Category Archives: global

Nobel Peace Prize Lecture – 2017 – Setsuko Thurlow


From the website of the Nobel Prize (reprinted by permission)

Your Majesties, Distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, My fellow campaigners, here and throughout the world, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great privilege to accept this award, together with Beatrice, on behalf of all the remarkable human beings who form the ICAN movement. You each give me such tremendous hope that we can – and will – bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end.

Frame from video of Nobel Peace Prize lecture

(Click on image to enlarge)

I speak as a member of the family of hibakusha – those of us who, by some miraculous chance, survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For more than seven decades, we have worked for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

We have stood in solidarity with those harmed by the production and testing of these horrific weapons around the world. People from places with long-forgotten names, like Moruroa, Ekker, Semipalatinsk, Maralinga, Bikini. People whose lands and seas were irradiated, whose bodies were experimented upon, whose cultures were forever disrupted.

We were not content to be victims. We refused to wait for an immediate fiery end or the slow poisoning of our world. We refused to sit idly in terror as the so-called great powers took us past nuclear dusk and brought us recklessly close to nuclear midnight. We rose up. We shared our stories of survival. We said: humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist.

Today, I want you to feel in this hall the presence of all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I want you to feel, above and around us, a great cloud of a quarter million souls. Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us ensure that their deaths were not in vain.

I was just 13 years old when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb, on my city Hiroshima. I still vividly remember that morning. At 8:15, I saw a blinding bluish-white flash from the window. I remember having the sensation of floating in the air.

As I regained consciousness in the silence and darkness, I found myself pinned by the collapsed building. I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries: “Mother, help me. God, help me.”

Then, suddenly, I felt hands touching my left shoulder, and heard a man saying:
“Don’t give up! Keep pushing! I am trying to free you. See the light coming through that opening? Crawl towards it as quickly as you can.” As I crawled out, the ruins were on fire. Most of my classmates in that building were burned to death alive. I saw all around me utter, unimaginable devastation.

Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing.

Flesh and skin hung from their bones. Some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands. Some with their bellies burst open, their intestines hanging out. The foul stench of burnt human flesh filled the air.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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Thus, with one bomb my beloved city was obliterated. Most of its residents were civilians who were incinerated, vaporized, carbonized – among them, members of my own family and 351 of my schoolmates.

In the weeks, months and years that followed, many thousands more would die, often in random and mysterious ways, from the delayed effects of radiation. Still to this day, radiation is killing survivors.

Whenever I remember Hiroshima, the first image that comes to mind is of my four-year-old nephew, Eiji – his little body transformed into an unrecognizable melted chunk of flesh. He kept begging for water in a faint voice until his death released him from agony.

To me, he came to represent all the innocent children of the world, threatened as they are at this very moment by nuclear weapons. Every second of every day, nuclear weapons endanger everyone we love and everything we hold dear. We must not tolerate this insanity any longer.

Through our agony and the sheer struggle to survive – and to rebuild our lives from the ashes – we hibakusha became convinced that we must warn the world about these apocalyptic weapons. Time and again, we shared our testimonies.

But still some refused to see Hiroshima and Nagasaki as atrocities – as war crimes. They accepted the propaganda that these were “good bombs” that had ended a “just war”. It was this myth that led to the disastrous nuclear arms race – a race that continues to this day.

Nine nations still threaten to incinerate entire cities, to destroy life on earth, to make our beautiful world uninhabitable for future generations. The development of nuclear weapons signifies not a country’s elevation to greatness, but its descent to the darkest depths of depravity. These weapons are not a necessary evil; they are the ultimate evil.

On the seventh of July this year, I was overwhelmed with joy when a great majority of the world’s nations voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Having witnessed humanity at its worst, I witnessed, that day, humanity at its best. We hibakusha had been waiting for the ban for seventy-two years. Let this be the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

All responsible leaders will sign this treaty. And history will judge harshly those who reject it. No longer shall their abstract theories mask the genocidal reality of their practices. No longer shall “deterrence” be viewed as anything but a deterrent to disarmament. No longer shall we live under a mushroom cloud of fear.

To the officials of nuclear-armed nations – and to their accomplices under the so-called “nuclear umbrella” – I say this: Listen to our testimony. Heed our warning.

And know that your actions are consequential. You are each an integral part of a system of violence that is endangering humankind. Let us all be alert to the banality of evil.

To every president and prime minister of every nation of the world, I beseech you: Join this treaty; forever eradicate the threat of nuclear annihilation.

When I was a 13-year-old girl, trapped in the smouldering rubble, I kept pushing.

I kept moving toward the light. And I survived. Our light now is the ban treaty. To all in this hall and all listening around the world, I repeat those words that I heard called to me in the ruins of Hiroshima: “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! See the light? Crawl towards it.”

Tonight, as we march through the streets of Oslo with torches aflame, let us follow each other out of the dark night of nuclear terror. No matter what obstacles we face, we will keep moving and keep pushing and keep sharing this light with others. This is our passion and commitment for our one precious world to survive.

