When our Secretary, Joanna Bazley, died at the end of 2018, the group was determined that we would carry on producing the Newsletter as regularly as she had done for many years, i.e. ten times a year (once a month except for the combined July/August and December/January issues). With the continued help of Harriet Bazley on the production side, we managed to stick to this schedule throughout 2019.
However, due to increasing demands on their time and the time-consuming nature of producing a monthly edition, Sue Jones (editor) and Alison Williams (diary editor), and Helen McAuley (distribution) proposed that in 2020 we reduce the number to six per year, i.e. a bi-monthly edition. We are grateful to Harriet Bazley for agreeing to continue with production.
Whilst we all had certain reservations (for example, concern that the content would not be as up-to-date as previously), this was agreed at the November Steering Committee meeting. We are therefore starting our new schedule with the current one, for February/March. Alison Williams has already sent an email alerting members to changes and the text is copied here for those not on email:
“One of the changes is to encourage more of our members to send in contributions. Letters are a possibility, or short articles on subjects relevant to WDC/CND interests. Along with CND our Coalition includes local branches of UNA (the United Nations Association) and the PSC (Merton Palestine Solidarity Campaign) along with local Green groups (National CND are part of XR Peace).
“If you have something you’d like to say, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. A column of the newsletter runs to about 350 words. Publication not guaranteed: Editor’s word is final, but we really would welcome input from you!”
And one last word on the matter: if there is anyone out there who would be willing to take on the editorship, please get in touch with me (email@example.com), or Sue or Alison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you for your continued support of WDC/CND, and best wishes to you all for what we can only hope is a peaceful 2020!
Maisie Carter, Chair
Since 1980 the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) have been working for a world without nuclear weapons. More recently ICAN (International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons) have been campaigning for cities and local authorities to sign up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Ban Treaty). They launched the Cities Appeal to give cities and towns the opportunity to show their support and to call on their governments to do the same. Major cities such as Baltimore, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Sydney and Toronto have already signed. More recently Washington DC, Hiroshima, Paris and Berlin have also joined up to the agreement, which states:
“Our city/town is deeply concerned about the grave threat that nuclear weapons pose to communities throughout the world. We firmly believe that our residents have the right to live in a world free from this Threat. Any use of nuclear weapons, whether deliberate or accidental, would have catastrophic, far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for people and the environment. Therefore, we warmly welcome the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations in 2017, and we call on our national government to join it.
“Nuclear weapons pose a particular threat to cities, which are in many cases the primary targets for an attack. Nuclear weapons are designed to inflict comprehensive damage upon their targets. It is the very nature of the nuclear threat to a rival country’s most important places that underpins the theory and practice of nuclear deterrence, which is promoted as a legitimate defence strategy by all nine nuclear-armed states, and the several dozen more that endorse the use of nuclear weapons. These governments are putting their citizens’ lives at risk by subscribing to this strategy, which has been undermined time and again by near misses and miscalculations which very nearly unleashed nuclear war. Local governments bear a special responsibility for the safety of their residents. It is therefore incumbent upon cities to speak out against nuclear weapons.”
It should be noted that our Chair, Maisie Carter, has written twice asking Merton Council to sign up but has yet to receive a reply.
The focus of our Peace Table on 11th January was the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani and six others in a drone strike in Iraq. The killing was described by CND as an act of state terrorism illegal under international law, an outrage which provoked widespread demonstrations across the world.
In the UK, the peace movement was quick to respond in cities throughout the country, including London. Members of WDC/CND turned out in Wimbledon to distribute the hastily-prepared leaflets, supported by the usual colourful Peace Table, draped with hard-hitting posters warning of the increased danger of war and general instability that has resulted from Trump’s reckless action. Most of them then went on to the demonstration in central London, one of many held throughout the country, to protest about the barbarity of these killings, calling for peace and an end to the cycle of violence. Thanks again to Gill and Dave for producing an excellent leaflet and for their topical display on the Peace Table.
The shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger aeroplane with the loss of 176 lives has been one tragic outcome, followed closely by Trump’s threat to destroy fifty-two cultural and historic sites in Iran, a shocking example of what CND General Secretary Kate Hudson called the true level of barbarism of the Trump administration, putting him on a par with the Taliban and ISIL, who in 2001 were condemned by the civilised world when they carried out the destruction of ancient monuments at world heritage sites in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
Responsibility for the destabilisation of an already fragile peace in the Middle East must lie with Trump and the US administration. The escalation and build-up of tension that began with Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has reached frightening proportions and it is now much more likely that Iran will decide to go ahead with developing its own nuclear weapons. In this situation, it is vital that the world continues to put pressure on the US and on our own government.
