The World Future Council condemns the Russian military action against Ukraine as an act of aggression that is clearly in violation of international law.
Tag Archive for: Peace and Disarmament
An Open Letter urging nuclear weapons states to adopt no-first-use and other policies to ensure a nuclear war is never fought has been endorsed by prominent signatories
Members of the World Future Council and recipients of the Right Livelihood Award called on governments to abolish nuclear weapons.
Another step towards future justice
Hamburg/ Göttingen (Germany) 18th July 2018 – The University of Göttingen (Germany) announced yesterday that they will end all investments in fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries. The move follows an appeal from students of the university organised by Fossil Free Göttingen, and a similar announcement by the City of Göttingen in May last year.
‘We commend the University of Göttingen for taking this important step to divest from fossil fuels and help protect the climate for current and future generations,’ said Alyn Ware, Disarmament Programme Director for the World Future Council.
‘The growing threat to our future posed by climate change has stimulated students to take action,’ says Luisa Neubauer, Communications Officer for Fossil Free Göttingen. ‘The fossil fuel industry has been blocking change to sustainable energy for their own financial interests. We must therefore make it in their financial interests to change. Divestment can help achieve this.‘
‘In line with our motto “IN PUBLICA COMMODA – FOR THE GOOD OF ALL”, we not only bear responsibility for the findings of science, but also for how these findings can influence and guide society,’ said President of the University Ulrike Beisiegel. ‘For this reason, we also take on social responsibility for our investments and select them not only according to economic considerations, but also, in particular, using socially, ethically and ecologically sound criteria.’
The decision by the University impacts its investment portfolio of €190 million. Following the decision, the University Stiftung (investment foundation) will not invest in coal, gas or oil companies, nor companies involved in nuclear energy.
However, unlike the City of Göttingen which decided to also exclude nuclear weapons and conventional weapons from its investment policy, the University of Göttingen decided not to exclude these industries.
Nuclear weapons divestment is part of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global campaign initiated in 2016 by the World Future Council and others to cut nuclear weapons budgets, end investments in nuclear weapons and shift these budgets and investments into social, economic and environmentally beneficial enterprises.
‘We had hoped that they would also include nuclear weapons divestment in their recent decision. However, the nuclear weapons divestment campaign is still young, and perhaps the University will follow the example of Göttingen City once they have had experience of implementing their policy with positive result.’, says Alyn Ware, who is also the Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (‘Alternative Nobel Prize’).
‘Nuclear weapons also pose an existential threat to humanity and absorb billions of dollars that are sorely needed for better purposes, such as investment in renewable energy,’ says Ms Neubauer. ‘In times of increasing tension between nuclear-armed countries, a demonstration of financial restraint can help governments step back from the nuclear brink.’
‘The Göttingen City action to divest from fossil fuels and weapons producers is a wonderful follow-up to the example of the Göttingen Eighteen, the group of Nobel laureates and other scientists from Göttingen who in the late 1950s argued against the deployment of nuclear weapons in Germany,’ says Dr Ute Finckh-Krämer, PNND Council Member and an adviser to the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign. ‘The action complements similar divestment actions at State and Federal level. Berlin City, for example, has taken action to exclude investments from city funds in fossil fuel, nuclear energy, nuclear weapons and the conventional weapons industry.’
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New York, NY – March 28, 2018. At a media briefing for journalists at the United Nations in New York today, nuclear disarmament experts and campaigners highlighted the critical need for successful diplomacy on nuclear-weapons related conflicts, including in Northeast Asia, between the US/NATO and Russia, and at the upcoming UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament.
This Valentine’s Day, instead of splurging on roses and chocolates, why not do something different and take a moment with that special someone to commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the most important multilateral treaties, of which you have probably never heard: the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Read more
With the passing of Judge C.G. Weeramantry on 5 January the peace, disarmament and sustainability movements have lost a monumental figure. Judge Weeramantry dedicated his life to strengthening and expanding the rule of international law and demonstrated how the rule of law can be used to address critical global challenges such as the continued threat of nuclear weapons, the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment.
In addition to being one of the brightest legal minds on these issues, he was a tireless activist. Nuclear weapons were always a particular concern of his. As we face a future still marked by the nuclear threat, his wisdom and activism will be sorely missed. Fortunately, in the five decades spanning his career he has produced some of the most pioneering, convincing and eloquent analysis and arguments on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons.
We would do well to revisit some of Judge Weeramantry’s treatises and learn from them as we continue to make the case for a world free of nuclear weapons. These include:
As relevant today as when he wrote it, Judge Weeramantry’s strong dissent from the majority’s decision to leave undetermined the legality of the use of nuclear weapons in self-defence when the survival of the state would be at stake, is one of the most authoritative and comprehensive arguments on the illegality of nuclear weapons “in all circumstances and without reservation.”
See here for a summary.
The World Future Council co-published this informative booklet with the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research on the occasions of the 2005 and 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conferences. In concise yet convincing arguments, Judge Weeramantry highlights the uniqueness of the nuclear threat and how our complacency risks the human future: “Never in the history of humanity has such urgency existed in relation to any issue and never were the consequences so devastating to the human future and to all that we hold dear. The danger grows not from year to year or from month to month but from day to day.”
As long as nuclear weapons exist, Judge Weeramantry’s unique insights and arguments remain powerful and pertinent. Using the legacy he has left us to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons would be the greatest tribute we can pay him.
