UN chief launches new disarmament agenda ‘to secure our world and our future’


An article from United Nations News

“The United Nations was created with the goal of eliminating war as an instrument of foreign policy,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, unveiling his new agenda, entitled, Securing Our Common Future, at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.

“But seven decades on, our world is as dangerous as it has ever been,” he warned.

“Disarmament prevents and ends violence. Disarmament supports sustainable development. And disarmament is true to our values and principles,” he explained.

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The launch comes at a time when “arms control has been in the news every day, sometimes in relation to Iran and Syria, sometimes the Korean Peninsula,” said the UN chief.

The new Agenda focuses on three priorities – weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and new battlefield technologies.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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First, he stressed that disarmament of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons could “save humanity,” noting that some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain stockpiled around the world and hundreds are ready to be launched within minutes.

“We are one mechanical, electronic or human error away from a catastrophe that could eradicate entire cities from the map,” he warned.

Mr. Guterres said the States that possess nuclear weapons have the primary responsibility for avoiding catastrophe. In that regard, he appealed to Russia and the US to resolve their dispute over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to extend the New START treaty on strategic offensive arms, which is due to expire in just three years; and to take new steps towards reducing nuclear stockpiles.

Second, he said disarmament of conventional weapons could “save lives,” in particular those of civilians who continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict.

The UN chief said that beyond the appalling numbers of civilians killed and injured, conflicts are driving record numbers of people from their homes, often depriving them of food, healthcare, education and any means of making a living.

At the end of 2016, more than 65 million people were uprooted by war, violence and persecution, he said.

“My initiative will have a strong basis in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world’s blueprint for peace and prosperity on a healthy planet,” he said, noting that excessive spending on weapons drains resources for sustainable development.

In fact, more than $1.7 trillion dollars was spent last year on arms and armies – the highest level since the fall of the Berlin Wall. That is around 80 times the amount needed to meet the humanitarian aid needs of the whole world, he said.

Third, he said that new technologies, when used maliciously, could help start a new arms race, endangering future generations. “The combined risks of new weapon technologies could have a game-changing impact on our future security,” he said.

Nuclear Weapon States’ Long Arm Seen Behind Deferral of Landmark UN Conference


An article by Alyn Ware for Indepth News

May 14, 2018 was supposed to see the opening at the United Nations of a three-day High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, scheduled to discuss “effective nuclear disarmament measures to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons, including, in particular, on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons.”

The UN General Assembly decided five years ago to hold such a conference in 2018, following a series of annual, one-day, high-level meetings at the United Nations.

Security Council meeting on Maintenance of international peace and security, Nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The importance of the 2018 High-Level Conference only increased during these five years with a range of nuclear-weapons related conflicts heating up – Russia vs. NATO, North Korea vs. USA, India vs. Pakistan – to such an extent that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  in January 2018 moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 2 Minutes to Midnight. This is the closest humanity has been to nuclear Armageddon since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Uncertainty over the future of the Iran nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States on May 8 has only added fuel to the nuclear fire.

A High-Level Conference (scheduled for May 14-16) would have provided a powerful platform for world leaders to support diplomacy and nuclear-risk reduction in these nuclear-related conflicts, as well as to advance nuclear disarmament measures such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons  which was concluded by non-nuclear States at the UN in July 2017 but has not yet entered into force.

Right at a time when such a conference is needed the most, it has surprisingly been postponed to an uncertain future date.

Civil society representatives, many of whom had already booked their flights to New York for the conference, were left perplexed. The High-Level Conference had been initiated by the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which in the past has led on a number of nuclear disarmament initiatives, such as challenging the legality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)  in 1994.

Many of the Non-Aligned countries were also active in the 2017 negotiations that concluded the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. So why would the NAM now reverse itself and drop such an important event?

The Indonesian Mission (Embassy) to the UN, which serves as the UN Coordinator for NAM, indicated that they had not found a suitable country to chair the conference. This indeed appears to be true. Several candidates invited to chair the conference had declined. But this still begs the question why? Wouldn’t one or more of the NAM countries want to chair the conference and elevate their standing in the international community as a broker for peace and disarmament?

It appears from informal conversations with some NAM members that there are deeper reasons, most of which fall back to the long-arm influence and intransigence of nuclear-armed States on nuclear issues. This plays out in a number of ways.

Firstly, it appears that the NAM was unsuccessful in persuading leaders of nuclear-armed and allied states to commit to coming to the UN High-Level Conference. Having a conference where these states are represented only at ambassador level (or even lower) would undermine the conference and would limit the degree to which these countries would commit to any nuclear risk-reduction or disarmament measures.

This argument would be totally understandable if the NAM had indeed put strong pressure and invested political capital to move the leaders of nuclear armed and allied states to come. But this did not seem to be the case. Leaders of countries are not moved to come to UN Summits or High-Level Conferences solely on the basis of a UN resolution.

They would be so moved if NAM leaders announced that they themselves were coming to the UN conference at the highest level (President or Prime Minister), publicly called on the nuclear armed and allied states to do the same and made this a priority in their bilateral meetings with the leaders of the nuclear armed and allied States.

The fact that NAM did not appear to do this indicates that something else is happening within NAM that appears to have reduced their collective resolve and impact on nuclear disarmament issues.

Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, a number of NAM members, like many other non-nuclear States, have developed closer trade, financial and political relationships with specific nuclear-armed States. They appear hesitant to do anything that would seriously impact on such relationships. These countries are ready to support nuclear disarmament statements and resolutions that look good but have little impact on their nuclear-armed friends. They are hesitant to adopt measures that might impact significantly on the practices of the nuclear-armed states and incur the wrath or even counter measures from them.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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This was evident, for example, in the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The nuclear-armed States and the allied states under extended nuclear deterrence relationships have all indicated that they won’t join the Treaty which means that the general Treaty obligations will not apply to them.

However, there were proposals to include Treaty provisions that would have had direct impact on practices of the nuclear-armed States. These included prohibiting transit of nuclear weapons in the land, sea and air spaces of Treaty parties, and to ban financing of nuclear weapons, i.e. investments in nuclear weapons corporations. The fact that the states negotiating the Treaty rejected these proposals demonstrated their unwillingness to confront the nuclear-armed States.

This was also evident in the recent case taken by the Marshall Islands against nuclear-armed States in the ICJ. This was a direct legal challenge of the nuclear-armed States violating their nuclear disarmament obligations.

However, not one other non-nuclear country joined the Marshall Islands in the case. None wanted to come into direct confrontation with the nuclear-armed States. As a result, the ICJ determined that it was not a real legal dispute regarding the disarmament obligation, and they dismissed the case.

It appears that this low level of resolve by NAM and other non-nuclear States to confront the nuclear-armed States is not the only reason for the deferral of the UN High-Level Conference.

Another reason appears to be that the heightened tensions between nuclear-armed States make it difficult for even the strongest disarmament advocates and the best ‘bridge-builders’ to succeed in bringing the nuclear-armed States together to cooperate in such a forum.

An indication of this is the responses of the nuclear-armed States to two recent initiatives by Kazakhstan, a country that had been incredibly influential and successful as a bridge-builder at the end of the Cold War. Kazakhstan was instrumental in bringing Russia and the United States together in 1991 to cooperate on nuclear threat reduction, the dismantling of the nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus and the securing of nuclear materials in these countries.

However, two of Kazakhstan’s more recent attempts to encourage cooperation between nuclear-armed States (and especially USA and Russia) have had much less success. These included the Universal Declaration for a Nuclear Weapon-Free World, which did not get unanimous support, and the Security Council session on confidence building and weapons of mass destruction which Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev chaired on January 18, 2018.

The U.S. used the opportunity of the Security Council session not to discuss confidence-building measures, but rather to launch a multifaceted attack against Russia. Russia then responded in kind. This, and other indications of increased antagonism between nuclear-armed States, appears to have convinced some NAM countries that now was not an optimum time to hold the High-Level Conference.

On the other hand, it is understood that other NAM countries believed that this dynamic and other tensions and conflicts such as in North-East Asia, were the very reason that a High-Level Conference would be so important at this time.

Many civil society organizations share the latter view. “If ever there was a time when there was a need for a high-level summit … it is now,” said Jackie Cabasso, executive director of Western States Legal Foundation speaking at a press conference at the United Nations  on March 28.

“One of the things I think we’re here to say is that this opportunity should be seized upon by the nuclear powers which are confronting each other now in a very, very dangerous way that threatens all of us,” continued Cabasso. “This high-level conference could provide support and encouragement especially as it comes between the planned summit between the two Koreas in April and the U.S.-North Korea summit in May/June.”

There is concern that the postponing of the UN High-Level Conference might be a sign of ‘wet feet’ from the Non-Aligned Movement leading to it being cancelled altogether. “NAM needs to hear from civil society and from other non-nuclear governments that the High-Level Conference must proceed, either later in 2018 or in 2019,” says John Hallam, Convener of the Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working group.

“The threats to humanity and the planet from the conflicts and policies of the nuclear armed States are too high, too risky, and too important to leave to them alone. The High-Level Conference is vital to pull them back from the nuclear abyss and set the world on a path to nuclear disarmament,” he adds.

Civil society action has been successful in the past in re-building the resolve of NAM to take action in the face of strong opposition from the nuclear-armed States.

In 1993, as a result of pressure from the nuclear-armed States, the NAM withdrew their resolution to the United Nations requesting the International Court of Justice to rule on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. At that time, it appeared as though the initiative was lost.

However, a coalition of over 700 civil society organizations took action and convinced the NAM to resist the pressure from the nuclear-armed States and to re-submit the resolution to the UN General Assembly in 1994. The result was a successful vote in the UN General Assembly, followed by an historical case where the court affirmed the general illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons and the universal obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament.

A similar campaign by civil society in support of the UN High-Level Conference could convince NAM to move the UN General Assembly this October to re-schedule the UN High-Level Conference for 2019. Civil society organizations are meeting in New York to discuss the issue.

Physician Leaders Urge All States to Sign Nuclear Weapons Treaty


An article from the World Medical Association

Deep concern about nuclear armed states who have decided to modernise their nuclear weapons and retain them indefinitely, has been expressed by the World Medical Association.

