Merton Council should be given credit for joining other London boroughs in sponsoring the Week of Peace (8th–15th September: timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11) but once again, as last year, the event proved a severe disappointment with minimal impact on the local community. In fact, for an event that was supposed to promote “reconciliation, celebration and collaboration” it was a very damp squib indeed. Publicity was so poor that even the local newspaper was unaware of the ‘launch’ until three days after it had happened, and an interfaith walk linking different places of worship was supported by only a handful of people.
There seems to have been an assumption by the official organising committee that a ‘Week of Peace’ spelled potential trouble, and if this were the case it would be very sad indeed. How else to explain the fact that neither we ourselves nor the local branch of the United Nations Association were allowed to take part — the activities of both organisations being deemed too ‘political’ for such an occasion.
It seems particularly ironical that it should be the politicians who are afraid of open discussion of contentious issues. How else do they think that society can learn to understand its own complexity and reach a consensus about a peaceful way forward? Surely this is the whole point of a ‘Peace Week’? Pretending that divisive issues do not exist is a recipe for the sort of resentment and fear that erupts into violence between communities both nationally and internationally, and we shall be lobbying our local councillors to discuss our concerns.
Undeterred by Merton’s refusal to include WDC/CND’s September 11th event at Vestry Hall on their official programme, we went ahead with it anyway, and it proved a stimulating evening. The two films that we showed — “War no More” (a documentary) and “Anthropology 101” (a fantasy of Earth following global nuclear war) — formed an interesting contrast and generated lively discussion. Teachers in the audience felt that the teaching packs issued with these films had the potential to be very useful for secondary school students of both media studies and citizenship.
Both films are available on loan from Joanna (8543 0362 / email@example.com) and it would be good to get them circulating more widely. Perhaps your union, faith group, club or residents’ association would like a discussion evening? or perhaps you would like to put on a coffee morning for neighbours and friends?
This will take place in City Hall and WDC/CND is entitled to send three delegates, so please get in touch if you would like to take up one of these places. (N.B. The deadline for registration as an individual is October 3rd.)
In addition this year there will be meetings on Saturday 13th October which are open to all, non-members included:
Michael Dees of Sustainable Merton will talk on Friday 5th October 8pm at the Wimbledon Guild, Worple Road (following the Merton UNA AGM at 7·30).
“Even a far from comprehensive overview of the impacts of two narrow aspects of climate change — melting sea ice and glaciers, and rising sea levels — is enough to conclude that there will be severe challenges to the global legal system, a scarcity of vital resources, and increasing threats to critical infrastructure....” (Chatham House research paper, June 07)
And this same paper goes on to say (in the same dry and measured prose) that conflict over resources will be an inevitable consequence of global warming and that countries best able to ‘defend their turf’ will come out with the lion’s share of whatever is left. If this prospect appals, come along on 5th October, ask questions, bring your ideas and contribute to the constructive discussion of alternatives.
WDC/CND members are invited to attend a series of lunchtime workshops led by Merton UNA Branch Secretary Alison Williams on Mondays in November. As many of you know, Alison’s UNA workshops cover aspects of international affairs that rarely reach the mainstream media, and we are privileged to be in a position to benefit from her expertise. This time Alison has decided to offer an alternative evening meeting (8–9·30pm) on each occasion to suit those who have other commitments during the day, and it would be helpful if people could register their interest in advance, especially for these evening sessions. RSVP to 11 Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Rd SW20. Tel. 8944 0574.
As before, lunchtime workshops will begin with a friendly communal lunch, so bring a picnic at 12·30 and enjoy good company for half an hour before the start of the talk and discussion at 1pm. (Tea and coffee will be available.)
Alison has provided the following introduction:
When the UN was founded in 1945, ‘security’ was understood to mean the security of states and the UN Charter explicitly affirms and protects state sovereignty (Article 2·7).
But over the 60 years of the UN’s existence other, implicitly contradictory, parts of the Charter and other instruments of international law have increasingly challenged the sovereignty of states in favour of the rights of their citizens. “We the peoples of the United Nations” have rights to good governance and opportunities to participate in the life of our communities, free from want and free from fear.
When Mary Robinson, the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was asked what she thought was the worst human rights problem at the time she said, “Absolute poverty.” And Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General 1997–2006, never tired of pointing out how Security, Development and Human Rights are all interrelated — you can’t have any one without the other two.