At the invitation of the mayor of the town of Ypres, WFC project manager Holger Güssefeld spoke as a representative of the citizens of Hamburg at the conference “A century of weapons of mass destruction: FINAL!”. On April 24, 2015, he recalled the Hamburg bombing of 1943.
The military-industrial complex is a formidable union of armed forces and defence contractors using their power to move governments and parliaments to maintain high military budgets. Those pursuing nuclear disarmament need to find ways of countering this power. Anti-nuclear activists and other civil society leaders need to join forces with progressive legislators, non-nuclear governments and allies within the governments of nuclear-armed states in order to reduce the lobbying power of the nuclear weapons corporations, and move the money from nuclear weapons budgets to fund social, economic and environmental programs instead.
This handbook provides ideas, examples and resources for legislators and civil society in order to realise this aim. The handbook will focus primarily on national and federal legislators, who are the ones with authority to decide on national budgets. However, the handbook will also include ideas, examples and resources for working with legislators at local and regional levels, and with other key institutions, such as banks and investment companies.
You probably don’t know but today marks the UN International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Not to be confused with the UN International Day Against Nuclear Tests – that was on 29 August (don’t feel too bad if you totally forgot about it).
UN ‘International Days’ are designed to promote international awareness and action on certain issues. For the most part, they deal with key security, development and health issues that the international community is facing – e.g. water security, slavery and environmental degradation, just to name a few examples.
Over the years, the number of such days has ballooned – to date, there are 130 such observances (not counting the UN 2016 International Year of Pulses and 6 UN Decades in which we currently live). The main reason for this growth is that it’s low-hanging fruit for member states to propose a commemorative day as many are dedicated to lofty ideals that few others would want to oppose (what country wants to go on record as not caring about migratory birds?).
That’s why you can now have your awareness raised about child labour, albinism, blood donation, elder abuse, family remittances and desertification and drought – all in one week in June! You cannot help but feel that packing the calendar with so many commemorative days devalues and defeats the purpose of awareness raising.
And so today it’s nuclear weapons’ turn, as we mark the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. A lofty goal if there ever was one, a world free of nuclear weapons has been a shared vision of the international community since the first nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, 71 years since those attacks it’s safe to say that the goal has proven elusive.
When in 2013 the UN General Assembly voted in favour of designating 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, few thought it would be a game changer. That’s not to say it’s without value. Intended to enhance “public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world”, the day rightfully highlights the critical gap in public awareness on the dangers on nuclear weapons.
But it was never going to constrain the actions of any of the nuclear-armed states. For them it has been business as usual.
All nine have been involved in renewing and extending nuclear weapon programmes or modernising forces, none of them have lowered the role of nuclear weapons in their defence policies (quite the contrary – in some cases, nuclear weapons have enjoyed increased salience in military posturing), one carried out a nuclear test as recent as 9 September (less than a fortnight after the UN International Day Against Nuclear Tests no less!) and the majority has forcefully resisted multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts—case in point being that the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and Israel voted against the resolution that designated 26 September as the International Day as well as, inter alia, “calls for urgent compliance with the legal obligations and the fulfilment of the commitments undertaken on nuclear disarmament.”
And so it has been left to the non-nuclear weapon states to take up the baton and advance nuclear disarmament. By definition, what they can achieve as countries without nuclear weapons is limited in the push for a world free of nuclear weapons. But two recent initiatives are worth highlighting – worth raising awareness about, if you will.
On Wednesday, Austria announced that it would join other UN member states in tabling a resolution next month at the UN General Assembly to convene negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons in 2017.
The move follows a recommendation adopted last month by the UN Open Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament in Geneva for the General Assembly to convene a conference in 2017 to negotiate “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The recommendation was supported by 62 countries (all non-nuclear weapon states).
The recommendation was part of a more detailed report that will be presented to the UN General Assembly, and which also includes a recommendation for States to undertake measures to reduce and eliminate the risk of nuclear weapons use, increase transparency about nuclear weapons and enhance awareness about the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. In yet another sign of their reluctance to implement their nuclear disarmament obligations, none of the nine nuclear weapons possessors participated in the OEWG.
The second initiative is a bold legal action that puts the legal obligations on nuclear disarmament back at the heart of the debate and action.
In April 2014, the tiny Pacific Island state of the Marshall Islands took the nine nuclear-armed States to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), claiming they are in violation of their nuclear disarmament obligations, as rooted in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Customary International Law.
The unprecedented legal action requests a declaratory judgment of breach of obligations relating to nuclear disarmament, cessation of the nuclear arms race, and good faith as well as an order from the Court directed at the nine nuclear powers to take, within one year of the judgment, all steps necessary to comply with their nuclear disarmament obligations.
The cases have proceeded against the three nuclear-armed states that have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ – the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan. In March this year, the Court held hearings in these cases on preliminary issues. Next week, on 5 October, the Court will issue its judgement on these issues and whether the cases are to proceed to the merits phase.
What the Austrian-led push for a legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons and the Marshall Islands’ nuclear disarmament cases have in common is that they are born of frustration about the ongoing inaction of the nuclear-armed states to implement their disarmament obligations and advance the nuclear disarmament enterprise in any meaningful way.
Although it remains to be seen where both initiatives will go and what effect they will have on the policies of the nuclear-armed states, they are being pursued in the full spirit of today’s goal – the total elimination of nuclear weapons.