At their Council meeting in Riga, Latvia, delegates from the WMA called for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide and urged all states to promptly sign and implement the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (see the Council Resolution)

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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Delegates from almost 40 national medical associations expressed their strong concern about the growing threat of nuclear war and spoke about the catastrophic consequences of these weapons on human health and the environment.

WMA President Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura said: ‘It is our duty as physicians to preserve life, to safeguard the health of patients and to dedicate ourselves to the service of humanity. Members of the WMA have a responsibility to remind their governments of the devastating and long-term health consequences of using nuclear weapons and to urge them in the strongest possible terms to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

‘We join with others in the international community in urging all states to sign, ratify and implement the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’.

(Thank you to the Good News Agency for calling our attention to this article.

USA: Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance


Excerpts from annual report of Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Quite a year—OREPA members rose up to meet the greatest financial challenge in our 30-year history, raising more than $50,000 in less than 60 days to fund a lawsuit to stop the Uranium Processing Facility nuclear bomb plant planned for Oak Ridge.

At the same time, it was the year the future broke open with new possibilities—the UN passed the Ban Treaty that outlaws all nuclear weapons development, production, possession, deployment, testing, use, threat of use…

It was the year that we traveled to Germany and came to a new collaboration with colleagues in Europe who are aggressively resisting the deployment of US nuclear weapons in five countries there.

It was the year we went to the United Nations to help lead a workshop on US nuclear weapons production and participate in the initial negotiating stages of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—it was exciting and humbling to watch the deliberations and realize history was turning before our eyes because of the courage of the delegates and the leadership of Costa Rica’s Elayne Whyte Gómez.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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It was the year we turned our eyes to the future with determination to develop a new generation of leaders in the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons as we began to implement the goals of our Next Generation Leadership Fund.

Meanwhile, we continued to do the many things that has made OREPA a strong and effective organization—publishing a newsletter that Ralph Nader called, in his year-end blog, a “must-read.”

And we maintained our on-line presence; celebrated the conclusion of the 18th year of uninterrupted Sunday vigils at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex by launching year 19; published the Reflection Booklet; kept our staff and our bills paid; took seven people to Washington, DC, to oppose the UPF bomb plant in meetings with Congress and Administration officials; and worked with our colleagues in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability to develop and carry out strategies to oppose new bomb plants and new bombs while we advocate for responsible policies for nuclear waste and cleanup programs.

Oh, yes—we also sued the National Nuclear Security Administration and celebrated the Nobel Peace Prize going to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Most important of all—not one bit of OREPA’s work this past year would have been possible without the persistent, amazing support of our members. Many of you not only sent money, but wrote letters to the editor, pressured your elected officials, invited OREPA to make presentations, held fundraising events for the lawsuit, and educated yourselves about the trillion dollar plan to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal.

So our year-in-review closes with a huge Thank You to everyone who took part in this grand year.

Campaign for Compliance with the Nuclear Ban Treaty 


Campaign description from Nuclear Ban US (excerpts)

The Campaign for Treaty Compliance is about getting individuals, businesses, faith communities, schools, organizations, cities and states to be in ‘compliance’ with the Nuclear Ban Treaty. This will put pressure on the nuclear weapons industry and eventually force the federal government to implement the Treaty.

Click for more information about…

Becoming ‘treaty compliant’ yourself

For most people, Treaty Compliance is pretty simple. It means:

* You are not employed by any of the companies that make nuclear weapons.

* You do not have personal investments in any of them.

* You will not buy any of their products in future . . .

Helping to get a group or organization to be ‘treaty compliant'(neighborhood, club, school, university, business, faith community, civic organization)

Any organization or institution that wants to be on the right side of history and help rid the world of nuclear weapons can decide to be in ‘compliance’ with the Nuclear Ban Treaty. To have the force of legality behind it, normally it will be the board or trustees or some similar body who will need to agree to this. That body may then oversee the rest of the process or assign a smaller (sub-)committee to do so. . . .

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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Working locally to get your town/city to be ‘treaty compliant’

There are 220 towns, cities, counties and Native American nations across the United States which declared themselves Nuclear Free Zones (NFZs) in the 1980s. Some of the local ordinances and city codes that established these zones were largely symbolic, but many had real teeth and included fines and other sanctions for violations. Sample ordinances and city codes are located here.

Many of these existing NFZs are already Treaty Compliant with the Nuclear Ban Treaty. Others may want to revise their existing legislation to be fully in compliance with the new Treaty.

In addition to NFZs, there are 211 cities in the United States who have signed the Mayors for Peace (MfP) covenant. This commits the mayor to “make every effort…to achieve the total abolition of nuclear weapons…” These mayors may choose to appoint a Mayoral Commission to oversee Treaty Compliance for their city. . . .

Campaigning state-wide to get your state to be ‘treaty compliant’

Individual states of the Union cannot sign international agreements, but they can decide to comply with such agreements. When President Trump announced he would be pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, cities and states across the country stepped up to the plate to commit themselves to this Agreement, with or without the federal government’s blessing.

Sixteen states (plus Puerto Rico) have so far committed themselves to meeting these targets because they recognize that climate change poses an existential threat to humanity and that the US government is out of step with the global consensus on what to do to address this problem. Nuclear weapons also pose an existential threat to humanity, and once again the US government is out of step with the global consensus on how to eliminate these weapons once and for all. . . .

