TPNW reaches 50 ratifications - nuclear weapons are banned!
On 24 October, United Nations Day, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) reached the 50 states required for its entry into force. Honduras ratified just one day after Jamaica and Nauru submitted their ratifications. In 90 days time, on 22 January, the treaty will enter into force, cementing a categorical ban on nuclear weapons, 75 years after their first use.
This is a historic milestone for the landmark treaty. Prior to adoption of the TPNW, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not banned under international law, despite their catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Now, with the treaty’s entry into force, we can call nuclear weapons what they are: prohibited weapons of mass destruction, just like chemical and biological weapons.
Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), welcomed the historic moment. “This is a new chapter for nuclear disarmament. Decades of activism have achieved what many said was impossible: nuclear weapons are banned," she said.
The three latest states to ratify were proud to be part of such a historic moment. All 50 states have shown true leadership to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, while facing unprecedented levels of pressure from the nuclear armed states not to do so. A recent letter, obtained by The Associated Press only days before the ceremony, demon-strates that the Trump administration has been directly pressuring states that have ratified the treaty to withdraw from it and abstain from encouraging others to join it, in direct contradiction to their obligations under the treaty. Beatrice Fihn said: “Real leadership has been shown by the countries that have joined this historical instrument to bring it to full legal effect. Desperate attempts to weaken these leaders’ commitment to nuclear disarmament demon-strate only the fear of nuclear armed states of the change this treaty will bring.”
ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its tireless work in campaigning for this momentous achievement.
UN Secretary-General Guterres said in an Associated Press interview: “It is clear for me that we will only be entirely safe in relation to nuclear weapons the day when nuclear weapons no longer exist. We know that it’s not easy. We know that there are many obstacles.” He hopes that important initiatives, such as talks on renewing the New Start Treaty and next year’s review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, “will all converge in the same direction, and the final objective must be to have a world with no nuclear weapons.”
Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, who has been an ardent campaigner for the treaty, said: “When I learned that we reached our 50th ratification, I was not able to stand. I remained in my chair and put my head in my hands and I cried tears of joy. I have committed my life to the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the success of our treaty.”
CND, a partner of ICAN, stated “CND has always championed the global abolition of nuclear weapons. This treaty is a victory for grassroots campaigning and our anti-nuclear movement. Shamefully the UK government refused to even participate in the treaty talks and now says it will never sign. But that will not stop us from making progress. Alongside raising awareness of the TPNW, CND will continue to work with all its partners in Parliament and across civil society to oppose the replacement of Trident.”
The terms of the TPNW only apply to the countries that have signed and ratified the agreement. But although the nine nuclear-armed states currently say they will not support it, the treaty is a significant pointer towards changing international attitudes to nuclear weapons. Previous treaties prohibiting chemical and biological weapons helped to stigmatise them in the minds of the public. This is now taking place with nuclear weapons. We can expect companies to stop producing nuclear weapons and financial institutions to stop investing in companies that produce nuclear weapons. People, companies, universities and governments everywhere will know these weapons have been prohibited and that now is the moment for them to stand on the right side of history.
In the July/August issue of Kingston Peace News we reported on the government’s resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has launched a new legal challenge to stop the sale of UK weapons for use in the war in Yemen.
UK rules explicitly prohibit the sale of weapons when there is a “clear risk they might be used in violations of international humanitarian law (IHL).” Violations of IHL by the Saudi-led coalition have been reported since the first airstrikes hit Yemen in March 2015, and they continue now. Yemen’s devastating humanitarian crisis is also a direct result of the war, which is waged with UK-made weapons. Over half of Saudi Arabia’s combat aircraft used for the bombing raids are UK-supplied and they are dropping UK-made bombs and firing UK-made missiles. CAAT estimates the value of sales to the Coalition since the beginning of the war to be at least £18bn.
Last year, as a result of CAAT’s previous legal action, Saudi arms sales were put on hold. The Court of Appeal found government decisions to allow arms sales were 'irrational and therefore unlawful'. The government was forced to stop issuing new arms export licences for use in the war and review all its previous decisions to allow arms sales, in accordance with the law.