Our workshops will begin with a talk on specific UN projects to protect and empower some of the world’s most vulnerable people and introduce discussion on what can be done by ourselves and others to assist in situations where Security must seem a utopian dream: Afghanistan, the Congo, Darfur, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Sri Lanka. The specifics will depend on the participants.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has submitted a planning application for new buildings at AWE Burghfield (part of AWE Aldermaston) where warheads for the current Trident missile system are assembled and refurbished. According to an article in New Scientist (19/9/2007) Burghfield has been struggling to remedy more than 300 safety defects uncovered by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate “and has only been allowed to remain open because the MoD says the work it does is vital” [http://www.robedwards.com/2007/09/safety-warning-.html].
Please write to the local Planning Officer (see below) objecting to the new building and calling for a public enquiry on the grounds that the application has not provided sufficient detailed information about the serious risks to health and safety involved in the preparation of the site for construction:
Please write to (quoting application number 07/01686/COMIND): Clive Inwards, Planning Officer, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, or e-mail cinwards@westberks. gov.uk The deadline is 9th November.
There will be a celebration of Jim Addington’s life on Tuesday November 6th, 6·30–9pm at Friends House, Euston Road, and all are welcome.
CND organised an excellent conference on Missile Defence at SOAS at the beginning of September and enough was said to convince me that in current US “Missile Defence” plans we have both an immediate threat to international security and the scenario for the future weaponisation of space.
The US has been working towards the military dominance of space for a long time (and cynics will tell you that this was the motivation behind all early space exploration). 10 billion dollars per year is currently being allocated by the US government to space research and development and there is intense pressure on US allies to join in. Speaker Bruce Gagnon from Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space said that the US not only hopes to share the huge costs but is also anxious to bind the defence interests of all these countries even more closely with those of America.
Missile defence is a system using radar to detect incoming missiles and then interceptor missiles to shoot them down. It is always portrayed as a purely defensive system but in reality it will allow the US to launch attacks on other counties without fear of retaliation. With planned expansion of missile defence into Central Europe Russia is becoming increasingly hostile, simply not believing the story about planned radar sites in the Czech Republic and Poland being directed against ‘rogue states’. Russia has threatened to retaliate with missile shields of its own and a new generation of nuclear weapons designed to penetrate the western defences more effectively, and who can blame them? This state of affairs was after all precisely what the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty was designed to prevent — and the US walked away from the ABM Treaty unilaterally.
It was particularly interesting to hear the speakers from the Czech Republic and Poland who had galvanized popular protest against Missile Defence in their own countries, despite the unquestioning support for US policies displayed by their respective governments. Jan Neoral, the Mayor of Trokavec (the little town in the Czech Republic where the US planned to build its radar base) spoke passionately about the strength of local feeling against US plans: “Three quarters of the nation stand against the US radar” and the Czech government has treated its people arrogantly. He has conducted a local referendum and founded a new association “Mayors Against Radar” which is growing rapidly (“31 mayors last week, 85 mayors this week.... We only started in January and we are already a nightmare”).
Jan Neoral stressed the importance of a fully informed citizenship and this is a clear message for us too. People on the whole do not know what is going on and it is up to us to spread the word. Come to the WDC/CND meeting on 9th October — and find out more.
Report by Joanna Bazley
WDC/CND will have a stall at the Grand Book Fair in South Park Gardens on 14th October between 11am and 3pm as part of the Wimbledon Bookfest. We shall need sellers on the stall and offers of transport both at the beginning and end of the day. Please phone Joanna on 8543 0362 if you can help.
A couple of days earlier we plan to hold a preparatory book sorting event and all are welcome at 43 Wilton Grove on Friday October 12th from 10·30am onwards. Tea, coffee, juice, bread and cheese will be provided, but other contributions towards a communal lunch would be appreciated. Come and enjoy good company and explore the content of all those boxes!
This WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) seminar marks the UN International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, and will link the environment, militarism and economic justice. There will be speakers on
Workshops include nuclear power, the arms trade, climate change, and corporate power and its links with militarism, and the seminar takes place at Essex Hall, Essex Street, 10am–5pm. Phone 020 7250 1968 to book a place.