Campaigning nationally to get the federal government to sign the Treaty

The only protection from nuclear weapons is to eliminate them all. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons bans all nuclear weapons and seeks their total elimination. Ultimately, we want the US President to sign this Treaty, we want the Senate to ratify it, and we want to see it fully implemented and enforced. You can sign the WILPF petition calling for this here. You can also urge your member of Congress to sign the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge here. . . .


African Union: Africa’s Peace and Security Landscape by the Year 2023: A Prospective Analysis of Peace and Security Challenges


An article from the African Union

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), dedicated its 766th meeting held on 24 April 2018, to an Open Session on the theme: “Africa’s Peace and Security Landscape by the Year 2023 (End of First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063): A Prospective Analysis of Peace and Security Challenges”.

Council and participants took note of the opening statement made by the Chairperson of the PSC Chairperson for the month of April 2018, Ambassador Bankole A. Adeoye of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They also took note of the presentations made by the AU Acting Director for Peace and Security, Dr. Admore Mupoki Kambudzi; Dr. Kassim Mohammed Khamis from the AU Directorate for Strategic Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, International Cooperation and Resource Mobilization; the Chief Executive Officer of the African Peer Review Mechanism, Professor Eddy Maloka and Dr. Jakkie Cilliers from the Institute for Security Studies. Council and participants also took note of the statements made by the representatives of AU Member States, Regional Economic Communities, as well as by the representatives of the AU partners, other institutions and organizations;

Council and participants recalled the AU Vision of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena. They also recalled Agenda 2063, as Africa’s endogenous plan for structural transformation and a shared values strategic framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development in the continent, including its seven aspirations. They recalled in particular aspiration number four on building peaceful and secure Africa. They further recalled the 50thOAU/AU Anniversary Solemn Declaration on Silencing the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also known as Agenda 2030.

Council and participants acknowledged that most of the violent conflicts and crises facing parts of the African continent are rooted in governance deficits, which include mismanagement of diversity, manipulation of constitutions, marginalization of the youth and mismanagement of natural resources. In this regard, Council and participants urged all Member States to redouble their efforts and improve their governance systems. In the same context, participants underscored the importance of further enhancing the capacity of AU Election Observation Missions, with a view to ensuring that they discharge their mandates professionally and contribute towards ensuring the credibility of elections in Member States and hence preventing election-related violent conflicts and crisis situations. They also underscored the critical role that the Panel of the Wise can play in preventing election-related conflicts in Africa.

Council and participants also acknowledged that although the AU has most of the required normative instruments for preventing conflicts and crises, as well as promoting sustainable peace, security and stability in the continent, some Member States have not yet signed and ratified these instruments. In this regard, Council urged all Member States, which had not yet done so, to urgently sign, ratify and domesticate all AU normative instruments, which among others, include the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; the OAU Declaration On Principles Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections in Africa, the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.

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(Click here for a version of this article in French.)

Question for this article:

Can the African Union help bring a culture of peace to Africa?

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Council and participants underlined the importance of the AU Commission to ensure that the implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA) are harmonized. Within the context of implementation of the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020, Council and they also underlined the importance of enhanced collaboration and cooperation between the AU and the RECs/RMs; the AU and the United Nations; as well as between the AU and similar international entities in the promotion of durable peace, security and stability African. 

Council and Participants emphasized the importance of the PSC to fully discharge its mandate as provided for by the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.

Council and participants noting the close link between violent conflicts and illegal exploration of natural resources, particularly, the mineral resources, in parts of the African continent, underscored the importance of Member States to put in place effective natural resources management systems, in order to ensure that the proceeds from these resources are not used to fuel conflicts but rather, to benefit the population of the Member States concerned.

Council and participants also noting the direct link between abject poverty and violent conflicts, emphasized the importance of Member States to promote sustainable and balanced economic development programmes, which take into full consideration the needs of the population. In the same context, they encouraged Member States to invest more in modernizing Agriculture, with a view to ensuring food security to the population, and to effectively regulate the mining industries. Furthermore, they emphasized the need for Member States to effectively combat corruption, money laundering and externalization of Africa’s scarce financial resources;

Council and Participants also emphasized the importance of understanding regional dimensions of African conflicts and, hence, the significant contribution that the countries of the region can make in finding lasting solutions to protracted conflicts in Africa. Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of understanding the exogenous factors that drive and fuel violent conflicts in Africa, including the role of multi-national corporations/companies;

Mindful of the close links between some cases of relapses in parts of the African continent and non-implementation of peace agreements, Council and participants emphasized the importance of the signatories of peace agreements in countries emerging from conflict situations to sign and implement those agreements in their letter and spirit, with a view to effectively preventing future relapses. In the same context,  they underscored the importance of engaging constructively with all key political actors in conflict contexts, with a view to ensuring that they develop the necessary political will to end violent conflicts and restore peace, security and stability in their countries;

Council and participants also mindful of the fact that some violent conflicts in parts of the continent are a result of regionalism, ethnic and racial marginalization, encouraged Member States to ensure that the compositions of all State institutions clearly reflect the ethnic and racial compositions of their countries.

Council and participants, mindful of the need to harness the demographic dividend and the potential security threat that can be posed by the unemployed and marginalized youth, underscored the importance of Member States to mainstream youth inclusion in peace processes and to create conducive conditions for youth empowerment.