Yet the government’s review was a whitewash. It concluded that any violations of IHL committed by the Saudi coalition were only ‘isolated incidents’ despite the fact that hundreds of attacks on residential areas, schools, hospitals, civilian gatherings, and agricultural land and facilities have been documented.
CAAT says “The government has resolved to return to business as usual, but this is a business with a terrible cost and we cannot let it continue. Our action continues until we stop these sales once and for all.”
As are most events these days, CND’s AGM and Policy Conference was held online.
Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, presented an illustrated report on the past year’s activities, all reshaped by Covid-19.
Events themselves drove the campaigning: the first initiative was ‘Wash our hands of Trident’, exposing the failure of government to prepare for a pandemic, while pouring £205 billion into Trident replacement, leaving the health system chronically underfunded. For over a decade successive governments had identified a pandemic as a tier one security threat, whereas the risk of nuclear weapons use was designated a tier two threat.
CND has worked with other campaigns on the Build Back Better initiative to ensure that the post-Covid world doesn’t retreat to the disastrous policies of former times, focusing on defence diversification as weapons manufacturers turned to the production of ventilators and PPE to support the NHS. They arranged a fringe webinar on Defence Diversification at TUC Congress.
On the international front CND has continued to defend the existing treaties under attack by Trump and opposed the growing tensions with China, supporting a No New Cold War initiative, urging dialogue and diplomacy. They have continued to work with the No to NATO network, and opposed use of RAF/USAF bases for nuclear-capable US bombers, in relation to US escalation of tension with Russia and China.
But there has been good news: the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was approaching 50 ratifications and entry into international law. CND participated in the ICAN network and continues to press the UK government to engage, as well as working with cities, towns and local communities to support the treaty.
CND has continued to highlight the Climate not Trident message. Campaigning against nuclear power also continues, working to support local campaigns and raising awareness of renewables.
They joined the Japanese peace movement’s online commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and held their own successful series of events, including a poster competition, a quiz, a concert together with Musicians for Peace and Disarmament, and exhibitions for Glastonbury and Hiroshima anniversaries.
CND has produced new materials to support campaigns and continued peace education work.
All resolutions were passed almost unanimously, with little discussion, although anyone wishing to speak on a motion could do so by informing the CND office of their intention. Voting was achieved by clicking a ‘raised hand’ button on the screen. Summary of resolutions:
Emergency Resolution on Israel, Palestine and a nuclear-free Middle East: Hold a conference, as soon as possible, on Peace in the Middle East.
The second day of CND Conference, hosted by London Region CND, was entitled ‘Real Security, Lessons from the Pandemic’. It opened with a roundtable discussion with Prof. Paul Rogers (Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies, Bradford University), Rokhsana Fiaz (Mayor of Newham) and Roger McKenzie (Assistant General Secretary of Unison), chaired by CND Vice-Chair Tom Unterrainer (Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation).
Tom introduced the discussion saying that Covid-19 has changed many people’s perception of what security is. So how does nuclear disarmament fit into the picture?
Prof. Paul Rogers said that worldwide the long-term threat to security is climate breakdown, and this is happening more rapidly than had been expected. But the risk of pandemics is a more immediate problem. In the UK we had identified the risk and had worked out a biological security strategy, but didn’t follow it through. In the early stages of the pandemic the total cost of measures announced to combat Covid-19 was over £200bn (to 7 August, according to the National Audit Office) – equalling the estimated cost of Trident over its lifetime. The pandemic is not looked on as a security threat, but more people have died from Covid-19 in the UK than civilians were killed in Britain in the eight months of the Blitz of World War II. And to have a defence policy which involves a willingness and ability to kill 20 to 30 million people in a couple of hours is ethically and morally unacceptable. Our attitude to security is dominated by a relatively small and influential elite –the arms companies, think tanks, defence colleges and civil servants, in whose eyes international security relies not on co-operation, but on the military/industrial complex. These people are not evil, it’s just a different mindset, an entrenched mindset with no basis in reality. They have a delusion of post-imperial grandeur and to them nuclear weapons are a symbol of national power. We must rethink what we mean by security – he referred us to the website www.rethinkingsecurity.org.uk
Rokhsana Fiaz suggested that Covid-19 has caused us to focus on public health safety and poverty. We need to link the fundamental issue of public health safety with global security – thinking globally, acting locally. Local activities are vital in raising awareness.
