Disarmament at the UN

The First Committee on Disarmament meets in New York every autumn, but its deliberations are rarely reported in the British media. This year the Chair of the First Committee opened the session on Monday October 9th with a short, terse condemnation of North Korea’s nuclear test. In response, the North Korean Ambassador claimed that his country was developing nuclear weapons as a means of defence and to maintain its sovereignty. “The US extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test, an essential process for bolstering nuclear deterrent, as a corresponding measure for defence.”

Jennifer Nordstrom of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, which monitors the First Committee on behalf of NGOs, writes “If we want to avoid similar threat analyses and results in the future we must create an international system based on the rule of law, not the rule of force.... That law must apply equally to everyone.... Creating and obeying law is not blind faith but is rather the process of building a just international system with fair rules and effective verification.... The nuclear test is... a warning sign at the crossroads. We can either work to build a collective security system in the interests of all, or this can be one of the many tragic and destructive instances of people and states taking security into their own hands.”

The First Committee also debated the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, and was addressed by its Secretary General, who said that there had obviously not been enough imagination to solve the deadlock at the CD and that he doubted it could survive another year without substantive work. The Five Ambassadors’ proposal (for the creation of ad hoc committees on the four core issues — fissile materials, arms in outer space, nuclear disarmament and negative security assurances) had attracted widespread support, but was unlikely to achieve consensus. Effectively, consensus is being used as a veto. Hans Blix, chair of the WMD commission, had recommended a qualified two-thirds majority voting system in its place, but various states disagreed.

The annual draft resolution on PAROS (Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space) introduced on October 12th by Egypt is virtually identical to last year’s resolution. The USA, the only member to vote against PAROS last year, opposed “the development of new legal régimes... that seek to prohibit or limit US access to or use of outer space” and will continue to “dissuade or deter others from impeding [its right to operate in space]... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests” (US National Space Policy, released 6/10/2006).

On October 10th, Malaysia re-introduced a draft resolution on Follow-Up to the ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, as it has done annually since 1996, a resolution which calls for negotiations that would conclude in a nuclear weapons convention. (This resolution traditionally finds support from a mix of Western, non-aligned and nuclear countries, including China, India and Pakistan. NATO countries either abstain or oppose. France, the UK and USA oppose.)

The Deputy Legal Advisor for the US State Department noted that the US did not agree with the ICJ Opinion (that there exists an obligation to conclude disarmament negotiations). He emphasised that Article VI of the NPT only obliges states to negotiate, and that competing national interests could prevent such negotiations from reaching a conclusion. Depressing stuff.

(For a full account of the UN disarmament debates, see http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org)

Lawless World — Making and Breaking Global Rules

The next series of United Nations Association lunch-time workshops will discuss the powerful defence of global rules in a book by Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law at University College London. As a practising barrister he has been involved in the cases of Pinochet as well as Guantanamo and Belmarsh detainees.

Lawless World, Philippe Sands, Penguin 2006 edition ISBN 0-141-01799-6: read the book beforehand if you can, but in any case feel free to come and join in the discussion. Sessions will be introduced by Alison Williams, Secretary of UNA Merton Branch and a former UN guide. All are welcome.

Workshops take place on Monday lunch-times in November at 11 Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road SW20 8ET. Bring lunch from 12·30, or come for talk/discussion 1–2·30pm. RSVP 8944 0574 or alisonwilliams36@tiscali.co....

Greenpeace: “Britain’s New Bomb Programme Exposed”

Greenpeace released this new report on October 20th, and the development of new facilities at Aldermaston became the lead story on BBC2’s Newsnight.

“North Korea has the world’s attention. The Chinese have sent an envoy. A country which cannot feed itself is devoting huge resources to building nuclear weapons. But tonight Newsnight will be exploring a very different aspect of the story of nuclear proliferation. Which tin-pot dictatorship, which axis-of-evil aspirant, do you think is most grievously in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? According to Greenpeace it’s not North Korea, or Iran, or Israel, or Pakistan. It’s Britain.”
Newsnight website

As Greenpeace Campaign Director Blake Lee Harwood puts it, “Building new nuclear weapons at a time when the UK faces no foreseeable nuclear threat and when the international community is trying to prevent other countries developing their own is incredibly inflammatory. How can we preach at Iran when we have our own secret weapons programme?”

(The Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp forwarded us this information with the wry comment “Four years later... oh well, at least people kind of believe us now!”)


‘Going nuclear is not the answer’

The September issue of The Londoner carried an excellent article by Ken Livingstone full of information about the costs of nuclear power, what other European countries are up to, how we in Britain could reduce carbon emissions by 60% with proper house insulation, more responsive use of electricity etc. Livingstone concludes “London is the UK’s most important energy market. It has already established a Climate Change Agency and I shall use all my existing and new powers to pursue an alternative to the Government’s Energy Review.” See http://www.london.gov.uk/londoner/ for full text of the article.

Barbara Bampton

Faslane 365

Sue Davies of London Region CND writes: “Faslane 365, the plan to blockade the UK’s nuclear-armed submarine base for a year, with different groups responsible for each successive 2-day slot, began on Sunday October 1st with a women-only group organised by Women in Black and Greenham Common veterans.

“I went, knowing I would be with many old friends, and the buzz of being there at the start of this somewhat ambitious plan. But my scepticism — ‘Haven’t we set ourselves up to fail?’ — was soon replaced with optimism, joy and the realisation that we have a new way of flagging up to the world what goes on at Faslane.

“13 women were arrested immediately on Monday morning, some for dancing the conga in the road, one for carrying a mug of coffee across it... They were held all day and overnight, then released without charge, appearing in court or bail conditions — nothing.

“This is unprecedented, and there are many conjectures as to the reason. However it is clear that the courts and police are worried about how to deal with a year-long demonstration that will take many different shapes and stretch their resources to breaking-point. As one copper ruefully said to me on Tuesday: ‘We’ve got 362 more days of this!’ Of course, the legality of holding people so long without charge will be challenged.”

National CND and London Region CND’s 2-day slot is November 5–6th, with a coach going up on Saturday November 4th. Do please do all you can to persuade people to go there — it truly is a great experience and a great opportunity.

If you have questions, call Sue Davies on 8981 6871, and book your seat on the coach by ringing Ben, CND Campaigns Worker, on 7700 2393.

London Region CND

Footnote to the great anti-war march

David Blunkett recorded in his diary (as published in the Guardian 13/10/2006): “Million-strong anti-war march in London.... I think Tony has stood up very well to the enormous turnout — frighteningly intimidatory, and people so bellicose.”

Return to the World Court

The tenth anniversary of the ICJ (International Court of Justice) Opinion on nuclear weapons was marked by a major conference 6–7 July at the European Parliament. The remit of the conference was to examine the record of the nuclear weapons states over the last ten years and to provide pointers to future action by nuclear abolitionists.

Ten years ago the ICJ concluded unanimously that there is an obligation on nuclear weapons states “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” The Brussels conference concluded that negotiations have consistently been blocked or obstructed and that nuclear weapons continue to play a vital rôle in national policies. That violates the ‘Good Faith’ obligation, precisely defined by Judge Weeramantry (formerly of the ICJ) as sincerity in negotiating (i.e. not operating from entrenched positions) and the consistent pursuit of the objective (global nuclear disarmament), involving real political will (spasmodic efforts now and again are not good enough). The conclusion must be reached “with all deliberate speed” and the parties must avoid policies which contradict the very purpose of the negotiations. Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima, describing the Mayors for Peace ‘Good Faith Challenge’, insisted that cities must never again be nuclear targets.

“Returning to the World Court is now firmly on the international abolitionist agenda” writes George Farebrother of World Court Project UK. The Court should be asked to rule on whether the nuclear weapons states have been acting in good faith. For this to happen, the UN General Assembly must be persuaded to make the formal request to the World Court and this is where our lobbying must start.

World Court Project Newsletter October ’06: http://www.gn.apc.org/wcp


Congratulations to Wimbledon M.P. Stephen Hammond for taking up the cause of Barbar Ahmed with the Minister, and for voting in favour of the two Lords amendments to the US-UK Extradition Act on October 24th.

Autumn Books

With Christmas presents in mind you may like to investigate the following:

“Don’t Shoot the Clowns: Taking a Circus to the Children of Iraq” by Jo Wilding (New Internationalist 2006 ISBN 1 904456 48 0 £8·99). “Reading Don’t Shoot the Clowns, it is hard not to stand in awe of Jo Wilding’s combination of guts and talent. Not only has she been places and done things that would make most of us quail, but she can also write powerfully and eloquently about her experience” (Peace News 2478, Oct ’06). WDC/CND members will remember Jo Wilding’s powerful film “A letter to the Prime Minister” that we showed at Drake House last year.

“Walking to Greenham: How the Peace Camp began and the Cold War ended” by Ann Pettit (Honno 2006, ISBN 1 870206 76 2 £8·99). This is the personal story of Ann Pettit, one of the women who walked from Cardiff to Greenham in 1981 and set up camp, thus starting a movement bigger than they could possibly have imagined. “The power of this very readable, funny and moving book is that it communicates the belief that everyone can make a difference” (ibid).

The Party4Peace will take place at ‘The Bedford’ pub, Bedford Hill, Balham from 7·30pm onwards on Sunday 26th November, and our CND stall will be present. Admission is reduced if you pay in advance — phone Isobel 020 8675 4744.

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