The government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy recognises that a rules-based international order is a vital national interest of this country. It commits the UK to partnerships in alliances with like-minded states supportive of democracy and human rights and to maintain the generous 0·7% of GDP in overseas aid. So much for the frame.
The flaws in the picture are immediately apparent. Yes, the government has cut our overseas aid to 0·5% but that is only temporary. Yes, our partners are democratic states which respect human rights but sometimes it is necessary to have relationships based on common interest rather than common values.
Of course it is the section on defence and the headline 40% increase in nuclear missiles which is of most concern. It is a clear violation of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which UK governments down the decades profess to support. At the time of writing, the 10th Review Conference of that treaty is tentatively scheduled to be held in New York this year on 2–27 August.
The UK boycotted the series of conferences which led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, arguing that it was a distraction which would weaken the NPT. Far from ratifying the new Treaty, the government now aspires to global greatness through an increased nuclear arsenal and world-beating military technology.
If the UK is to play its proper role as one of the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council it should make positive contributions to international peace and not invite public criticism from the UN’s Secretary-General as in this instance. https://una.org.uk/news/una-uk-initial-statement-response-integrated-review
We are familiar with mixed messages from the present government. The world is always a complex and potentially dangerous place; 193 sovereign member states are signed up to the UN Charter. Russia and China are P5 members along with the UK, the US and France. The Integrated Review characterises Russia as a strategic rival and hostile state, and China in more ambivalent terms, with concern for its human rights behaviour but desirous of economic cooperation. Our common security lies not in anticipating conflict but exercising soft power with good will.
ForcesWatch and the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) are just two organisations expressing disquiet about the increased involvement of the armed forces in the state education system, including careers and curriculum visits to schools and sometimes sponsorship and partnership with individual schools.
On its website, the PPU reports that Cadet forces in British schools have more than doubled since 2012, and that the UK government has spent over £45 million on projects operating with a “military ethos” in schools in England. These include the use of outside companies, often staffed by ex-forces personnel, to run programmes in schools.
Arms companies such as BAE Systems are increasingly running programmes in schools, often in the guise of promoting interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). BAE say their schools visits are to “improve our corporate reputation at both a local and national level”, but The Independent reported recently that they are supplying branded ‘fairy tales’ for nine-year-olds. Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade, referring to BAE-made aircraft playing a central role in the Saudi’s bombing of Yemen causing the destruction of schools and the death of school-age children, said “This is no fairy tale, this is real life and these are the consequences of arms sales.”
The PPU further reports that, during the closure of schools due to the Covid crisis, the army was offering Zoom events targetting misleading pro-military messages at 14–16 year old girls, under the banner of ‘empowerment’. It is worth noting that Britain is the only country in Europe to recruit 16 year-olds into the Armed Services.
You can view, free on Vimeo, a film War School that follows the stories of Ben Griffin, former SAS soldier and founder of Veterans for Peace UK, and Quaker activist Sam Walton, and features the work of ForcesWatch and partner organisations. See http://war.school/.
Our 2021 AGM will be held on Sunday 18th July, starting at midday. Assuming that the current relaxation of Covid rules continues as planned, it will be a face-to-face meeting. See listing in the Diary.
Following the Government’s shocking announcement in March this year, CND commissioned a Legal Opinion from Professor Christine Chinkin (Professor of International Law), and Dr Louise Arimatsu (Distinguished Policy Fellow), both from the Centre for Women, Peace & Security at the LSE.
On Tuesday 18th May, the authors took part in a webinar to mark the Parliamentary launch of the Legal Opinion, presenting their findings and answering audience questions. The event was chaired by Kirsten Oswald MP, Chair of Parliamentary CND, with the participation of Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary.
Their findings show that the increase in nuclear warheads is a clear breach of Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Additionally, the extension of circumstances in which the UK would consider using nuclear weapons, i.e. against non-nuclear threats, is also against International Law. You can read the whole document and watch the launch webinar on CND’s website: https://www.cnduk.org. There is also a link on the website to easily allow you to send a message to the Prime Minister.
We know the challenge: whichever party is in the majority we’ll get the cold shoulder for a call to support nuclear disarmament. But these are promising times for our cause. The government’s proposal to increase our nuclear warheads by 40% when we already have 180 of them, each with the power of at least 8 Hiroshima bombs (some say 12), beggars belief. Only countries already nuclear-armed or choosing to shelter under their umbrella want nuclear weapons; the Ban Treaty now has 54 ratifications and 86 signatory states. The British public, according to a Survation poll conducted in January when the treaty was in the headlines, is 77% opposed to the UK having nuclear weapons. See CND’s website for the national picture of support: https://cnduk.org/nuclear-ban-communities/
Our local challenge is Merton Council — and as individuals committed to getting support for the Ban Treaty it’s the Councillors in our particular ward. The London Borough of Newham is already signed up. And London CND is running a series of meetings to support and encourage us to get on with the job: where do the Councillors stand on this issue? Will they engage in dialogue? Will they sign the pledge to support the Treaty as individuals? Will the Council?