Council and participants underscored the importance of expediting the operationalization of the African Standby Force, in order to ensure that the Force is readily available at the disposal of the PSC for possible use pursuant to Article 4 (h) of the PSC Protocol and the AU Constitutive Act;

Council and participants underscored the importance of inculcating the culture of peace, unity in diversity, tolerance in education curriculum. In this regard, they encouraged all Member States, RECs/RMs, civil society organizations, the private sector and the international community to ensure that, beyond slogans, they collectively contribute towards the realization of the goal of silencing the guns in Africa by the Year 2020.

USA: Meet The Students Who Dreamed Up Friday’s National School Walkout


An article by Cassandra Basler from National Public Radio (reprinted as non-commercial use)

April 19: When Lane Murdock, a high school sophomore, heard that 17 high school students and educators had been killed in a shooting in Parkland, Fla., she says she felt numb. To her, and so many others, mass shootings can feel all too common in the U.S. “In the time I’ve been in high school we’ve had the Pulse, Las Vegas and now, [the Parkland] shooting,” Murdock says.

So that same day, Feb.14, Murdock started a petition  that so far has received more than a quarter-million signatures. Her ask? A walkout to protest violence in schools that she planned to coincide with the anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Murdock was born in 2002.

Lane Murdock, a high school sophomore, says she felt numb after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and knew it was time for her to try to make some change.

On one of the last days of spring break, she and seven other students from her high school in Ridgefield, Conn., gather around a few tables at their town rec center. They have been working hard, even losing sleep, trying to get organized for the day. As Murdock says, “Success knows no sleep.”

This is, by far, the biggest event they have ever planned. She and her team have more than 2,500 walkouts across the country registered through their website. They’ve drafted a long to-do list, including everything from securing a stage for speeches for their local walkout, to reaching out to the national press.

“Prioritize,” Murdock tells her team, “We’re not going to be able to get 100 percent of these things, I can guarantee that, but it’s important that we get the important things.”

Murdock wants the walkout to go down in history but acknowledges that it won’t represent every student’s perspective. Some polls show that young people are no more liberal  than older generations on gun control.

And other students who live with gun violence regularly have said they don’t feel represented  in the social movements following the shooting at Parkland.

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Question related to this article:

Do you think handguns should be banned?, Why or why not?

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“There’s gun violence that’s been happening every day that isn’t a school shooting,” Murdock says. She wants the day to be inclusive. On the other hand, she knows it will be uncomfortable.

“We get hate comments online all the time because we’re angering people, and we’re angering people because we’re scaring them, and if we’re scaring them it’s because we’re doing something,” she says.

She wants people to know that she’s imagining this day to be very different than the March For Our Lives  or the 17 minutes of silence on March 14 in honor of the victims in Parkland, Fla. This walkout will last from 10 a.m. through the end of the day.

“People ask me, like, ‘Why? Why all day?’ ” Murdock says. That’s because “this is a topic that deserves more than 17 minutes.” Part of the plan for the day is to get students together in what they refer to as “a call to action,” registering voters or writing to elected representatives about the need for further gun control, for example.

These student organizers have gotten help from a national nonprofit called Indivisible, a group that says it aims to “fuel” young people to “resist the Trump agenda.” Paul Kim, a senior at Ridgefield in charge of communications for the event, says Indivisible helped the high school organizers map their outreach online.

“I got every chapter signed up in Texas,” Kim says, talking about all the walkouts they’ve registered. “And these people emailed back … I could like feel the Texas in the email. The accent, everything.” The group laughs.

To Murdock, the widespread support she says they’ve seen shows that sensible gun control doesn’t have to be partisan.

“It is not conservative or liberal. It is just about making sure our children don’t get harmed in school and we don’t live in a community and in a country that has institutionalized fear,” Murdock says. “I think we’re all sick of it. That’s why we’re doing this.”

She grew up with that fear. Her school had regular lockdown drills after 26 students and educators were killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School when she was in fifth grade. It happened just 20 miles from her classroom.

She says there is a reason why she felt desensitized when she heard about Parkland. She and her team of fellow organizers at Ridgefield say that gun violence in the U.S. has gone on for too long.

“Change happens through patience and this fight does not stop after April 20,” Murdock says. “There is going to be a lot of work to be done after April 20 and that is going to include you guys and it’s going to include tons of students all across this nation,” she says talking to the group.

At 10 a.m. local time on Friday, thousands of students will march out of their classes wearing orange for gun safety and chanting for change.

“Our Dreams Are Coming True”: Peace Activists Celebrate as Korean Leaders Vow to Officially End War


An article from Democracy Now (reprinted under terms of  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

History has been made on the Korean peninsula today, as South Korean President Moon Jae-In and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un shook hands at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries and pledged to work to denuclearize the peninsula and to declare the official end to the Korean War. Today’s historic summit marks the first time a North Korean leader has ever set foot inside South Korea. During the meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said “I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation.” The North and South Korean leaders pledged to pursue talks with the United States aimed at negotiating a formal peace treaty to replace the uneasy 1953 armistice. For more we speak with Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Colonel and former State Department diplomat. She is a member of Women Cross DMZ, a group of international peacemakers who have been calling for an end to the Korean War.