Nobel Peace Prize Lecture – 2017 – Beatrice Fihn


From the website of the Nobel Prize (reprinted by permission)

Your Majesties, Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Esteemed guests,

Today, it is a great honour to accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of thousands of inspirational people who make up the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Frame from video of Nobel Peace Prize lecture

(Click on image to enlarge)

Together we have brought democracy to disarmament and are reshaping international law.

We most humbly thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee for recognizing our work and giving momentum to our crucial cause.

We want to recognize those who have so generously donated their time and energy to this campaign.

We thank the courageous foreign ministers, diplomats, Red Cross and Red Crescent staff, UN officials, academics and experts with whom we have worked in partnership to advance our common goal.

And we thank all who are committed to ridding the world of this terrible threat.

At dozens of locations around the world – in missile silos buried in our earth, on submarines navigating through our oceans, and aboard planes flying high in our sky – lie 15,000 objects of humankind’s destruction.

Perhaps it is the enormity of this fact, perhaps it is the unimaginable scale of the consequences, that leads many to simply accept this grim reality. To go about our daily lives with no thought to the instruments of insanity all around us.

For it is insanity to allow ourselves to be ruled by these weapons. Many critics of this movement suggest that we are the irrational ones, the idealists with no grounding in reality. That nuclear-armed states will never give up their weapons.
But we represent the only rational choice. We represent those who refuse to accept nuclear weapons as a fixture in our world, those who refuse to have their fates bound up in a few lines of launch code.

Ours is the only reality that is possible. The alternative is unthinkable.

The story of nuclear weapons will have an ending, and it is up to us what that ending will be.

Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us?

One of these things will happen.

The only rational course of action is to cease living under the conditions where our mutual destruction is only one impulsive tantrum away.

Today I want to talk of three things: fear, freedom, and the future.

By the very admission of those who possess them, the real utility of nuclear weapons is in their ability to provoke fear. When they refer to their “deterrent” effect, proponents of nuclear weapons are celebrating fear as a weapon of war.
They are puffing their chests by declaring their preparedness to exterminate, in a flash, countless thousands of human lives.

Nobel Laureate William Faulkner said when accepting his prize in 1950, that “There is only the question of ‘when will I be blown up?'” But since then, this universal fear has given way to something even more dangerous: denial.

Gone is the fear of Armageddon in an instant, gone is the equilibrium between two blocs that was used as the justification for deterrence, gone are the fallout shelters.

But one thing remains: the thousands upon thousands of nuclear warheads that filled us up with that fear.

The risk for nuclear weapons use is even greater today than at the end of the Cold War. But unlike the Cold War, today we face many more nuclear armed states, terrorists, and cyber warfare. All of this makes us less safe.

Learning to live with these weapons in blind acceptance has been our next great mistake.

Fear is rational. The threat is real. We have avoided nuclear war not through prudent leadership but good fortune. Sooner or later, if we fail to act, our luck will run out.

A moment of panic or carelessness, a misconstrued comment or bruised ego, could easily lead us unavoidably to the destruction of entire cities. A calculated military escalation could lead to the indiscriminate mass murder of civilians.

If only a small fraction of today’s nuclear weapons were used, soot and smoke from the firestorms would loft high into the atmosphere – cooling, darkening and drying the Earth’s surface for more than a decade.

It would obliterate food crops, putting billions at risk of starvation.

Yet we continue to live in denial of this existential threat.

But Faulkner in his Nobel speech also issued a challenge to those who came after him. Only by being the voice of humanity, he said, can we defeat fear; can we help humanity endure.

ICAN’s duty is to be that voice. The voice of humanity and humanitarian law; to speak up on behalf of civilians. Giving voice to that humanitarian perspective is how we will create the end of fear, the end of denial. And ultimately, the end of nuclear weapons.

That brings me to my second point: freedom.

As the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the first ever anti-nuclear weapons organisation to win this prize, said on this stage in 1985:

“We physicians protest the outrage of holding the entire world hostage. We protest the moral obscenity that each of us is being continuously targeted for extinction.”

Those words still ring true in 2017.

We must reclaim the freedom to not live our lives as hostages to imminent annihilation.

Man – not woman! – made nuclear weapons to control others, but instead we are controlled by them.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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They made us false promises. That by making the consequences of using these weapons so unthinkable it would make any conflict unpalatable. That it would keep us free from war.

But far from preventing war, these weapons brought us to the brink multiple times throughout the Cold War. And in this century, these weapons continue to escalate us towards war and conflict.

In Iraq, in Iran, in Kashmir, in North Korea. Their existence propels others to join the nuclear race. They don’t keep us safe, they cause conflict.

As fellow Nobel Peace Laureate, Martin Luther King Jr, called them from this very stage in 1964, these weapons are “both genocidal and suicidal”.

They are the madman’s gun held permanently to our temple. These weapons were supposed to keep us free, but they deny us our freedoms.

It’s an affront to democracy to be ruled by these weapons. But they are just weapons. They are just tools. And just as they were created by geopolitical context, they can just as easily be destroyed by placing them in a humanitarian context.

That is the task ICAN has set itself – and my third point I wish to talk about, the future.

I have the honour of sharing this stage today with Setsuko Thurlow, who has made it her life’s purpose to bear witness to the horror of nuclear war.

She and the hibakusha were at the beginning of the story, and it is our collective challenge to ensure they will also witness the end of it.

They relive the painful past, over and over again, so that we may create a better future.

There are hundreds of organisations that together as ICAN are making great strides towards that future.

There are thousands of tireless campaigners around the world who work each day to rise to that challenge.

There are millions of people across the globe who have stood shoulder to shoulder with those campaigners to show hundreds of millions more that a different future is truly possible.

Those who say that future is not possible need to get out of the way of those making it a reality.

As the culmination of this grassroots effort, through the action of ordinary people, this year the hypothetical marched forward towards the actual as 122 nations negotiated and concluded a UN treaty to outlaw these weapons of mass destruction.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons provides the pathway forward at a moment of great global crisis. It is a light in a dark time.

And more than that, it provides a choice.

A choice between the two endings: the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us.
It is not naive to believe in the first choice. It is not irrational to think nuclear states can disarm. It is not idealistic to believe in life over fear and destruction; it is a necessity.

All of us face that choice. And I call on every nation to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The United States, choose freedom over fear.

Russia, choose disarmament over destruction.

Britain, choose the rule of law over oppression.

France, choose human rights over terror.

China, choose reason over irrationality.

India, choose sense over senselessness.

Pakistan, choose logic over Armageddon.

Israel, choose common sense over obliteration.

North Korea, choose wisdom over ruin.

To the nations who believe they are sheltered under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, will you be complicit in your own destruction and the destruction of others in your name?

To all nations: choose the end of nuclear weapons over the end of us!

This is the choice that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents. Join this Treaty.

We citizens are living under the umbrella of falsehoods. These weapons are not keeping us safe, they are contaminating our land and water, poisoning our bodies and holding hostage our right to life.

To all citizens of the world: Stand with us and demand your government side with humanity and sign this treaty. We will not rest until all States have joined, on the side of reason.

No nation today boasts of being a chemical weapon state.

No nation argues that it is acceptable, in extreme circumstances, to use sarin nerve agent.

No nation proclaims the right to unleash on its enemy the plague or polio.

That is because international norms have been set, perceptions have been changed.

And now, at last, we have an unequivocal norm against nuclear weapons.

Monumental strides forward never begin with universal agreement.

With every new signatory and every passing year, this new reality will take hold.

This is the way forward. There is only one way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons: prohibit and eliminate them.

Nuclear weapons, like chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions and land mines before them, are now illegal. Their existence is immoral. Their abolishment is in our hands.

The end is inevitable. But will that end be the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us? We must choose one.

We are a movement for rationality. For democracy. For freedom from fear.

We are campaigners from 468 organisations who are working to safeguard the future, and we are representative of the moral majority: the billions of people who choose life over death, who together will see the end of nuclear weapons.

Thank you.

Greenpeace: Great news for the Arctic AND the Antarctic!


A blogpost by Louisa Casson for Greenpeace (reprinted for educational purpose)

Last night, [November 30] governments from around the world agreed to protect a huge part of the Arctic Ocean against all commercial fishing. Thanks to the millions of you who supported our Save the Arctic campaign, an area roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea will be safe from industrial fishing for at least the next 16 years.

caption: Polar Bear on Sea Ice in Baffin Bay. Copyright Greenpeace.

This means we have an even stronger platform to push countries to commit to more long-term protection for this vulnerable ocean and remove the threats of destructive fishing and fossil fuels for good.

On the other side of the planet, a massive ocean sanctuary in the Antarctic’s Ross Sea comes into force today. An area of ocean twice the size of Spain is now protected from all kinds of extractive industries and can remain one of the most exceptional shallow oceans left on Earth.

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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This is amazing news for polar bears AND penguins – as well as all of us who depend on healthy oceans across the world.

These two victories are proof that people power works. When we work together, incredible things can happen. So if anyone tells you it’s impossible to save the Arctic or create the biggest protected area in the Antarctic, show them this blog. It always seems impossible until it’s done.

But we’re not stopping here. Back in the 1980s, millions of people persuaded their governments to ditch plans to open up the continent of Antarctica for mining and protect it forever. Now we have an opportunity to make history by creating the largest protected area on the planet, in the Antarctic ocean.

An Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary would not only be a safe haven for penguins, whales and seals, but it would keep those waters off-limits to huge industrial fishing vessels sucking up the tiny shrimp-like krill, on which all Antarctic sea life relies.

This historic day for the protection of polar oceans is a reminder that together we can succeed.

So celebrate these decisions, keep going and help us restore our blue planet – all the way from the Arctic to the Antarctic!

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women marked around the world


A survey by CPNN

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was marked around the world on November 25.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General António Guterres said that unless the international community tackles violence against women, the world will not eradicate poverty or reach any of the other Sustainable Development Goals. And Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women concluded that “As a global community, we can act now to end violence against women and girls, to change institutions and work together to end discrimination, restore human rights and dignity, and leave no one behind.”