So far London CND has held two Nuclear Ban Community meetings where members of local groups like ours feed back on what they’ve been doing and the response they’re getting. Those trying so far have found it hard work: councillors are nearly all preoccupied with the pandemic situation and unwilling to focus on anything else. From previous experience we know that it will be hard work in Merton too. If you would like to know more about the project and get involved, have a look at London CND’s page: https://www.londoncnd.org/london-nuclear-ban-communities
The Loving Earth Project was set up by a small group of Quakers, including Merton resident Linda Murgatroyd, and welcomes contributions from all over the world. It celebrates people, places, creatures, and other things that we love but which are threatened by growing environmental breakdown. It offers a way to help people engage creatively and constructively with the issues, by asking them to create a small textile panel (30×30cm) containing words and images, which can be included in the Loving Earth travelling exhibition — the aim being to display it at the UN COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. Please have a look at their short introductory video at https://youtu.be/ukmiuHWAMlE. Locally, the Loving Earth Project has been working jointly with Sustainable Merton on “Loving Earth: a Lockdown Legacy”. You can find out more about that project at https://www.sustainablemerton.org/loving-earth
WDC/CND is being encouraged to produce a textile panel, and we’re asking for your help to create it. Attached to this newsletter (email), or enclosed (hard copy), you will find a page with some templates of flowers and leaves, which can be traced onto a piece of cloth and cut out, along with some instructions.
Gill McCall and Maisie Carter will build a collage of contributions as part of a picture panel and we’ll circulate a copy of it once it’s finished.
The speaker at the Nakba Today rally on 17th May who left me with most to think about was Naji El Katib. As a child he was driven out of Jaffa with his family in 1948 and he still regards himself as a refugee. He was inspired by Jeff Halper, Head of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and author of several books including Decolonising Israel, Liberating Palestine, published this year.
Dr Katib spoke of the past and ongoing Nakba against the Palestinians, their Right to Return to their homeland and the creation of a single, secular democratic state as the way to achieve it for the benefit of all its people. It should not be bi-national, he emphasised; the Oslo Accord with its “two state solution” has clearly failed. Granted, for the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships the proposal of a one state outcome is a non-starter. How their citizens feel is a more open question.
The Palestinians want an end to the Occupation and this is a realistic goal. Some Israelis — designated Zionists — want a Jewish state with full citizenship rights for Jews only. History is proving that to be the real non-starter.
The UN resolution which accepted Israel as a member state in May 1948 followed two years of violent conflict: the Arab-Israeli War and for Palestinians, the Nakba. The story of how Israel has sought to impose its desired reality against countless UN resolutions for over 70 years is familiar. By the end of Trump’s term as President, Human Rights Watch (American) and B’Tselem (Jerusalem-based) affirmed that Israel does not deserve to be protected as “our democratic ally”; it is an apartheid state. With the separation wall and the ever-spreading settlements, the Palestinians are confined to a series of over-crowded enclaves on the West Bank with some, described as Arabs, living in “mixed cities” with a degree of Israeli citizenship and others — under maximum pressure — in East Jerusalem. Gaza, with a leadership moved to retaliate forcefully, is being reduced to rubble.
For a concise description of the One State way out of the mess, look at the following manifesto and its 10-point programme: https://onestatecampaign.org/all/en-manifesto/
On Saturday 22nd May, WDC/CND joined forces with Merton Palestine Solidarity Campaign, as we returned to our regular monthly Peace Table, following the Covid lockdown. We stood in support of Palestine and feelings were running high in town, people queuing up to sign petitions, donate money to MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians), gather information, join the groups! It was lovely to see old friends, and make many new friends, after a very long year. Afterwards, many of the group headed to Embankment, to join the march to the 180,000-strong rally in Hyde Park.
CND held a Zoom meeting on 5th May for local groups to help them to raise their profile by getting better press coverage, chaired by Sara Medi Jones. The guest speaker was Ben Chacko, the editor of the Morning Star.
Ben spoke about the dramatic reduction in the number of local papers and, as a result, fewer journalists, so they are desperate for copy. The best time to send copy is in the morning, and human interest stories are usually a winner and have a very low bar.
The best format for a press release is a clear top line followed by bullet points of the main points. If possible, include a quote in the body of the press release. It should always clearly answer the questions who, what, why, where and when, and end with contact details of the group, and a link where more information can be found.
Later, Michael Muir talked about the importance of building relationships with those local journalists who are still in post. Get to know the date the local paper comes out and don’t be afraid to follow up an initial attempt at getting a press release covered if at first there is no response. A good graphic linked to the piece always helps. Letters are also an excellent way of getting our message out.
As you can you can see this all involves quite a lot of work and I’ve not even mentioned local radio. We don’t have a dedicated press officer so any of you with contacts in the local media of any sort please get in touch as we need all the help we can get.