On May 19th (unfortunately timed to clash with our Fete) the public sector union Unison sponsored a day conference in London on the future of the anti-Trident campaign. Over seventy people were present, representing a wide spectrum of activities (churches, trade unions, peace groups, CND) and according to Bruce Kent, interviewed in Peace News, “There was no feeling that the vote in parliament is the end of the road”.
Dr Alan McKinnon (chair of Scottish CND) described the change in political climate in Scotland since the recent elections. SCND is having a conference with the SNP (now forming the minority government) and others on the future of Trident in Scotland. “We’ve never experienced being on the fringes of government before,” he said.
Dr McKinnon was dismissive of propaganda about jobs, saying that the suggestion that running down the Trident base at Faslane would put people out of work was ludicrous. On the contrary, it would free up the shoreline for recreational activities and all the job opportunities associated with that.
A new report by Dr Steven Schofield for Unison and CND examines the technicalities of conversion to civilian production at Barrow and shows that the job implications are in fact very positive. Trident is not essential to employment in the community in the way that we have been led to believe.
Caroline Lucas MEP spoke about global warming as an “international emergency” shifting our perspectives on security, and Gillian Reeve of Medact described a renewed ICAN† campaign (originating in Australia) to get a nuclear weapons convention. This is an update of the 1997 draft treaty sponsored at the UN by Costa Rica, and it is introduced by Judge Weeramantry who sat on the bench at the International Courts of Justice when the ICJ was asked to rule on the legality of nuclear weapons in 1996.
(†ICAN is a partnership campaign aimed at the abolition of all nuclear weapons, not just Trident.)
“With nuclear weapons in front of us,” writes Judge Weeramantry, “we only face destruction and annihilation. With nuclear weapons behind us, we can look forward to reaching that sunlit plateau of peace and justice which has been the dream of humanity throughout the ages.”
Bruce Kent himself spoke about the connection between militarism and poverty, and urged everyone to come to the G8 demonstration in London on June 2nd with ‘abolish Trident’ placards. “You can’t be serious about debt in Africa if you are at the same time talking about spending up to £76 billion on more nuclear weapons.”
During the parliamentary debate Margaret Becket and others had repeatedly said that the Trident decision will be revisited. The contracts have not been signed on the new system. There is plenty of hope for the future.
Based on an article in Peace News, June 2007
WDC/CND regularly receives the Washington Nuclear Update published by BASIC (British-American Security Information Council), a valuable round-up of international news. The issue of 20th March documented a US Energy Department announcement of a contract to develop the first US hydrogen bomb in two decades, and an analysis of Complex 2030, the Bush Administration’s plan to design new nuclear weapons and rebuild the whole US nuclear weapons complex. The United Kingdom section (headlined “New generation of nuclear weapons”) reported “On March 14 the House of Commons approved the government’s plans to begin the process of replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system. The vote left the Government needing support from the Conservatives and having to deal with a large backbench rebellion after being embarrassed by resignations.”
In marked contrast is the new agreement with North Korea (energy aid in exchange for taking the first steps towards dismantling its nuclear facilities) which is reported, together with an analysis (Yale Global Online) which suggests the North Korea had long been ready for a freeze leading to step-by-step de-nuclearization, but only as part of a process leading to security and normalization.
The New York Times is quoted: “Mr Bush could probably have gotten this deal years ago except that he decided he didn’t have to talk to anyone he didn’t like. So long as the White House refused to talk, North Korea churned out plutonium. And once American negotiators were finally allowed to mix their sanctions with sanity and seriously negotiate they struck a deal. The obvious question to ask is what took so long? And even more important: will President Bush learn from this belated success?”
Aid and development organisations, churches and peace groups are coordinating a London demonstration to mark the June G8 summit in Germany, to help ensure that the promises made in 2005 in Scotland will not be broken. The World Can’t Wait campaign is calling for urgent, decisive action: debt cancellation, water and sanitation for all and firm plans on climate change. It is planned as a “fun day out” with events in many of the parks and green spaces around Westminster culminating in everyone making a massive noise and “ringing the alarm” against poverty at 2·30pm. The CND banner will be on the south bank opposite the Houses of Parliament between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges from 2pm.
CND chair Kate Hudson says “The UK government intends to spend £76 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons which are illegal, immoral and do not address our real security concerns. CND believes this money would be better spent fighting climate change and tackling global poverty. Come to London on June 2nd to send Tony Blair off to Germany with our voices ringing in his ears.”
And e-mail German Chancellor Angela Merkel via http://www.yourvoiceagainstpoverty. org.uk/e-mail-merkel/. Political leaders need to know that the world is watching them!
This well-attended meeting organised by Wimbledon Liberal Democrats took place on May 17th at St Winefride’s Parish Church Hall, and WDC/CND was one of the environmental organisations invited to bring an information stall. Unfortunately Chris Huhne (Lib Dem Shadow Environmental Secretary) was unable to appear, having been invited to appear on Question Time, but Norman Baker, Lib Dem M.P. for Lewis and Chair of the All Party environment group, proved a very able substitute, a fluent speaker with a wide grasp of his subject. The science of climate change, he argued, was agreed by almost everyone. We should not gamble on “whether things might not be as bad as we think”. What does it matter if we do the right thing and it proves to be unnecessary? What have we lost? What is the downside to acting responsibly? The extent of species loss due to environmental degradation will be a “terrible epitaph” for this generation. And we must not imagine that environmental degradation is primarily confined to poor countries: he cited poor forestry practices in Tasmania as some of the worst in the world.