Internet sites included remarkable photos from around the world of demonstrations to mark the day. Here is a UN photo from Liberia:

In observance of International Women’s Day, participants march from the centre of Monrovia to the Temple of Justice, home of the Liberian Supreme Court, where they staged a peaceful sit-in protest against gender-based violence. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

In France, after President Emmanuel Macron announced an initiative to make it easier to report sexual assault claims to police, hundreds marched through Paris, demanding the government do more to educate children about sexism and violence. Here is a video from Rose McGowan published by PBS.

According to PBS , there were marches in Turkey, France, Chile, Italy, Mozambique, Sweden, Spain and other countries Among others, PBS carries a photo from Reuters of protesters carrying torches and walking behind a banner reading “Your truth is Ours. Our Word Counts” during a demonstration in Bilbao, northern Spain, on Nov. 25, 2017.

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Question related to this article:

Protecting women and girls against violence, Is progress being made?

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Many photos from the day are displayed on the internet site of the Denver Post. They include photos from the following countries:

Dominican Republic: People gather with candles and banners on the eve of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Santo Domingo on Nov. 24, 2017. On November 25, 1960, the Mirabal sisters – three of four Dominican political dissident sisters – were murdered by order of Dominican dictator (1930-1961) Leonidas Trujillo, and since 1999, the United Nations General Assembly, designated the date as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in their honor (Erika Santelices, AFP/Getty Images)

Italy: Two women read about a victim of violence on one of the hundred silhouettes displayed in a park as part of “Without Words” (Gregorio Borgia, The Associated Press).

Colombia: Hundreds of women perform during the fourth edition of the “Not even with the petal of a rose” festival in Bogota (Raul Arboleda, AFP/Getty Images).

Turkey: Protesters take part in a demonstration in Istanbul (Yasin Akgul, AFP/Getty Images).

Costa Rica: Thousands of people march in San Jose (Ezequiel Becerra, AFP/Getty Images).

Paraguay: Women march in Asuncion, Paraguay (Jorge Saenz, The Associated Press).

Mexico: Relatives and friends of women killed in Mexico take part in a protest along Reforma avenue in Mexico City (Ronaldo Schemidt, AFP/Getty Images).

Peru: Thousands protest for women’s rights during the “Ni Una Menos” march in Lima/ AFP PHOTO/AFP/Getty Images.

Chile: Activists shout slogans during a march on the eve of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Santiago (Claudio Reyes, AFP/Getty Images).

UN Women: Leave No One Behind – End Violence against Women and Girls


An article from UN Women

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign spanning from 25 November through 10 December, is taking place this year against the backdrop of an unprecedented global outcry. Millions have rallied behind the hashtag #MeToo and other campaigns, exposing the sheer magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women everywhere suffer, every day. Breaking the silence is the first step to transforming the culture of gender-based violence.

Young school girls organize themselves before the March to End Gender-Based Violence in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. One sign reads: “Refrain from using abusive language for Women and Children”. Photo: UN Women/Deepika Nath

At the heart of this year’s theme, “Leave No One Behind – End Violence against Women”, for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November) and UNiTE Campaign’s observance of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women (25 November – 10 December), is the imperative to support those who are particularly vulnerable. The UNiTE Campaign is calling on everyone to join the movement to end violence against women, using the colour orange to make your action visible. Find out how you can take action

One in three women and girls experience violence in their lifetime—that is one too many. It happens in every country and every society. It happens at home, in schools, on the streets, at work, on the internet and in refugee camps. It happens during war, and even in the absence of war. Too often, it is normalized and goes unpunished.

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Click here for the version in Spanish of this article, or click here for the version in French)

Question related to this article:

Protecting women and girls against violence, Is progress being made?

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No matter where violence against women happens, what form it takes, and whom it impacts, it must be stopped. The promise of the Sustainable Development Goals—to leave no one behind—cannot be fulfilled without ending violence against women.

Ending violence against women and girls is possible. There are proven solutions for supporting and empowering survivors to stop the reoccurrence of this violence. Laws and policies are powerful tools to punish perpetrators, provide justice and services, and end impunity. There are many ways that we can resist and prevent violent norms, attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence against women, and everyone has a role in it.

While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable—for instance, young girls and older women, women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, migrants and refugees, indigenous women and ethnic minorities, or women and girls living with HIV and disabilities, and those in humanitarian crises. See our top stories from around the world that show what it means to leave no one behind, and what people are doing to stop the cycle of violence against women.

Join the conversation
#Orangetheworld in #16days

Join the conversation and Orange the World in 16 Days on social media! Hashtags: #orangetheworld and #16days

Join the ‘Orange the World’ Event page on Facebook and post photos and actions happening in your country during the 16 Days of Activism.

Orange your Facebook wall, Instagram and Twitter accounts with a variety of images, banners and promotional material. A social media package with sample messages in English, Spanish and French is available here.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article)

Pope Francis denounces nuclear weapons possession


An article from Abolition 2000

On Friday Nov 10, Pope Francis denounced the possession of nuclear weapons, in what appears to be a departure from the Roman Catholic Church’s position of conditional (and temporary) acceptance of nuclear deterrence and mutually assured destruction.