Video of program

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. History was made on the Korean Peninsula today.

MOON JAE-IN: Kim Jong-un and I declared together that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun.

AMY GOODMAN: Those were the words of South Korean President Moon Jae-in as he held a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. After shaking hands at the demilitarized zone between the two countries, the two leaders pledged to work to denuclearize the Peninsula and to declare the official end to the Korean War. Today’s historic summit marks the first time a North Korean leader has ever set foot inside South Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wrote in a guest book “a new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history.” Kim and his South Korean counterpart pledged to pursue talks with the United States aimed at negotiating a formal peace treaty to replace the uneasy truce that was brokered after the 1950-1953 Korean War. This is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaking today.

KIM JONG-UN: We will make efforts to create good results by communicating closely in order to make sure our agreement signed today before the entire world will not end as just a beginning like previous agreements before today.

AMY GOODMAN: Today’s breakthrough comes amidst a series of diplomatic developments regarding North Korea and its nuclear program. Last month, Kim Jong-un traveled to Beijing by armored train to meet with the president of China, Xi Jinping, in Kim’s first foreign trip since taking office in 2011. Kim is also slated to meet soon with President Trump, in what would be the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Last week, North Korea announced it would stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and would close a site where at least six prior nuclear tests were held. This is South Korean President Moon Jae-In speaking today.

MOON JAE-IN: It is very significant that North Korea took a measure of freezing nuclear first. It will be a valuable beginning for the complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. I clearly declare that the South and North will closely cooperate for the complete denuclearization.

AMY GOODMAN: This morning, after President Trump tweeted against James Comey once again, he then tweeted, ”KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREATpeople, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!” We go right now to Hawaii, where we are joined by retired U.S. Army colonel, former State Department diplomat, Ann Wright. She is a member of Women Cross DMZ, a group of international peacemakers who have been calling for an end to the Korean War. Ann Wright, talk about your response to what has just taken place on the Korean Peninsula. Did you ever think you would see this day?

ANN WRIGHT: Holy smoke, no. This is just really remarkable. The last 12 hours have just stunned everyone, of the incredible, incredible work that has been done by the South Korean government with the North Korean government. And for them to have been able to come out with a communiqué, an agreement that is stunning, that has—I mean, I couldn’t have written it any better. All of the wants that we of the world who want peace for the Korean Peninsula, who could have written everything down—we couldn’t have added anything more to what they have come up with. It is really a beautiful, beautiful agreement, worked very hard by both governments. And I certainly hope the United States government will agree with all parts of it and that, indeed, the people of Korea will finally have peace on their Peninsula.

AMY GOODMAN: As you mentioned, this really has been pushed forward by the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. He campaigned on this and he has pushed very hard for this meeting. What is actually in the document that they signed, from the economy to denuclearization?

ANN WRIGHT: Indeed, it is just—it’s breathtaking, the amount of things that are in this communiqué. Everything from denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, to a peace treaty, to no more war on the Korean Peninsula. To establish a peace regime. To have family reunification starting on August 15th. To connect railroads and roads. To cease all hostile acts on land, air, and sea. To transform the DMZ into a peace zone. To have a maritime peace zone in the western, northern limit of the area. To hold military talks in May. That President Moon will go to North Korea in the fall. And to say there will be disarmament in a phased manner as tensions are alleviated. It is a really beautiful, beautiful document that will require a lot of work, that’s for sure, and a lot of commitment to make sure that this doesn’t get derailed in any way, but it is really a very comprehensive statement of peace for the Korean Peninsula.

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Question for this article:

Can Korea be reunified in peace?

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AMY GOODMAN: Now, you are a retired U.S. Army colonel. You quit the State Department over your opposition to the war in Afghanistan. You are a fierce critic of President Trump. But do you believe that President Trump deserves credit for some of what has taken place today?

ANN WRIGHT: Absolutely. Ninety-nine percent of the things that President Trump is doing, I don’t agree with, but even when he was running for office, when he said “I will talk to people. I will talk to Kim Jong-un,” it was like, “Well, that’s a very good statement.” And indeed, he has followed through, saying that he will. And I certainly hope that they do have a very good summit in late May or in June. It is very important that the United States follow through with what the South Korean government and the North Korean government have done. And I certainly wish President Trump goodwill for this, and I wish him goodwill if he would approach other aspects of our globe for peace, for the better environment, for keeping our planet safe for everyone. But yes, he deserves a little bit of credit for this, and I’ll give it to him.

AMY GOODMAN: As the Korean leaders embraced each other on the demilitarized zone, the White House released the photograph of Mike Pompeo, who was secretary of state nominee at the time—he has been approved—and Kim Jong-un in that secret Easter-day meeting. The significance of that, Ann Wright?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, as director of the CIA at the time, to have sent the intelligence chief of the United States instead of the secretary of state—although by that time, Tillerson I believe had already been fired. But President Trump having in mind the nomination, I guess, of Mike Pompeo to become secretary of state, it does put him in a position that he has at least met Kim Jong-un. Hopefully, they will develop some sort of a relationship so that the United States and North Korea can have a reasonable relationship. It is very important that we give credit where credit is due. I hope not only is he able to smooth out relations with North Korea, keep relations with South Korea, and I hope he is able to rebuild the State Department, which so desperately needs to have some attention from the Trump administration.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does this mean for the, what is it, something like 28,000 troops in South Korea, U.S. troops in South Korea, today?

