Sam Daws, appointed UNA-UK Executive Director in January 2005, was a superb speaker at the recent AGM of the Merton Branch of UNA. (It was good to see a packed room at Wimbledon Guild House, including many WDC/CND members.) Sam has an impressive track record both as an academic in the fields of international law, international relations and conflict analysis, and as a member of the UN Secretariat (First Officer to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from 2000–3).
He spoke fluently (from the briefest of notes) for nearly 45 minutes and covered such a depth and variety of ground that it is impossible to report more than the gist of what he had to say.
He reviewed the achievements and disappointments of the Millennium Summit Review of 14–16 September and came to the conclusion that the outcomes exceeded expectations in many areas, setting an agenda for change which could mark a new beginning. The most important achievement of all must be to have convinced the Bush régime that it is in US interests to support the UN: the USA signing up to a statement referring to the “vital importance of an effective multilateral system... a global and interdependent world... where efficient security depends on mutual cooperation”.
Although US representative John Bolton submitted numerous potentially destructive amendments (at a very late stage) before the Summit, he subsequently backtracked and compromised in several areas. There was progress in the field of Development (with Bush explicitly endorsing the Millennium Development Goals in his speech) so that we can reckon that the world actually has the technical means and resources to end global poverty: now it is just a matter of the political will to act. In the fields of Peace and Security and Human Rights there were also tangible outcomes. Even though there is at this stage no agreement on the definition of terrorism, there was a unanimous desire to work towards an Anti-Terrorism Convention and reduce the violence and suffering. The future of peacekeeping, it was agreed, lies in the new regionalism (e.g. forces from the African Union, the EU etc.) but it is still an open question as to whether the necessary training and resources will be made available to allow theory to move forward into practice.
A new Human Rights Council was agreed in principle. A vital step was taken with agreement on genocide: the international community has an absolute responsibility under international law to protect populations from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In future this principle will override the sanctity of state sovereignty which has too often been used as a shield for human rights abuse. A new Peace Building Commission will bring together key agencies, NGOs etc. after the end of conflict and help the transition from ‘peace keeping’ to longer-term development.
The biggest area of failure was in relation to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Kofi Annan expressed his bitter disappointment saying that “surely the issue is too serious to be held hostage to a ‘you first’/‘no you first’ scenario”. (Meanwhile although there are some signs of progress in relation to North Korea there is a continuing stand-off in the case of Iran.)
Security Council Reform also proved impossibly contentious and discussion had to be postponed. We were reminded of the institutional resistance to UN Reform built into the UN Charter: amendment of the Charter requires the agreement of @/3 of the General Assembly, and then ratification by @/3 of member states including all of the Permanent Five of the present Security Council, each of whom has the right of veto.
Finally, Sam briefly addressed the Iraq ‘Oil for Food’ scandal which threatened to undermine Kofi Annan’s position in the run-up to the Summit. He was in no doubt that the criticism was politically motivated. Corruption is not a widespread issue within the UN Secretariat which has inbuilt checks and balances to counter such behaviour. Investigators found three examples only of corruption in relation to ‘Oil for Food’, the sums of money involved were all relatively small and the perpetrators will be punished. (This contrasts with the 3 billion dollars which has gone missing during the reconstruction of Iraq.) Sam told us that he was very impressed by what he saw at first hand during his time in New York and that he feels strongly that the recent targeting of the UN and Kofi Annan is extremely unjust.
Now that the Summit has ended we have a ‘wonderful agenda in front of us’ and ‘the challenge is now with the peoples’. We must hold our governments to account and demand ‘actions not words’ so that all these ideas are turned into fully fledged institutions.
Report by Joanna Bazley
This was an important and productive meeting, attended and addressed by most of the key players in the wider anti-nuclear movement: politicians, environmentalists, academics, trade unionists and leading activists from all over the country. Caroline Lucas MEP, Professor Robert Hinde (Pugwash), Rebecca Johnson (Acronym), Jeremy Corbyn MP and Bruce Kent spoke in the morning. After lunch the conference broke into workshops to discuss the practicalities of strategy and tactics, and then, reconvening, we were addressed by John Holmes (Communication Workers Union), Dominick Jenkins (Greenpeace), Tony Benn, Phil Shiner (Public Interest Lawyers), Sian Jones (Aldermaston Women’s Group) and Kate Hudson (Chair of CND). All speakers emphasised the need to widen our campaigning base, reaching out to the newly politicised of the Stop the War and Make Poverty History movements and emphasising the links between war, environmental degradation and global poverty.
The arguments against a Trident replacement are even stronger than those used in the 1980s: “Trident is illegal, ineffective, outrageously expensive and contributes to greater global instability”, said Caroline Lucas. “The challenge is to get these arguments across and to get them heard more widely.” Although for most of us the moral argument against nuclear weapons is more important than any other, we shall probably find that for many less committed (and less imaginative?) people the cost, ineffectiveness and irrelevance of nuclear weapons is more likely to win converts. We may find allies in unexpected places (eg Michael Portillo’s article in the Sunday Times 19·6·2005) and almost certainly with a substantial portion of the military who would rather that defence funds were spent on usable equipment.
We are told that a Trident replacement would cost up to £20 billion, a massive diversion of money from the things that really matter to people, like education, jobs and the NHS. Of course if people can be persuaded by Tony Blair that their safety is at stake they will believe that this £20 billion is a price worth paying. We must continue to point out that none of our wars was ever won by nuclear weapons, none of the enemies we fought was ever deterred by them, and nuclear weapons are irrelevant to the terrorist threat: “The elegant theories of deterrence all appear beside the point in the face of a suicide bomber” (Michael Portillo).
But all the good arguments in the world are of no use without open debate. We must strive to get the subject of UK nuclear weapons into the media — media who only seem to want to talk about weapons of mass destruction in relation to Iran and North Korea at present (“Anything else gets edited out”: Rebecca Johnson). This is our task. We must write letters to the press, take part in radio phone-ins, challenge the biased news stories and above all talk to people about what is going on. We need massive public pressure to push the government into a proper security and defence review.
We are not talking about ‘unilateral’ nuclear disarmament. The government keeps telling us that it is all in favour of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (with its commitment to nuclear disarmament). Instead of sanctimonious generalities Tony Blair could offer real leadership by making a principled decision not to replace Trident while calling for an international conference to start the process of negotiations (on the basis of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention already deposited with the UN by Costa Rica). Bruce Kent reminded us of the old saying, “A unilateralist is a multilateralist who means it!”
In her summing up, Kate Hudson said the next step would be to bring some of the day’s key people together again after time for thought, put together an action plan and create a structure for liaison and communication.
Report by Joanna Bazley
According to the June 7 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditure in 2004 is estimated to have reached the value of $1·03 trillion, of which 47% was spent by the USA. The combined arms sales of the top 100 companies (excluding China) rose 25% to $236 billion. 38 US-based companies, plus one in Canada, accounted for 63·2% of these sales, while 42 European companies, of which 6 were based in Russia, accounted for a further 30·5%.
The report noted that only limited information is available on commercial arms sales, which makes it difficult to establish a firm foundation for political and public discussion of such issues.
Alison Williams, Secretary of Merton UNA and a former UN guide, will lead a series of four workshops at Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Rd SW20 as follows:
Our Treasurer of many years, Jim Lindsay, has sadly had to stand down due to ill health. He has kept our books in immaculate order for eleven years and we are deeply appreciative of his services in this as in many other ways. We are fortunate that Julie Higgins has agreed to take over the books. Julie joined the committee as Fête Treasurer at the last AGM and it was agreed at the meeting on September 13th that she should become Acting Treasurer until her position is confirmed at the next AGM.
Individual Affirmations were included with the September Newsletter, and I hope that all readers have signed and returned theirs to World Court Project UK. Affirmations are now available in larger format for signature on behalf of groups and organisations. The wording is the same (except that ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’ throughout) and there is space for comment and enquiry. Please will you contact me at 8543 0362 if you belong to a group (social, political, educational: it doesn’t matter) and could make use of a copy.
“CND Now More Than Ever: the story of a Peace Movement” by Kate Hudson, published 2005 by Vision Paperbacks, ISBN1904132693.
Obtainable from CND, 162 Holloway Rd N7 8DQ, (020 7700 2393) at the special price of £10 plus £1 p&p. Cheques payable to ‘CND’.
We hope that as many of you as possible will come to this ceremony to be held on Monday October 23rd at 3pm. We are fortunate that Eirwen Harbottle, widow of Brigadier Michael Harbottle who planted our tree in 1985 has agreed to speak, and that the Mayor of Merton will be represented (by her Deputy Mayor). We hope that as many different faith groups and communities as possible will participate.
The Japanese cherry was planted in 1985 to comemmorate the victims of the world’s first atomic bomb on its 40th anniversary. Twenty years on we are joining with the other supporting groups of the Wimbledon Vigil for Peace (Wimbledon Quaker meeting, the Merton UNA Branch and WDC/CND) to make the tree the symbolic focus of all our desires to work towards world peace and understanding, and the elimination of all war and weapons of mass destruction.
Brigadier Michael Harbottle was Chief of Staff to the UN Peacekeeping Force in 1966–68. After taking early retirement from the Army he and his wife worked tirelessly together for peace until his death in 1997. In 1983 Brigadier Harbottle helped found Generals for Peace and Disarmament (an NGO accredited to the UN, honoured with the “Messenger of Peace” award by UN Secretary General Peres de Cuellar in the 1986 UN International Year of Peace) and launched the Centre for International Peacebuilding with his wife in the same year. Eirwen herself is currently Chair of Trustees of Peace Child International.
“Conflict is natural to a peacebuilder. It is not violence. Violence is when we mismanage conflict. But today we are spending millions of dollars per day on weapons, the least effective way of dealing with conflict. In other words, we are investing in war.”
Kai Jacobson of TRANSCEND Peace and Development Network http://www.transcend.org, quoted by Eirwen Harbottle.