The response of the western governments to the impending crisis has so far been pitiful. We need a fair system to achieve the necessary levels of carbon reduction and should adopt the principles of equity and “contraction & convergence”. Current energy policies are hugely wasteful. We need to work towards decentralised, localised power generation (i.e. do far more with the energy we have got). And remember there are lots of renewable energy options, not just wind farms.
He discussed domestic energy efficiency and transport efficiency, noting that London’s Mayor is the only politician who has managed to cut travel congestion. Road pricing in the future would oblige people to pay for the journeys they were actually making. The vexed question of aviation he summed up by saying “We cannot go on as we are.” Aviation emissions are threatening to go through the roof — but the government is building more airports! Government could change the tax system, making it cheaper to do the right thing. Why no VAT on building on greenfield sites? Why not tax pollution? Why not tax aircraft rather than passengers?
Discussion was chaired by local Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Stephen Gee who drew attention to our CND literature, saying that if government was looking for a source of funding for its environmental campaigns it could usefully redirect the £76 billion earmarked for Trident! Fête leaflets were placed on all chairs and I collected quite a few signatures on World Court Project Affirmations of Freedom from Nuclear Weapons. We must do more networking like this.
Report by Joanna Bazley
We send our condolences to Jim Lindsay on the death of Margery, his wife of 57 years who died on 4th May. Many of us attended the funeral on May 21st which was a most beautiful and moving occasion. We remember Marg as Jim’s stalwart helpmate at the Fête of the Earth during all the years when Jim was our Treasurer. It was Marg’s job ‘to guard the money bags’ — looking the picture of perfect innocence all the while — and the following day to share with Jim the task of counting it all out on their kitchen table.
Christopher Meyers (British ambassador to Washington 1997–2003) gave the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy annual lecture at SOAS on May 10th 2007. Before I attended this lecture, I questioned the title — what are global values? Could this be a euphemistic reference to the United Nations/human rights?
I arrived late to join a packed lecture hall listening to this ex-ambassador enthusiastically extolling nationalism to a terrifying degree. One choice remark concerned armaments manufacture — if a government had a choice between armaments manufacture in one country and human rights in another, then “you would expect the jobs of the voters to come first.... Who can say this is wrong?” He said “The national interest must come first.”
So, hasn’t our Foreign Office moved on since the 19th century? It appears not. The United Nations never got a mention; as for the Declaration of Human Rights, you might have thought it had never been written.
There was much emphasis too on our special relationship with the US — its strength and importance. A comparison (detrimental to ourselves) between democracy in the United States and that in this country did not stand up either. There was also justification for the US’s special relationship with Israel. And so it went on....
There is to be a second London conference also at SOAS concerning the Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone on 17 and 18 September this year (details at http://www.cisd.soas.ac.uk).
Alison Williams invites all to attend the latest series of UNA lunchtime workshops, which will introduce the concept of Human (rather than National) Security and look at some specific projects being supported by the UN Trust Fund.
When the United Nations was founded in 1945, talk of security at the global level meant the security of the sovereign member states. Article 2:7 of the UN Charter underlined this, saying nothing authorised the UN to intervene in matters essentially within states’ domestic jurisdiction.
By 1994, following some atrocious failures to protect innocent people (Srebrenica, Rwanda...) and to make a significant impact on extreme poverty, the perspective had begun to change. The UNDP’s Human Development Report that year introduced the term ‘Human Security’ to the international community. In 1998 a Human Security Network was established, with Canada and Norway taking the lead. In 1999, Japan and the UN Secretariat launched a Trust Fund for Human Security. Two years later, in response to Kofi Annan’s Millennium call for an initiative to achieve “Freedom from Fear” and “Freedom from Want”, Japan sponsored a Human Security Commission co-chaired by Sadako Ogata (former High Commissioner for Refugees) and Amartya Sen (Nobel Prize winner in Economics). Their report came out in 2003 with the title Human Security Now.
Bring lunch from 12·30, or come for talk/discussion at 1pm. RSVP to11 Wilberforce House,
Many people worked very hard to make our annual fundraiser on May 19th a very great success, with total takings on the day in the region of £1160 (and more still trickling in). All stallholders deserve to be congratulated, especially those with the thankless task of conjuring order and saleability from mountains of old books and bric-á-brac: £192 on bric-á-brac this year was in fact a ‘personal best’ for Anne and her team. Brigitte and Janet ran the kitchen with admirable efficiency, George and Edwin were on the streets with leaflets all day, and I was especially grateful to those of you who stepped into the gap left by Ann Strauss, ensuring that the plant stall continued to live up to its reputation. It is not possible to thank everybody individually. It was a magnificent team effort by all helpers, supported by those who made donations and came as customers. But perhaps deepest thanks should go to the noble souls who stayed behind (or came especially) to clear up afterwards!