ANN WRIGHT: Oh, I can imagine that those 28,000 troops are just breathing a sigh of relief. To have been assigned to North—to South Korea with all of the tensions, it must have been very, very difficult for all of the U.S. military there as well as the civilians of South Korea, having to live under all of the rhetoric that has been going on. But I feel quite certain that our U.S. military is breathing a great sigh of relief with this agreement between North and South Korea.

AMY GOODMAN: Ann Wright, you crossed the demilitarized zone as a member of Women Cross DMZ in 2015. Did you think this moment can come, and do you see a unified Korea in the future?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, indeed. In 2015, with Christine Ahn, with whom I was with this afternoon here in Honolulu as we watched the very beginning of the talks between the leaders of North and South Korea. And of course, this has been our dream, not just Women Cross the DMZ, but all of the people that have been working on the issues of the Korean Peninsula for decades. And indeed it is just—it is a remarkable occurrence today that our dreams are really coming true.

If this agreement is implemented in the way that it is written, it will really provide such a relief to both the people of North Korea and South Korea that they don’t have to live under the threat of potential military action, that indeed there can be cooperation on economic areas that will help North Korea.

The people in North Korea are not dummies. They are very smart people, and I think they will be able to use this opportunity very, very well to increase their standard of living. And the family reunification part of this, that the people of the Korean Peninsula who were artificially divided in 1945, that indeed they will be able to resume family relationships, and that the Korean Peninsula will become a safe place, a place of peace for the world.

AMY GOODMAN: We are currently showing live footage of the two leaders, South and North Korea, as they hold hands, continue to embrace each other. Do you think, Ann Wright, that the crippling sanctions that President Trump imposed against North Korea drove Kim Jong-un to this point? And what do you think we could see if North Korea is opened up?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, the pressure that the international community has put on North Korea definitely had to have had some effect on Kim Jong-un’s decision to be more open. However, I think the greater thing was that, indeed, because they have developed nuclear weapons, that they feel secure that they could defend themselves from any type of regime change, which is still the policy of the United States. Although, hopefully, by the tweet that President Trump did this morning, regime change is no longer our policy. But I think between the confidence that Kim Jong-un had because of the nuclear program and the increased sanctions that had to be hurting, those things combined put him in a position that, “OK, let’s deal with the West.” I think he is dealing very well with it.

And the numbers of or the amount of natural resources that they have in North Korea, the intelligence of the people of North Korea—I mean, with all of the sanctions and all of the things that the international community have done to them, they still developed nuclear weapons. They still put—they developed ICBMs. They put satellites into space. It’s not like under all those sanctions that they were just totally crippled. They are very smart people, and I think with a little bit of a chance, that we will see remarkable things happening for the people of North Korea.

AMY GOODMAN: Ann Wright, I want to thank you for being with us. Retired U.S. Army colonel, a member of Women Cross DMZ, speaking to us from Hawaii today about this historic development on the Korean Peninsula—the meeting of the South and North Korean leaders across the DMZ. We will continue to cover this. Tune in next week and over the weekend for the latest developments at 
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Capitol Hill, where the EPAAdministrator, Scott Pruitt, who many say has rolled back environmental regulations to an extent we have not seen in decades, was grilled on Capitol Hill. Stay with us.

U.S. student anti-gun activists to keep momentum alive over summer


An article from Reuters (reprinted by permission)

Leaders of the student-led anti-gun movement, who inspired classroom walkouts across the country on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, say they plan to maintain their activism through the long summer break.

This week’s protests [on April 20] marked the second mass student walkout since a 19-year-old man opened fire at a Parkland, Florida high school in February, killing 17 people. It signaled the emergence of a growing national campaign led by young people to lessen gun violence and toughen laws on firearms sales.

Youths take part in a National School Walkout anti-gun march in Washington Square Park in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

But the movement faces a major early challenge as the traditional three-month summer break approaches for most U.S. public schools at a critical moment in their bid to be heard by politicians in their home states and Washington, D.C.

“The reason why this has been so huge (is that) we’re in school, we talk to our classmates, we spread it around, everybody’s around so it’s kind of easier to show up,” said Vivian Reynoso, 17, a junior at Tucson High Magnet School in Tucson, Arizona, who helped organize rallies for both nationwide demonstrations in the past month.

“Of course you fear (losing the momentum),” said Reynoso, who like her peers in the campaign was born a year or more after the Columbine shootings. “I’m pretty sure even the Parkland victims are afraid of that. That’s why we need to be pushing, even if it’s summer, to keep telling people to keep talking about the issue and not to forget to about it.”

In the nearly two decades since Columbine seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage in 1999, killing 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide, school shootings have become almost commonplace in the United States.

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Question related to this article:

Do you think handguns should be banned?, Why or why not?

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Students at Columbine, which has not held classes on April 20 since the massacre, did not take part in the walkout, and were encouraged to do community service instead.