Roger McKenzie views racism as the second pandemic. Many in the black community do not feel safe, and access to water, food and health services are not available to many across the globe. The government has mishandled the pandemic but will make our service workers pay for it – cutting services and jobs instead of the spending on nuclear weapons. We need to build the movement and engage in activity to persuade more people of the urgency of the situation, to talk about the practicalities of prioritising people, welfare and public services.
In the Q&A session the panel were asked whether we can afford Trident now. Roger McKenzie thought of course not, but the government will say it’s a matter of national security. They will cut public expenditure, but they will not cut spending on nuclear weapons. Paul Rogers pointed out that Trident is not just a British issue, it is part of the wider scenario, involving our relations with the US and NATO.
There followed a break, during which Hugh Goodacre on acoustic guitar played a medley from the CND Song Book, then there were breakout sessions ‘Visions of a green world’, ‘Security for the Many’ and ‘Creative campaigning’.
Finally, Jeremy Corbyn MP, a Vice President of CND, gave the keynote address, livestreamed from a car park outside a primary school in Finchley, saying he could not get a good enough signal in his allotment! He was introduced by Rachel Earlington, CND’s parliamentary officer, who said that the new intake of Labour MPs are committed to peace, justice and human rights.
Jeremy highlighted three current issues:
Regarding nuclear weapons, the majority of countries want to live in nuclear free zones. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is not a complete failure, but not as successful as we would like it to be. We should be pressing for a nuclear free world. As Labour Leader he wanted to have an international strategy. He was shocked by the jingoism around the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then Libya and Syria. We must speak out for peace, justice and international law.
We must change the structure of the economy, protecting jobs with a sustainable manufacturing capacity and green energy, transport, building and machine revolutions.
During the pandemic Jeremy has been able to attend online conferences with people all over the world. This is a development that should continue beyond the pandemic.
His final comment:
CND is for achieving a world of peace.
Experts tell the truth about Trident
CND has launched a new report, Security not Trident, which includes contributions from defence and military experts. It looks at the huge security challenges of the Covid-19 era, considers why nuclear weapons can never keep us safe and how our security would be best served by scrapping Trident.
Why did Britain find itself so signally unprepared for the coronavirus, with insufficient equipment, staff and infrastructure to serve, and save, its people? If the pandemic threat had been completely unexpected then maybe the situation would be understandable. But that just isn’t the case. The UK’s last two security strategies have designated pandemics as tier one threats to our security, yet the necessary level of investment has not been put into preparing for this major risk. Nuclear weapons were designated as a tier two threat. Yet at the same time the governments that produced those risk assessments chose to automatically pour money into a new nuclear weapons system to ‘meet’ this lower level threat, leaving the health system chronically underfunded.
This report looks at all the reasons why nuclear weapons don’t keep us safe; why they are not the answer to the country’s security. It looks at a range of issues including the actual security threats we face today.
It is striking how many contemporary security threats are actually non-military, suggesting that security should be conceptualised in a new way. Overwhelmingly the security threats we face stem either from the problems arising from climate change or from twentieth century politics – imperialism and the cold war. We need our politicians to understand that basing our national security on the game of bluff known as ‘deterrence’ is absurd. Technology could soon make our nuclear weapons system redundant – submarines are vulnerable to cyber-attack on their computer systems or physical attack via underwater drones. Nuclear accidents have made the world less safe; and the report considers what impact a nuclear war would have on the planet.
