepared by a team of lawyers, scientists and disarmament specialists based on New York under the sponsorship of three non-governmental organisations led by IALANA, the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms. This draft was circulated to United Nations member states as a basis for discussion in 1997 at the request of the government of Costa Rica and John Spellar M.P. (Minister of State for the MoD) who replied to my August letter on the subject was happy to agree that it “makes a useful contribution to the international debate on how to make progress towards the goal of global elimination of nuclear weapons.”
I have joined a working group set up by Abolition 2000 to find ways of breaking through the media silence on these issues, which are admittedly complex in their detail, but which carry an underlying simplicity. The technical infrastructure is there — it is the political creativity and courage which is lacking.
Two publications are recommended for those who would like further to explore the political, legal and technical aspects: “Security and Survival: the case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention” published by IALANA, £9 (inc postage) from A2000 UK, 88 Islington High St. N1 8EG, and “Fast Track to Zero Nuclear Weapons” — a briefing book commissioned by the Middle Powers Initiative and written by Commander Rob Green [”every treaty is explained in layman’s language”], £5 (inc p&p) from World Court Project UK, 67 Summerheath Rd, Hailsham, Sussex BN27 3DR.
For those who do not feel they have time to read a full-scale book on the subject, it is hoped that a clearly-written leaflet and a slim pamphlet will be emerging from the Abolition 2000 working party early next year.
The Non-Proliferation Conference Review in April 2000 will provide the next important opportunity for international debate. This means that we have about four months to bring the facts out into the open and to return the debate to the public domain. Legislators, educators, media people and all other ‘opinion-formers’ need facts, and they are not getting them from the Labour Government.
There is much that we can do, both as part of the international anti-nuclear movement and as part of our local community. With the help of our colleagues in Mitcham CND we sent the full text of the UN New Agenda Coalition resolution to all our Merton Councillors, clearly annotated to demonstrate its full compatibility with stated Government policy.
It was decided at our business meeting of 9th November that next year our regular meetings at the Wimbledon Community Centre should be held on the second Tuesday of each month only. We shall continue to meet on the fourth Tuesday, but these meetings will be of a more informal nature and will be held in people’s houses. This decision was taken purely for financial reasons. Room hire at the Community Centre now costs £16 and we felt that we could not justify the heavy double expenditure, but by maintaining the regular ‘second Tuesday’ booking we still have a guaranteed venue for larger meetings and visiting speakers.
We hope you will all sign (and post off to UNA) the copy of Manifesto 2000 enclosed with this Newsletter. Perhaps you might also consider distributing extra copies amongst your colleagues, family and friends. The Manifesto asks for people to pledge in their daily life behaviour that will lead away from a culture of violence and towards a culture of peace — a mixture of idealism and practicality which can be realised in innumerable different ways according to individual resources and circumstances.
The UN General Assembly has proclaimed the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace, and UNESCO has appointed the United Nations Association as its ‘lead agency’ for this programme in the UK. UNA has a UK target of 1 million signatures and the aim is to collect 100 million signatures worldwide, to be presented to the Millennium UN General Assembly in September 2000.
WDC/CND has long been affiliated to UNA and we work closely with the Merton branch. We feel that Manifesto 2000 provides us with a valuable opportunity to build upon and extend the local partnerships which we have forged through our work for the Hague Appeal for Peace. We are particularly interested in the opportunities offered by the UNA ‘culture of peace’ education programme. UNA will be inviting every school in the country to request an ‘Olympic Truce Sports Day pack’ which will explain how to transform their usual annual sports day into a special ‘Olympic Truce’ event in the build-up to the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Merton UNA will be inviting representatives of the local Hague Appeal participating organisations to a social event at the end of January at which some of these exciting ideas can be discussed and carried forward.
We are invited to the home of Muriel Wood (53 Pepys Road) at 8pm on January 25th. Bring food and drink to share, have a chat with friendly fellow WDC/CND members and take this opportunity to see the two classic short Czech cartoon films “Boom” and “The Big If”.
CND is repeating the successful campaign of previous years when Whitehall has been swamped with telephone calls, faxes, emails and web site visits and the postman has delivered sacksful of Christmas cards. The Downing Street web site includes a tour of Nº 10 with the opportunity to leave a message in the visitors’ book.
Message Day is the 17th of December. Keep the message simple!