Even as students prepared for Friday’s protests wearing orange, the color of the anti-gun movement, news began trickling out that a 17-year-old student had been wounded in a shooting at a high school near Ocala, Florida, some 225 miles northwest of Parkland.


The debate over guns in America, where the right to bear arms is protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution, has raged nearly since the nation’s founding.

The students hope to succeed where other activists have failed in enacting stricter legislation on gun ownership, either at the state or federal level.

As anger fades over the Parkland shootings, the test for students will be in organizing for gun reform. Many of the protests featured voter registration drives, with students aiming to make it a major issue for midterm elections in November.

“Who knows whether they maintain the energy or not but there are historic examples of student-led movements that have played an important role in moving things forward, (for example) the Civil rights movements,” said Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“We’ve seen these kids take a real leadership role on this issue,” said Winkler, author of a history of the debate over gun control in America. “Whether they can sustain it not remains to be seen.”

The March 24 “March For Our Lives” rallies in cities across the United States were some of the biggest U.S. youth demonstrations in decades, with hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters taking to the streets.

Friday’s walkouts, though smaller in scale, signaled the determination of the students to press on with their movement.

“The way we’re viewing the summer right now is it’s really an opportunity to put in a lot of work on some really big plans we have going for the return to school in August,” said Gavin Pierce, 21, a college junior studying film in Los Angeles and an organizer of the “March for Our Lives” pro-gun control group.

    “Everyone is really eager to keep this going and to keep on organizing until we see real change,” Pierce said.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Ben Klayman in Detroit, Zach Fagensen in Miami, Edgar Mendez in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, Karen Dillion in Mission, Kansas and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang

Culture of Peace: The World Peace Flame is coming to Ashland, Oregon


An article by Irene Kai / Ashland Culture of Peace Commission in the Ashland Daily Tidings

This is a journey of pure magic and grace. I went with my daughter to the U.K. for an art exhibit in early September 2015, and on a whim we decided to tour the Snowdonia National Park in Wales. We drove deep into the mountains on a narrow two-lane road with hair pin turns on the “wrong” side of the road. As dusk fell, we decided to go back to town. The nearest turning outlet was behind the mountain, so I drove into a hidden nearby space to turn. As I turned, I suddenly saw a two story tall glass tower with a flame inside near the top of it. An inscription on the glass said: “The World Peace Flame.” I was awed. Deep in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, I was greeted by a living flame representing World Peace. At that instant, I felt as if the flame ignited the sacred flame in my heart. I realized World Peace begins with me.

World Peace Flame Monument, Snowdonia Mountain Lodge, Wales

I went into the building behind the monument where a woman told me the history of the World Peace Flame. In 1999, the princess of the Netherlands went to five continents to collect seven sacred flames, flew them via military and commercial jets and united them in Wales. The Asian flame was from the eternal flame that burns at Gandhi’s memorial. The monument in Wales is the original World Peace Flame Monument. I was invited to light a candle from the flame and I brought it back to Ashland.

I came to Ashland 20 years ago via Hong Kong, New York, London and Los Angeles, not knowing anything about Oregon. Over a decade ago, I was attracted to the local Native American culture, and became very involved with the Ashland Native American group and befriended Roy Hayes, Chief Joseph’s great-great grandson. 

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Question related to this article:

How can we produce positive peace events, that open peoples hearts as well as their minds?

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I learned deeply about the culture of the Native American’s history in the Rogue Valley. 

Jacksonville was once a thriving Chinatown 200 years ago. Hundreds of Chinese migrants came to southern Oregon as laborers for the gold miners. The ditches they dug are still visible today. When the gold dried up, they were chased out and some were killed. They vanished without a trace. This group of migrants were from Toisan, southern China, the village of my family. They were my ancestral relatives.

On Sept. 21, 2015, the International Day of Peace, my partner David Wick and I launched the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission (ACPC). During the launch, I lit the candle I brought back from Wales. During the ceremony, I was inspired to bring the World Peace Flame monument to Ashland, to honor our ancestors and to heal their sufferings.

By bringing healing and peace to our ancestors, we, the descendants will be able to release the burden of the sufferings of our linage and learn to practice living in peace for ourselves, our children and their children. 

The physical official live eternal World Peace Flame on our city ground will become a beacon of light that represents hope, healing, forgiveness, unity and humility for all who see it. The only other World Peace Flame in the United States is in the Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee, the assassination site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For almost three years, I told anyone who had influence in the city of Ashland that I would like to install a World Peace Flame Monument in Ashland. Everyone thought it was a great idea, smiled and said: “Good Luck.” One day, David Wick and I wandered into the Southern Oregon University Sustainability Center. We walked into the old farm house and saw the architectural drawing of the “Thalden Pavilion — The Center of Outrageous Innovation” on the wall. I saw a tower next to the main structure and said to David, “That is the perfect place for the World Peace Flame!” 

Barry and Kathryn Thalden, strong supporters of ACPC, agreed to have the World Peace Flame installed at the base of the obelisk and informed us that it will be flanked by two 28 ft. cedar teaching poles, carved by Russell Beebe, a local Native American sculptor. How perfect!

ACPC is responsible for our part of the construction for the housing of the World Peace Flame. I invite you to join me on this magical journey of grace to bring the World Peace Flame to Ashland. With your generous donations, it will become a reality. Please visit our website at