This is the time for a new vision of society, and nuclear weapons have no part in it. The last few months have turned the world upside down. Out of this catastrophe we need new thinking from the government, to meet the real challenges our society faces.
A comprehensive review of the government's security, defence, development and foreign policy is expected to be published soon. The government should take heed of issues raised in this report. It must reflect on the fact that our security can no longer be focused on military scenarios, but rather on the increasingly complex and ever-changing factors that we face.
You can download the report here: https://cnduk.org/resources/security-not-trident/
Then write to your MP to tell them it's time for the government to wash its hands of Trident.
CND Conference passed a resolution opposing nuclear power, and urging members to campaign against Sizewell C in Suffolk, part of government plans for 'new nuclear build'. Rochdale and Littleborough Peace Group made the following points:
More information about the campaign against Sizewell C can be found at https://tasizewellc.org.uk/
Jonathon Porritt, in his latest book, Hope in Hell*, elaborates on these points:
* Hope in Hell, Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd, ISBN: 9781471193279
Foreign Office quango says some of NGO’s claims against machinery firm ‘merit further examination’
This article appeared in The Guardian on 13 October
The British heavy machinery firm JCB’s sale of equipment used in the destruction of Palestinian villages in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is being examined by a UK government body to determine whether its due diligence process complies with human rights guidelines set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The case is likely to test the degree to which multinationals are responsible if their export goods are sold by local distributors in ways that infringe human rights.
The claim was launched by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights last December after JCB refused to communicate with the lobby group over claims that its tractors were being used to tear up Palestinian villages. The little-known complaints procedure was set up in 2000 and is designed to give a means of persuading multinationals to abide by their corporate social responsibility undertakings. JCB which, acc-ording to the Electoral Commission, has donated millions of pounds to the Conservative party and at least £25,000 to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, can now enter into government-overseen mediation with the NGO that made the claim or it can contest the claim outright.
The National Contact Point quango, a subsidiary of the Foreign Office that oversees the complaints, issued a statement on Monday. It said that after examining the Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights complaint and hearing JCB’s rebuttal, it deemed that JCB had a case to answer in relation to some claims and that the issue fell within its remit.
JCB had defended itself to the National Contact Point by saying that it simply sold its equipment to a third-party Israeli distributor, Comasco, and therefore had no responsibility over what was done with the equipment thereafter. It said it could not be sure that equipment that it had sold to Comasco had been used in the destruction of Palestinian villages or the construction of new illegal settlements. It added that its equipment was also used positively in the construction of hospitals, schools and roads.
But the Palestinian legal group said Palestinian Bedouin communities in area C of the occupied West Bank were particularly vulnerable to demolitions and displacement in violation of their human rights.
The OECD guidelines require firms to seek ways to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts directly linked to its business operations and products by a business relationship. It also asks them to have a policy commitment to respect human rights, and to carry out human rights due diligence.
The director of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Tareq Shrourou, said: “We welcome this initial assessment and the UK National Contact Point’s acknowledgment that there are serious human rights issues raised by our complaint under the OECD guidelines. JCB’s apparent failure to address the material and prolific use of its products in demolition and displacement incidents that cruelly impacts Palestinian families, and also its use in settlement-related construction which creates pervasive human rights violations, must cease immediately. We look forward to constructively engaging with JCB and expect it will do the right thing by complying with its human rights responsibilities.”
JCB said: “We are very pleased that the UK NCP has dismissed at the earliest opportunity any suggestion that JCB is involved in, or causes or contributes towards any human rights abuses whatsoever. There was no basis for the Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights to make their complaint alleging this. As an organisation JCB does not condone any form of human rights abuse and we have a consistent record of providing urgent and substantial support in response to natural disasters around the world. While the NCP will now examine JCB’s human rights due diligence process, it has made clear that its decision to do so is not a finding against JCB and does not mean that it considers that JCB has acted in any way inconsistently with the OECD guidelines. We welcome the opportunity of engaging further with the NCP on these matters.”
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND