On 11 April 2011, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) announced that known world military expenditure in 2010 was more than $1.6 trillion, which is an increase of 1.3 percent from 2009. This year, a Global Day of Action on Military Spending was held on 12 April, to coincide with the release of SIPRI’s figures. People held events around the world to mark the day (reports are being collected at www.demilitarize.org). When one considers the excessive, extremely disproportionate spending that goes to funding weapons and war, it’s easier to understand why or world constantly seems mired in military conflict and why there seem to be so few options for nonviolent conflict resolution let alone conflict prevention. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate violence—from mining for their materials to dropping on our cities, nuclear weapons are nothing but destructive for our lives, our politics, our economies, and our planet.
So let’s get rid of them.
Ray Acheson, RCW Project Director
Global Day of Action on Military Spending
On 12 April 2011, the International Peace Bureau and the Institute for Policy Studies organized a Global Day of Action on Military Spending to coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s new annual figures on world military expenditure.
WILPF, a co-sponsor of the Day, organized several events in its national sections. For example:
WILPF Sweden published a debate article on the topic of arms export in Sweden.WILPF Germany published a declaration on the topic.
WILPF Aotearoa circulated information about their activities on this day.
UK WILPF coordinated a facebook, email and twitter distribution of a demilitatrise.org film.
In addition, WILPF International released the following statement:
On 11 April 2011, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) announced that known world military expenditure in 2010 was more than $1.6 trillion, which is an increase of 1.3 percent from 2009. SIPRI notes that the United States alone is responsible for the increase in spending in real terms. SIPRI also records rapid increases in spending in South America (5.8 percent, for a total of $63.3 billion) and Africa (5.2 percent, to $30.1 billion). Military spending increased slower than usual in the Middle East and Asia and Oceania, and dropped 2.8 percent in Europe.
Military investments are underpinned by a belief that states’ security can be guaranteed by threats of violence. It’s an investment in war and conflict. And while government’s use the language of security and protection to justify their excessive investment in military hardware and personnel, it is usually civilians that pay the highest price—with their lives, livelihoods, and rights—when states go to war. Given the numerous crises facing the planet—economic, environmental, food, water, health, energy—it is imperative to build on WILPF’s call to shift money wasted on excessive military spending to human needs and rights. This challenges militarism by calling on governments to stop spending disproportionate financial, technological, and human resources on militaries and demands governments invest in peace.
WILPF has led a movement for 95 years that emphasizes these links between military expenditure, the arms trade, violent conflict, and the reduction of available resources for social and economic development and the promotion of gender equality. We have highlighted this problem many times before, such as during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign in December 2010, where WILPF sections researched, compiled, and calculated data on governments’ military versus social services spending; WILPF’s statement to the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2010; and in WILPF’s pamphlet You Get What You Pay For, which contrasts military spending with the amounts of money needed to achieve the MDGs.
Above all else, weapons are tools of violence and repression by those that use them and tools of financial gain by those who make and sell them. The international arms trade is a booming industry and the international systems that were created to uphold international law and secure human rights have been subordinated to the economic and political interests of governments and corporations. While many states promote themselves as advocates for international peace, justice, and security, and claim to promote international disarmament, the same states are often leaders in the international arms trade, which contributes to fueling conflicts, human rights violations, and disrupting peace processes. As WILPF pointed out in a statement on UN Security Council resolution 1973, “during the time of friendship with Gaddaffi, the UK, Italy, France, Portugal, Belgium and Russia with a healthy contribution from General Dynamics, ensured that Gaddaffi had sufficient arms, bullets, tanks and aircraft to control his population. The same had been sold or given to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, and of course, Saudi Arabia and Israel.”
As a result, funds reserved for development initiatives are increasingly spent on emergency relief and rehabilitation operations to clean up after violent conflict. And while military expenditures increase every year, investment in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, development, and disarmament diminishes.
Vancouver Declaration on nuclear weapons and international humanitarian law
Released on 23 March 2011 by The Simons Foundation and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and signed by eminent experts in international law and diplomacy, the Vancouver Declaration affirms that nuclear weapons are incompatible with international humanitarian law, the law stating what is universally prohibited in warfare. The declaration observes that with their uncontrollable blast, heat, and radiation effects, nuclear weapons are indeed weapons of mass destruction that by their nature cannot comply with fundamental rules forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm.
Entitled “Law’s Imperative for the Urgent Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World,” the declaration concludes by calling on states to commence and conclude negotiations on the global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons as mandated by the legal obligation unanimously proclaimed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1996. An annex to the declaration specifying the applicable law states: “It cannot be lawful to continue indefinitely to possess weapons which are unlawful to use or threaten to use, are already banned for most states, and are subject to an obligation of elimination.”
The many signatories include Christopher G. Weeramantry, former Vice President of the ICJ and current President of IALANA; Mohammed Bedjaoui, who was ICJ President when it handed down its advisory opinion on nuclear weapons; Louise Doswald-Beck, Professor of International Law, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, and co-author of a major International Committee of the Red Cross study of international humanitarian law; Ved Nanda, Evans University Professor, Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law; Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs; and Gareth Evans, QC, former Foreign Minister of Australia who recently served as Co-Chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.
Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), is also a signatory.
The Simons Foundation and IALANA developed the declaration with the input of a conference convened by the two organizations in Vancouver, Canada, on February 10-11, 2011, that brought together some 30 experts in international law, diplomacy, and nuclear weapons.
IKV Pax Christi report on tactical nuclear weapons in NATO
A large majority of the 28 NATO-countries supports the withdrawal of American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, or will not block a consensus decision on this issue. Only three NATO-countries (France, Hungary and Lithuania) say they oppose withdrawal. This is the outcome of interviews held by peace organization IKV Pax Christi with all of the 28 NATO-delegations and several NATO-staffers.
There are many speculations about which countries want to keep the American nuclear weapons in Europe, but this is the first time all delegations have been asked for their opinions about the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The results of the interviews are published in the report “Withdrawal Issues: What NATO countries say about the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe”.
WFUNA youth disarmament contest
The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is holding a design contest, “The Nuclear Crystal Ball,” from March–May 2011.
This year WFUNA is hosting a youth design and video contest “Nuclear Crystal Ball” to raise awareness and support for nuclear disarmament. The contest asks youth, ages 15 through 25, to create a poster, a t-shirt design or to shoot a video envisioning how the world would look if the presence of nuclear weapons spread throughout the world.
Read the Terms and Conditions of the Contest. Then download the Submission Form here and complete it.
Create your Submission! Produce either a poster, t-shirt design or a video envisioning the world full of nuclear weapons.
Send your Formand Submission (jpeg,mpeg, avi, mov only) to [email protected]" style="color: rgb(142, 95, 189); text-decoration: none; ">[email protected] (Note: please include your surname as the title of the design).
Report on WILPF’s International Women’s Day Seminar
The final report from WILPF’s 2011 International Women’s Day Seminar is now available online. This year, the seminar focused on the new General Assembly resolution A/RES/64/69 on “Women, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Control”. WILPF was able to bring women from Costa Rica, DRC, and Pakistan to participate. The report contains information about the seminar, the outcome, our recommendations for governments and civil society, and our statement made in the Conference on Disarmament on International Women’s Day.
Withdrawal Issues: What NATO countries say about the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe
New York City | 3 May 2011 | 1:00–3:00 PM
Church Center for the United Nations, 10th Floor
Join IKV Pax Christi and Reaching Critical Will for the launch of a new report that presents and analyses the outcomes of interviews with all 28 NATO delegations and a number of key NATO staffers involved in nuclear planning and deployment. The report dispels oft repeated assumptions about what NATO members think of the future of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Please RSVP to [email protected] before 30 April. A light sandwich lunch will be provided.
Open-ended Meeting of Governmental Experts on the Implementation of the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons
New York City | 9–13 May 2011
United Nations Headquarters
In the framework of the UN Programme of Action (PoA), this is a first meeting of its kind, bringing together experts on marking, record-keeping and cooperation on tracing of small arms. They will discuss challenges and opportunities relating to the International Tracing Instrument (ITI).For NGO representatives seeking accreditation, please see the instructions provided by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.
Global Network 19th Annual Space Organizing Conference
North Andover, MA | 17–19 June 2011
2011 marks the 19th anniversary of Global Network’s organizing efforts to build an international constituency to Keep Space for Peace. Each year we gather to share the latest international developments on Pentagon and aerospace industry plans for the militarization of space. Get the full conference program, schedule and registration brochure at http://www.space4peace.org/.
NNSA says nuclear weapon facilities are not the same as nuclear power reactors when it comes to safety
Alarmed by the safety implications of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, experts in the US are turning their attention to an earthquake-related controversy at Los Alamos National Laboratory. They have called for a pause in the design work on a new plutonium pit manufacturing facility (the multi-billion dollar Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility, which is already the subject of a lawsuit launched by the Los Alamos Study Group) in order to incorporate lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster. The National Nuclear Security Administration, which has authority over US nuclear weapon facilities, has argued its facilities are in a “different situation” than nuclear power reactors when it comes to safety precautions. However, as Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group points out, “many people have questioned the wisdom of putting a plutonium processing facility and now a nuclear pit manufacturing facility on the side of a volcano.” (Source: Roger Snodgrass, “Seismic concerns grow over plutonium plant,” Santa Fe New Mexican, 19 March 2011.)