Video of Pope’s address to conference

In a presentation to participants in a high-profile Vatican conference on nuclear disarmament, including representatives of Abolition 2000 member-organisations and affiliated networks, Pope Francis said that ‘humanity cannot fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.”

‘Pope Francis is taking a pro-active approach toward nuclear disarmament which is to be commended, celebrated and supported’ says Alyn Ware, Co-convener of the Abolition 2000 Interfaith working group and a participant in the conference. ‘This should give encouragement to people of all faiths – and also non-religious people – to feel new hope and to be inspired to act for nuclear abolition.’

Pope Francis did not directly criticize world leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, who has openly threatened nuclear war with North Korea over that country’s continuing development of nuclear arms. However, he remarked that “International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family.”

While previous popes have strongly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, in general they also granted conditional moral acceptance to the system of nuclear deterrence. Pope John Paul II, for example, said in a message to the U.N. in June 1982 that the system of deterrence could be judged “morally acceptable” as “a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament.”

The exception was Pope Benedict XVI who also condemned the possession of nuclear weapons: ‘One can only encourage the efforts of the international community to ensure progressive disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons, whose presence alone threatens the life of the planet and the ongoing integral development of the present generation and of generations yet to come’.

Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, proposed that Pope Francis turn his condemnation of nuclear weapons into church doctrine by including this in a papal encyclical. The encyclical Pacem in Terris released by Pope John XXIII, accepts nuclear weapons as a deterrent. The encyclical Laudato si, released by Pope Francis in 2015, notes the risks of nuclear weapons but does not condemn possession outright.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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“The church should be saying the ethic of nuclear deterrence is not morally warranted any longer,” said San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, who also serves as a member of the U.S. bishops’ committee on international justice and peace. McElroy pointed to the fact that the conditional acceptance of deterrence was given with the understanding that the nations of the world would gradually move to disarm.

The Vatican conference, brought together Nobel Peace laureates, government representatives, religious leaders, United Nations officials, academics, and non-governmental representatives.This included leaders from ICAN, which is the 2017 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for their actions to promote and achieve the treaty.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the Vatican dicastery, said that the participants at the event had gathered “for a very candid conversation about how to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This conversation is urgently needed, given the current tensions among nuclear weapons states and given the tensions between nuclear weapons states and states seeking to become nuclear weapons states.”

The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a key topic at the conference. Many of the participants commended the Vatican for being one of the three signatories that have already ratified the agreement. However, it was also recognised that none of the nuclear powers and no NATO members have signed on to the measure.

Mexican Ambassador Jorge Lomonaco, one of the leaders of the initiative to achieve the treaty, said that the treaty was one of the ‘jigsaw pieces of the framework required to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.’ He noted that this is a contribution that non-nuclear States have made. He urged everyone to move beyond divisions about the treaty – to end the debate on whether one supports it or not – and work now on the other pieces of the jigsaw, especially those pieces requiring action by the nuclear-armed and allied states.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, told the conference their considerations were taking place during a “decidedly disheartening state of affairs” across the world.

‘In such a fractious and uncertain world there are many voices that contend the time is not ripe for disarmament and that weapons provide security. There is an insinuation that disarmament is a utopian dream,’ said UN High Representative Izumi Nakamitsu. ‘However, I believe that quite the opposite is true. In a fractious and uncertain world, more than ever we need disarmament as a diplomatic key to unlock the door to peaceful solutions.’

Cardinal Parolin noted that 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio, which proposed that the world’s governments set aside a portion of their military spending for a global fund to relieve the needs of impoverished peoples. Paraphrasing the encyclical, Parolin stated: “Is it not plain to everyone that such a fund would reduce a need for those other expenditures that are motivated by fear [or] stubborn pride? Countless millions are starving. We cannot approve a debilitating arms race.”

“Nuclear armament is never an appropriate policy to achieve a long-term basis for peace,” said Cardinal Turkson. “And true security is not found in the size of our military or the number of weapons we possess, but when every human need for food, for housing, for healthcare, for employment and dignity is met — that’s when we begin to fashion peace.”

A number of Abolition 2000 member-organisations are active in the Move the Nuclear Weapons Campaign which acts to cut nuclear weapons budgets and re-direct these resources for social, environmental and economic needs. This includes actions in legislatures of the nuclear-armed States to slash nuclear weapons budgets. It also includes actions that can be taken by governments, cities, churches, universities, banks and others to end investments in corporations manufacturing nuclear weapons See Abolition 2000 working group on Economic Dimensions of Nuclearism.

Pope Francis meets ‘The Elders’ to discuss global concerns


An article from the Vatican Radio

Pope Francis had a private meeting at Santa Marta on Monday afternoon [November 5] with members of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights around the world. The Elders was established 10 years ago by former South African President Nelson Mandela and is currently marking the group’s 10th anniversary with a campaign called “Walk Together” – continuing Mandela’s long walk to freedom.

Left to right: Elders Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan, Pope Francis with an assistant, Elders Ricardo Lagos and Mary Robinson, and an unidentified participant.

Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to two of the founding members of The Elders, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson, former Irish President, former UN high commissioner for human rights and, more recently, UN envoy on climate change. Philippa began by asking Kofi Annan about the issues they were able to discuss during their papal audience…

Listen here.

The former UN leader says it was important for four representatives of the group to come to the Vatican because they share many common interests and values. He says they wanted to engage with Pope Francis and “discuss how we can work together, how we can pool our efforts on some of these issues”.

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Question related to this article:
Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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Peace, migration, climate change, gender equality

Among the areas of discussion, he continues, were the questions of migration, nuclear weapons peace, mediation and conflicts, as well as climate change and gender equality, that is “the importance of giving women a voice and respecting their role”. He adds “I hope this will be the first of many meetings”.

Shared efforts to be a voice for marginalised

Former Irish President Mary Robinson says the group came to express “an appreciation for the role he is playing and the fact that he, like The Elders, is trying to be a voice for the voiceless and the marginalized, trying to deal with the most difficult areas of conflict.

She says they also spoke about countries including Venezuela and Congo, as well as focusing on climate change, all issues, she notes, where “the pope has given leadership”.

Common values, common sense of purpose

Robinson says she was also struck by the “warmth and affection and humour” in their meeting. “I was very struck by how relaxed the pope was with us, how much he joked”, she says, adding that Pope Francis seemed to “feel at home” as they discussed “common values, a common moral purpose, common problems”

I think he could be a future ‘Elder’, Annan says and Robinson quips, “I think he’s a Super Elder”.

[Editor’s note: Additional comments will be posted in the coming days on the website of the Elders]

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.).

World body of parliaments discusses nuclear-risk-reduction and disarmament


An article from Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament

Parliamentarians from around the world, who gathered in St Petersburg for the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union from Oct 14-18, held a special session on Monday organised by PNND to discuss the role of parliamentarians in reducing nuclear dangers and supporting nuclear disarmament.

Bruce Blair, co-founder of Global Zero and a former nuclear missile controller, outlined the growing risks of a nuclear catastrophe due to increasing tensions and conflicts between USA & North Korea, Russia & the West, and India & Pakistan, combined with the high operational readiness of many of these countries to use nuclear weapons. He noted that the potential of nuclear-weapons-related conflicts escalating into war – and the possibilities of nuclear weapons being used by accident, miscalculation or even intent – are even greater now than during the Cold War.

Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, President of the UN negotiating conference for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, updated parliamentarians on the adoption of the treaty on July 7, the number of countries that have signed the treaty to date (53 countries) and the role that parliamentarians have in ratification of the treaty in national legislatures in order to ensure the treaty’s entry-into-force and implementation. She also called on parliamentarians from countries that have not yet signed the treaty, to call on their governments to sign in order to reach 100 signatories as soon as possible.

Alyn Ware, global coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, highlighted the opportunity to advance nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament measures at the United Nations High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament (UNHLC), which will take place at the UN in New York in May 2018. Such UN high-level conferences have been very successful in other areas (sustainable development, climate change, oceans and refugees), and could make a significant contribution to nuclear disarmament. (See UNHLC food-for-thought paper).

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Questions for this article:

How can parliamentarians promote a culture of peace?

A UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament: Distraction or progress?

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Goals proposed for UNHLC could include: achieve 100 signatories to the nuclear ban treaty (many governments could sign at the UNHLC); renew the UN process for a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; agreements by nuclear armed States to take all nuclear weapons off alert, make further cuts in nuclear stockpiles, give assurances to non-nuclear States that nuclear weapons will not be used against them, commit never to be the first to use nuclear weapons, and outline a framework to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.

A number of delegations took the opportunity to make comments and ask questions on various aspects of the issue, including: how to strengthen international criminal law against nuclear weapons regardless of whether its use or possession by terrorists or governments, how to engage youth and build a stronger civil society movement for nuclear abolition, how to maintain existing agreements (such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear energy which is under threat from the new USA administration), how to reduce nuclear tensions and build confidence, and how to move the nuclear-armed States to phase out their reliance on nuclear weapons and negotiate a comprehensive agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The event also included the launch of a new publication – the Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World. The Action Plan, which has been developed by Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament in consultation with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), includes 14 key nuclear disarmament actions that can be taken by parliamentarians.

Some of these are actions that parliamentarians from States Parties to the nuclear prohibition treaty can take to implement the treaty in their parliaments. These are all non-nuclear States, as the nuclear-armed and allied States do not currently support the treaty.

Other actions in the Plan are those that parliamentarians from nuclear armed and allied States can take to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons being used, and move their governments to adopt incremental disarmament measures, phase out the reliance on nuclear deterrence and negotiate for nuclear disarmament.

And some actions in the Plan are those that parliamentarians from all States can take to build public awareness and political will for the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The plan draws from reports and resolutions on nuclear disarmament adopted by the IPU in 2009 and 2014, as well as resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and a series of consultations undertaken by PNND in key capitals and UN centres during 2016-2017.

Catholic Institutions Announce Largest-Ever Joint Divestment from Fossil Fuels


A press release from The Global Catholic Climate Movement

A coalition of Catholic institutions has today [October 4] announced its divestment from fossil fuels. The coalition of 40 is the largest joint announcement of divestment by Catholic organizations to date. The institutions are located on five continents, and represent fields ranging from a holy site to finance to church hierarchical entities.

Catholic institutions’ decision to remove their support for fossil fuels is based on both their shared value of environmental protection and the financial wisdom of preparing for a carbon-neutral economy.

In Assisi, Italy, the home of St. Francis and a deeply significant place for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, three institutions and a municipal government have divested. The Assisi group includes the Sacro Convento, a monastery complex and holy site that houses the remains of St. Francis, from whom Pope Francis took his name. The Sacro Convento is considered the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.

Along with the Sacro Convento, the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino has divested. The diocese, which includes more than 80,000 people and the town of Assisi, is the site of several important pilgrimages each year. Assisi’s Seraphic Institute, a religious medical center that provides care for disabled children, has also joined the divestment announcement.

In a complementary move, the mayor of the town of Assisi has announced its divestment from fossil fuels.

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Question for this article:

Divestment: is it an effective tool to promote sustainable development?

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In addition to divestment in the highly significant home of St. Francis, church entities around the world are stepping away from fossil fuels. The Episcopal Conference of Belgium, which is the Catholic Church’s policy arm in Belgium, has divested. This is the first Catholic episcopal conference in the world to divest. In South Africa, the Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town has invested in social and ethical funds. Within the Church hierarchy, a total of one episcopal conference, one archdiocese, three dioceses, and a vicariate have divested.

These spiritual leaders are joined by business leaders. Two financial institutions have announced their divestment. Germany’s Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG (Bank for the Church and Caritas) is one of the first Catholic banks in the world to divest from fossil fuels. The bank, which has a balance sheet of €4.5 billion, is breaking from coal, tar sands oil, and oil shale because it is both morally imperative and fiscally responsible.

The bank is joined in its divestment by Oikocredit Belgium, an ecumenical financial institution and one of the world’s largest sources of private funding for microfinance. Oikocredit is joined by 12 other Belgian institutions.

These institutions are among the 40 that have divested in total. The joint commitment by 40 Catholic institutions more than quadruples the size of an announcement made in May, when nine Catholic organizations divested. Worldwide to date, the total value of those institutions that have committed to divest surpasses $5 trillion.

This divestment announcement comes amid united Christian action to protect the environment during the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is a monthlong celebration of prayer and action for the environment, and it is embraced by a broad ecumenical community.

Global Catholic Climate Movement is a community of hundreds of thousands of Catholics and a global network of member organizations responding to Pope Francis’ call to action in the Laudato Si’ encyclical.

United Nations: Reaching HIGH civil society ‘virtual’ conference for nuclear disarmament proposals


An article from UNFOLD ZERO

Governments have gathered at the United Nations in New York this month (October) to discuss and adopt nuclear disarmament proposals, including a draft resolution to set the dates and mandate for the first ever UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament (UNHLC), scheduled for 2018. A coalition of international civil society organisations and networks used this occasion to meet on Oct 11-12 in a ‘virtual’ conference to discuss action plans and strategies to ensure success of the UNHLC.

Alyn Ware and Marzhan Nurzhan at the hub of the virtual conference – the Global Security Institute office next to the United Nations in New York

The conference involved a series of webinar sessions with civil society representatives participating from around the world through their home/office computers, laptops, cell phones and smart phones.

It was convened by the Basel Peace Office, Global Security Institute, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, UNFOLD ZERO and the Abolition 2000 working group on the 2018 UN High-Level Conference.

Why the UN High-Level Conference

‘We are at a cross-roads of increased nuclear dangers and alternative realities,’ said Alyn Ware, convener of the conference.

‘On the one hand regional conflicts and tensions, such as in North-East Asia, and between Russia and the West, are increasing the reliance on nuclear weapons and the risk of a nuclear catastrophe by accident, miscalculation or even intent. On the other hand, we have a majority of UN member states – all non-nuclear countries – adopting a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).’

‘These two communities are living in different realities, and the divide between them is increasing. The 2018 UN High-Level Conference provides an opportunity to bridge the communities, and make progress on both nuclear-risk reduction and disarmament measures.’

‘The UN Conference can also bridge the different multilateral processes and forums such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review process, UN General Assembly (through which the TPNW was negotiated), UN Security Council and the Conference on Disarmament.’

Most importantly, the UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, which will take place in May 2018, can elevate the political, media and public attention to nuclear disarmament in all UN member states, and establish a global expectation of a concrete outcome or outcomes.

We have had considerable success with similar high-level UN conferences on Sustainable Development (2015) which adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals; Climate Change (2016) which adopted the Paris Agreement; Refugees and Migrants (2016) which achieved the New York Declaration; and Oceans (2017) which adopted the 14-point action plan Our Ocean Our Future.

But these all required cooperative action by civil society to push their governments into concrete action. The civil society virtual conference on Oct 11-12 is one of the many efforts to build cooperation and action to ensure the 2018 UNHLC on Nuclear Disarmament is also a success.

The Oct 11-12 conference included six sessions focusing on:

* Politics of current nuclear weapons policies. Nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament initiatives;

* Value of UN High-Level Conferences/Summits. Learning from UN summits on other issues (climate change, sustainable development);

* Visions for the 2018 UNHLC. What are possible outcomes which we should be promoting;

* Engaging governments and preparatory work. How to ensure governments will attend at the highest level and take action in good faith on concrete nuclear disarmament measures;

* Summarizing and packaging the politics and opportunities of the UNHLC; Making it understandable to public.

* Engaging key constituencies and building the campaign. Involvement of parliamentarians, mayors, youth, religious leaders/communities, academics… Public events and promotion.

The conference built on a series of consultation events and meetings conducted by the co-sponsoring organisations in key capitals, UN centres and inter-parliamentary assemblies over the past year. Input from these consultations provided the basis for a food-for-thought paper which explores the optimum agenda and approach of the 2018 UNHLC to ensure success.

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Question for this article:

A UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament: Distraction or progress?

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Key themes and approaches;

There were a number of key themes and approaches to the UNHLC discussed during the Oct 11-12 conference. These included:

Civil society should call on all governments to attend the UNHLC at the highest level. This call can be made to governments of nuclear-armed, allied and non-nuclear countries alike;

Governments already supporting the UNHLC could do joint calls on all other governments to attend the UNHLC at the highest level. CELAC (organisation of Latin American and Caribbean governments) is an obvious possibility given their initial push for the high-level conference;

The UNHLC should provide a space for all countries to participate, and for a range of initiatives to be advanced, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, lowering the salience of nuclear weapons, de-alerting, no-first-use, ending nuclear tests, negative security assurances, nuclear stockpile reductions, establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones and developing a framework for global elimination;

A goal for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons could be to obtain 100 signatures by the close of the UNHLC (a number of governments could choose to sign at the UNHLC);

A ‘gift-basket‘ approach could be useful, as it was in the Nuclear Security Summits. This would involve the announcement and/or adoption of a range of measures and initiatives by groups of States, without requiring unanimity of all at the UNHLC;

The UNHLC could recommend UN Security Council action on a number of initiatives, such as that any testing of nuclear weapons would be a threat to peace and security, and that any use of weapons of mass destruction would be a crime against humanity and a threat to peace and security;

In order to move nuclear-armed and allied States to agree to eliminate the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines, it will probably be necessary to advance common security approaches for addressing security situations in which they currently believe that nuclear deterrence is necessary. Common security approaches (diplomacy, mediation, arbitration, adjudicaton…) and mechanisms (United Nations, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe…) are already available but need promoting;

Parliamentarians have a key role to play in moving governments to attend the UNHLC and to commit to concrete outcomes. Civil society should work with parliamentarians to raise questions and advance debates/motions about the 2018 UNHLC in their parliaments;

Civil society should also contact their government officials (foreign ministries and UN ambassadors) directly. PNND and GSI maintains (and will expand) a database of government officials from key countries, plus background on ‘entry points’ (relevant UN resolutions they have supported, and IPU resolutions their parliaments have supported) in order to assist civil society advocates.

Actions and commitments arising from, or announced at, the Oct 11-12 conference include:

1. Abolition 2000 has established a working group on the 2018 UNHLC which is open to anyone to join.This will provide a basis for building cooperation amongst civil society on actions and plans for the 2018 UNHLC;

2. PNND is organising an event at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in St Petersburg to promote the ban treaty, nuclear-risk reduction measures and the 2018 UNHLC;

3. The Abolition 2000 Youth Network and PNND are organising an international youth conference on the 2018 UNHLC. The youth conference will take place in Prague, Czech Republic on Nov 28-29, 2017;

4. UNFOLD ZERO maintains a webpage dedicated to the 2018 UN High-Level Conference. This includes all relevant documents, reports and actions;

5. The Abolition 2000 Youth Network is planning a global Reach HIGH for a nuclear-weapon-free world video, which will involve youth around the world lifting a peace sign high and then passing it to youth video video connection (more detailed explanation to follow). The final video will be shown during the Prep Com for the 2018 UNHLC in New York on March 28;

6. PNND has just produced a Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World which includes parliamentary actions to support the 2018 UNHLC;

7. UNFOLD ZERO and PNND will produce a civil society action guide for the 2018 UNHLC;

8. PNND, Mayors for Peace and Religions for Peace will present the joint appeal ‘A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Our Common Good‘ to the President of the 2018 UNHLC and participating governments at the UNHLC Preparatory Meeting in New York on March 28. Additional mayors, parliamentarians and religious leaders can be invited to endorse before March 25, 2018.

9. World Future Council, PNND, Basel Peace Office and the Abolition 2000 working group on the 2018 UNHLC are planning an action ‘Count the nuclear weapons budget‘ in New York over the three days of the UNHLC. Celebrities, youth and peace activists will count 1 million mock $1 million notes = $1 trillion dollars (the nuclear weapons budget for the next decade).