Every member and supporter of peace has a role to play in this campaign. Not everyone can come out on demonstrations, help at the weekly Peace Vigil, the monthly Peace Table or distribute leaflets. But we can all help by writing letters to our MP and Prime Minister, talking to friends and colleagues and persuading others to sign petitions and to think about taking just a small step for peace. One such initiative was taken by one of our members, Alex, who, immediately the news broke, wrote letters to the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates in the General Election, calling on them to condemn the US killings and to speak out for peace. Positive replies were received from Jackie Schneider (Labour) and Councillor Paul Kohler (Liberal Democrat).
Actions such as these will help to build the movement that CND is calling for, to prevent the descent into catastrophic war, to uphold the nuclear deal and take steps to secure a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.
How did we end up in a situation where the iconic CND symbol — internationally recognised as a peace sign — ended up in a document used as part of training for Prevent, the anti-radicalisation scheme designed to catch those at risk of committing terrorist violence? CND and other peace NGOs are listed alongside neo-Nazi and other extremist groups.
This is an attack on our civil liberties that we must resist. Our rights have been violated and our inclusion is open to legal challenge. To that end National CND has instructed its solicitors to take action now and insist that CND and other non-violent groups are removed from the list and an apology issued.
We urge everyone to wear a CND badge or item of clothing in defiance of the guidance. If you need to get a new badge, we’ll have some available on the Peace Table on 1st February or you can get one from
Congratulations to Gill McCall and Dave Johnson on the happy occasion of their wedding on 17th January. Several members of the group were present at the ceremony in Merton Register Office, and, later, joined in the music and merry-making at the Sultan pub. We send Gill and Dave our very best wishes for the future, and, as ever, grateful thanks for the work they do with the Peace Table every month.
Was it ever fit for purpose, one might ask. As a UN child (my father joined the Organisation from the BBC in 1945 and was an International Civil Servant till his retirement) I have never doubted the need for the UN or the rightness of its aims and objectives. The Charter which sets out its structure and procedures is the best the world’s governments could achieve in 1945, and probably better than anything they could achieve in the present climate.
The preamble to that Charter opens with the declaration that “We the peoples of the United Nations” — us, not our governments — are determined to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to establish conditions which enable international law to be maintained with everyone everywhere able to enjoy decent living standards in freedom and security. The aims are to be achieved by our living in peace together as good neighbours, agreed that where conflicts arise force should only be used in the common interest.
The Charter then sets out the principles, methods and international machinery “to accomplish these aims”. The representatives of governments signed it on our behalf in June 1945 and ratified it on 24 October that year: UN Day. Of course that’s noted in my Housman’s Peace Diary and it’s in my ordinary one as well. But I’d guess very few people of any generation could now say what event is commemorated on 24 October; neither in a conflict-ridden developing country or our own, founding UN member state with permanent membership of the Security Council though it is.
Article 1:4 of the Charter summarises the purposes: “to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations” to achieve them. Article 2 has the principles. 2:1 affirms “the sovereign equality” of the member states: the US and China equal New Zealand and Kiribati in that respect. 2:7 has the unavoidable but fundamentally contradictory provision — unavoidable because no state would voluntarily join an organisation without it, contradictory because it protects the interests of governments over those of their people — saying that nothing in the Charter authorises the UN to intervene in matters “essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”.
The most significant attempt to reform the UN’s fundamentals came when Kofi Annan was Secretary-General. The UN General Assembly opens with a Summit of Heads of State and Government every September, and among the proposals agreed to in 2005 were two of special importance: the establishment of a Human Rights Council with authority to require reports from states, and the better known Responsibility to Protect. The international community recognises in extreme circumstances a duty to protect people when their governments fail to do so through choice or lack of capacity.
Experts interviewed about the Organisation tend to refer back to the 2005 reform proposals as, in effect, a good programme that hadn’t been implemented. Are the UN’s aims and purposes entirely utopian in our world with all its inequalities and problematic histories?
No; it’s an immensely challenging work in progress. The most encouraging feature of its evolution has been the increase in the role played by non-governmental sectors, above all not-for-profit organisations in all areas of human concern. CND is always represented at the UN’s disarmament conferences and with Climate Change now as existential a threat as nuclear weapons it is in partnership with Extinction Rebellion. In tipping point times, we need the UN as never before.
Throughout the year, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has a varied programme of lectures free to members of the public. In February, there happen to be two on subjects close to WDC/CND members’ hearts, and which you may be able to attend:
Tuesday 4th February 6·30–8pm: “Peace: a discussion of the history, ethics and politics of Peace”. The Forum for Philosophy. Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, Houghton Street WC2A 2AE. Chair: Jonathan Birch, Associate Professor of Philosophy LSE https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/theforum/forthcomingevents/peace/
Thursday 13th February 6·30–8pm: “The International Political Economy: sources of nuclear proliferation”. The 2020 Susan Strange lecture, Dept of International Relations. Venue as above. Chair: Professor Karen Smith, HoD International Relations LSE. http://www.lse.ac.uk/Events/2020/02/20200213t1830vOT/the-international-political-economy
We would welcome a report-back if anyone manages to attend either of these.