Following the momentous news in October that the 50th country (Honduras) had ratified the TPNW, London Region CND held a Zoom meeting to discuss ways in which local groups can encourage MPs, councils and councillors to support the Treaty by signing up to an International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Model Resolution for Councils. The Treaty will come into force on 22nd January 2021, but predictably none of the countries with nuclear weapons, including the UK, have signed up. However as a supposed supporter of the UN and international law this government may start to feel isolated if the UK completely turns its back on the treaty. It is also to be hoped that it will find it increasingly difficult to access the finance for the weapons, now that they are banned under international law.
Both Merton and Wandsworth Councils have been invited to pass a resolution supporting the TPNW. Merton Council finds itself too busy currently to put the Resolution before the Council. Wandsworth Council has yet to respond, but their response is likely to be the same.
The question now is how to follow up the ratification. Bruce Kent suggests this 7-point action plan:
It was also heartening to read a letter in the Observer last week, signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, and 29 bishops calling on the UK government to stand with the 50 other nations. The Holy See has stated its support already by signing and ratifying the Treaty.
A Remembrance Day ceremony at Wimbledon War Memorial did take place, though attendance was greatly reduced due to Covid-19 restrictions. There was no parade, nor uniformed groups (Scouts etc). The service was led by the Vicar of St Mary’s Wimbledon and the Parish Priest of Sacred Heart. Councillor John Dehaney, the Deputy Mayor, was also present. There was two minutes silence, a band played the Last Post and the National Anthem and a large range of civic organisations placed wreaths. Alison Williams placed our wreath of red and white poppies on the memorial together with a copy of the Preamble to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Killy Cavendish, also a member of the group, placed a tribute to animals killed during conflicts. Thank you to the WDC/CND members who attended.
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The UN Secretary-General was wise to call for a conversation rather than a celebration for this year’s anniversary. The reasons are only too obvious, but let’s acknowledge briefly the achievements there have been. At no time in history has there been such a long period without conflict between the major powers, Nuclear Armageddon has been avoided, and global rates of extreme poverty and illiteracy have declined from 50% to 10–12%. Nobody claims the UN was solely responsible, but would they have happened without the UN?
In January we will be marking the 75th anniversary of the first UN General Assembly in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. The first resolution of that 1946 session called for Nuclear Disarmament. In January 2021 we will be unreservedly celebrating the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons/TPNW. Granted, all the states which have and are modernising their nuclear weapons — along with those which choose to shelter under that dubious umbrella — have with one exception boycotted the TPNW process. In the present context, I can’t avoid a comparison with the still President of the United States clinging to his diminished status. Time’s up, fellows! Spending billions of pounds on indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction is not the way to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
The right way is summed up in number 16 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Hardest of all was to get agreement on and to decide on a suitable logo: a gavel lying on its side with a dove, olive leaves in its beak, standing on the handle.
UN membership now comprises 193 sovereign states. The most rich and powerful generally have their way and none has a perfect record for compliance with agreements for the Common Good. China now pays the second largest contribution to the budget and is trying to shift the UN’s focus from Western values (focused on the dignity of individuals) to Eastern ones (protection of the state). There should be interesting conversations to come.
In a break with tradition, the AGM and Conference were not only held online, but were held over two separate weekends. The AGM confirmed members of the committee, but it was interesting that neither London Region nor Green CND were able to provide delegates for the national committee.
Of note from Kate Hudson’s report were the fact that CND was promoting Build Back Better before the prime minister ‘jumped on the slogan bandwagon’; concern was expressed at the return of B52s to Britain; peace education is focusing on teaching the teachers to be able to deliver the CND message. So far in 2020, many of head office’s activities have gone online and staff have been working remotely. Financially, up to the end of 2019, National CND had a shortfall of £56k, and is still struggling, which seems to vindicate our group’s continuing donations.
Bruce Kent gave a rousing, albeit brief, speech focusing on reasons to be optimistic: namely, that the lockdown has allowed people to think about society, climate change has enabled the issues around weapons and CO2 to be discussed and the pressure on the NHS has given an opportunity to discuss where armaments spending could go.
Nine resolutions were put to conference — none were controversial and all were passed. It was also agreed to support Christian CND for their big event at Methodist Central Hall on 12th July 2021, and to have greater involvement with youth campaigns.
At the conference, Professor Paul Rogers spoke eloquently as usual, bringing together the immorality of spending so much on Trident, and the need to re-think our attitude to security. He made the point that discussion needs to be expanded to include civil society organisations, such as Women’s Institutes, Churches etc. Roger McKenzie (Assistant General Secretary of UNISON) also spoke about understanding the nature of the problem of what constitutes security, and making the link between the cost of Trident and the slashing of public services. The thrust of one of the breakout sessions was that we must continue to stress the link between poverty, and the vast sums being spent on Trident.
I refer to the Sunday Times, 19th January 1958, covering the proposals of the Russian Premier Mr. Bulganin, to the USA’s Mr Eisenhower re talks on nuclear weapons and other aspects of European and wider international security. The 9 topics Bulganin proposed included:
Until late 1958 I was a teenager living in Jamaica, literally, very uncomfortably close to Cuba. In the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 I was living in London, but feeling no safer.
Fast forward to summer 2020 and I wrote in the WDC newsletter on “Artificial Intelligence and How it is Changing War”, concluding fairly gloomily that there won’t be time for human judgment, no enemy mind to try to understand, no scope for compassion or mercy, no persons even to try to intimidate or coerce, and that the AI technology already exists and AI espionage is the new arms race.
Now a few months later, we can see that this Covid-19 pandemic has enabled deplorable actions and inflammatory words and dangerous inactions in respect of so many pressing political problems. But, we can also see that Covid-19 has forced many people everywhere to think more politically than they have for decades, questioning more closely power-structures and inequalities. Although we are in dangerous times and there are contrary desires being fought for, I still remain an optimist.
La lutta continua, even though the struggle seems extra hard now.
Attached (if you receive an email copy), or enclosed (if you receive a hard copy), you will find a beautifully embellished Peace Symbol, created by Gill McCall. We are asking members to colour it in, using whatever colours you have to hand, and to then display it in a window or on a door or somewhere else prominent.
Our intention is to combine all the photos into a collage, so if you can, please take a photo of your finished work, and email to Gill at email@example.com. Thank you.
Some of our members may be interested in joining this group, which is making panels celebrating favourite people, places and things. The idea is to make a panel 30cms by 30cms which will then be put together with the others, and exhibited. The project was started by a group of Quakers to celebrate people, places and creatures that are loved but which are threatened by growing environmental breakdown. Like everything, their plans have been somewhat changed by the Coronavirus pandemic but it is an ideal project to do when isolated. There are online workshops to support those taking part.
Sustainable Merton, a local environmental charity, is working with Loving Earth Project to create a positive local legacy in Merton from these times of COVID lockdown. For many the lockdown has been an opportunity to notice and reflect on our environment and what really matters, in new ways. How would we like things to be different in future? If you are in or near Merton, you may wish to join in this strand of the Loving Earth Project.
Please contact the Loving Earth Project firstname.lastname@example.org for further information, or contact Sustainable Merton email@example.com.
It’s official, following a majority in favour, that her name is Greta! She is now a permanent fixture on the Peace Table.