Over 200,000 people protested against nuclear power in Germany
On 26 March, around 210,000 demonstrators in Cologne, Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg took to the streets to pressure the government into abandoning nuclear energy. Alarmed by the nuclear crisis in Japan, environmental and religious groups as well as unions organized the demonstrations, which kicked off in Cologne’s city center, where nearly 40,000 people turned up to support the cause. Around 90,000 people took to the streets in Berlin while in Hamburg, organizers counted around 50,000 demonstrators and in Munich the figure was estimated at 30,000. Organizers said they were the biggest anti-nuclear protests Germany has ever seen. (Source: “Hundreds of thousands protest against nuclear energy across Germany,” Climate Connections, 27 March 2011.)
Anti-nuclear protests held in Japan
Hundreds participated in anti-nuclear protests in Japan on 27 March 2011. In Tokyo, about 300 marched past the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power station, chanting: “We don't need nuclear plants!” A similar number of demonstrators turned out in the central Japanese city of Nagoya, gathering outside the offices of regional energy company Chubu Electric Power shouting, “We don't want another Fukushima.” Japan, which endures 20 percent of all major earthquakes, generates about 30 percent of its power from nuclear plants. (Source: “Anti-nuclear protests held in Japan,” Channel News Asia, 27 March 2011.)
Exhibition of over one million signatures for nuclear disarmament opens at the UN
On 24 March, 1,024,820 signatures collected from around the globe calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons went on display in a new exhibit at the UN headquarters. The signatures had been gathered through an initiative organized by the Mayors for Peace in support of their Cities Are Not Targets project. Among attendees of the opening event were UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Hollywood actor and peace advocate Michael Douglas and three atomic-bomb survivors from Japan--Toshiko Tanaka, Motoko Nakamura, and Lee Sil Gun. “Together we can rid the world of nuclear weapons and answer the call of these hibakushas, who survived the nuclear attack and dedicated themselves to making sure no one else will ever suffer the same fate,” Ban said in his speech at the opening. (Source: “Exhibition of over 1 million antinuke signatures starts at UN,” The Economic Times, 25 March 2011.)
Nuclear weapon activists sentenced for trespassing at submarine base in USA
Two priests, a nun, and two other women in their 60s who cut through fences at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor to protest nuclear weapons were sentenced Monday to prison terms ranging from two to 15 months. U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle called the work and activism of some of the defendants “extraordinary,” but said he had to send a “clear message,” that the conduct was illegal and exposed the defendants and those on base to “unnecessary risks”. Briefly, Settle spoke of the nuclear arms abolition those before him were so advocating. “It’ll be a great day when they'll exist no more,” he said. (Source: Josh Farley, “‘Bangor 5’ protestors get prison time for trespassing, property destruction,” Kitsap Sun, 28 March 2011.)
First Nations oppose nuclear shipment through Great Lakes in Canada
A group of Anishinabe women with expertise in halting unwanted projects that threaten the environment are determined to stop a proposed shipment of steam generators contaminated with nuclear waste travelling through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. “The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River have been the source of life for over 30,000 years for the Anishinabe People, as well as the Algonquin, Mohawk, Cree and other Indigenous Nations. We will, by any and all means, protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River from this potential hazard,” said Vicki Monague, spokesperson for Anishinabe Kweag, in a statement. “We have respectfully called upon Bruce Power to stop its plans to transport the decommissioned nuclear steam generators. Their own original plan (when the generators were built) would have allowed the steam generators with radioactive waste to be safely stored on site, of which Bruce Power would assume full responsibility for what they have created without needlessly exposing our waterways to potential hazards.” (Source: Gale Courey Toensing, “Anishinabe Women Oppose Nuclear Shipment Through Great Lakes,” Indian Country Today Media Network, 23 March 2011.)
Aboriginal groups in Australia released a statement protesting uranium mining
The Western Australia Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA), made up of Aboriginal Traditional Land Owners from the Pilbara, the Kimberley, the Goldfields, the Great Victoria Desert, the Central Desert, the Gascoyne, Perth and the South West and their allies, met from 2-4 April 2011 on Noongar lands near Perth. Their statement argues that the costs of uranium mining outweighs any short term cash payments: “Uranium mining poisons water, land and life through releasing radiation. The mining industry and the government are trying to make people believe uranium mining is inevitable. The industry and the government are trying to make people believe it is safe. Both are trying to make people believe that uranium mining is the way to bring economic benefits. We Say No.” The full statement is available online.
Richard Falk, “After Sendai,” Counterpunch, 18–20 March 2011.
C.G. Weeramantry, “Nuclear reactor catastrophe in Japan—an open letter to the world from Judge Weeramantry,” 14 March 2011.
Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis, “Instead of Bombing Dictators, Stop Selling Them Bombs,” CommonDreams.org, 22 March 2011.
Betsy Hartmann, “Why Anti-Nuclear Belongs in All of Our Movements,” CommonDreams.org, 12 April 2011.