UN Disarmament Week 2016

Monday 24th October 2016 marked the beginning of the UN disarmament week.  This 3a48568b4b41b8eb0b8fa4286cf91e74week was called for in the Final Document of the General Assembly 1978 special session on Disarmament. Why the 24th October? This date was particularly chosen because it marks the anniversary of the inception of the United Nations. It offers a chance for reflection on the world and its relationship with nuclear weapons.

As the UN celebrates its 71st birthday, it has been widely recognised as a positive force, and that despite all of the criticism that the UN may have faced, there is still an ever-growing need to fight for positive progression in creating a more stable and peaceful world – particularly with regards to nuclear issues.

Although our generation is lucky to have not lived through a world war like the generations before us, it is important that we do not forget the importance of global security and a way to successfully implement it by learning significant lessons from the past.

The connection between the cessation of a global war and the creation of an inter-governmental organisation is extremely prevalent, especially today. While the potential threats have changed dramatically since the start of the UN (chiefly because the technology since then has become so advanced), the overall aim of international peace has not wavered.

No one wants a repeat of the World Wars or the Cold War. In spite of several countries refusing to get rid of their nuclear weapons, and others decidedly blocking legislation that would encourage global disarmament (ahem Australia!), there have been several important steps over the previous year’s towards ultimately achieving global nuclear disarmament.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.  The International Atomic Energy Agency. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. SALT talks which turned into the New START talks between Russia and the U.S. Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT). United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). This list is just scraping the top of the barrel when it comes to the vast amount of grass-roots movements, organisations and agencies that all work towards a shared goal of nuclear disarmament.

There are also region agreements against nuclear weapons and the implementation of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, which current encompasses 39% of the global population. So just over a third of the planet live in completely nuclear free areas!

Even with several failings of the UN to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in its totality, the world has seen several (aforementioned) outstanding contributions towards global disarmament of nuclear weapons – which are all little stepping stones towards the final goal.

Most notable of these global contributions to the disarmament of nuclear weapons is the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) which came into force in 1970. The United Kingdom is a signatory of the NPT, and fundamentally the renewal of Trident in July 2016 means th11bab1bb12f0992ea330862402746af3at we have flouted our agreement of non-proliferation and to begin disarming ourselves.

“The elimination of nuclear weapons would also free up vast amounts of resources… The consequences of any further use of nuclear weapons, whether intentional or by mistake, would be horrific. When it comes to our common objective of nuclear disarmament, we must not delay—we must act now.”
Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations General Secretary (2015) [1]

Over 45 years after signing this international agreement, we are continuing to ignore our prior commitments.

Even though the NPT talks were held in the United States, the US have not done particularly well with regards to meeting its obligations to the NPT. However, this was thought to have changed one fateful day in 2009 in Prague.  Regardless of your personal thoughts on Barack Obama, he has set a new precedent for American Presidents of the future in his speech in Prague in 2009, by stating that the current US Administration is the idea of “global zero”.

Global zero is the idea nuclear weapons and capability for every country will be non-existent in the foreseeable future. The idea that we should not accept any governments renewing their military and civilian nuclear stores at a ridiculous expense (£205 billion for the UK, and $1 trillion in the USA) whilst they remain signatories of international treaties that oblige them to begin disarming. And we should not allow for the possibility that nuclear weapons have the potential to fall into the wrong or untrustworthy sources, which could potentially mean that the world is not safe from nuclear threat.

Was Obama’s Prague 2009 speech filled with hollow rhetoric? Potentially.46290d6166e42001a4a347c679e16cef

Does it seem wholly utopian and unattainable? Not really.

Obama was realistic when he said that it may not happen in his lifetime. In fact, it may not happen in the generation after him, or even the generation after that! What is important to remember, especially during Disarmament Week, is how far we have already come. But it is even more important to note how far we have yet to go…

Its cliché to for it to be a comparison, but I’m going to push the boat out and say it anyway. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream which he shared with a group of protesters at the “March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom” in 1963, which reverberated throughout the world and is one of the most well-known speeches ever given.  At the time of the speech, it didn’t feel like in his life time there would be quality. Lo and behold, with the passion and fervour of thousands of people working towards this shared infamous dream, it is now a reality.

If we continue to work towards the shared goal of a nuclear weapon free world, and we keep pushing a little bit further towards our goal, we may one day too achieve our dream.

Despite Obama not pursuing his great passion for his vision of a great nuclear free world, it is still of significance that he said it. Being the leader of the free world with such clear aims can only reverberate positivity across the four corners of the earth. Obama has broken a nuclear taboo which many presidents before him have failed to address so publicly and with such disdain.

This year within Nuclear Disarmament Week, on Thursday 27th October 2016, there was an important document signed which 123 countries have voted to support negotiations for a global nuclear ban at the United Nations General Assembly today. Resolution L41 was adopted by the First Committee and means ban treaty negotiations will be convened in 2017. Just 38 countries voted against the resolution and 16 abstained. Again, this is another incredibly important step. One that must neither be under or overestimated.

As a period of reflection, the UN Disarmament Week is good for shining the light on what the world is doing for Nuclear Disarmament as a whole. It highlights the sheer amount of people who are in agreement that nuclear disarmament is still in the fore of peoples minds and illustrates the sheer determination to people whom have dedicated their lives to achieving change. Not only is this important for the morale of the grass-roots campaigners who can visibly see that change is happening from the top down (no matter how slowly!) – but it is also a clear message to countries across the world that humanity will not tolerate, or quietly accept, a severe increase in nuclear weaponry.

 

***Please note: the pictures are a compilation of general UN Disarmament Posters that were found online**

London Met Freshers Fair

Having been a fresher just over three years ago, I can remember the palpable mixture of excitement and nerves, heading around the stalls in your strict groups of 7 people that you now share a flat with, having not known any of them existed the previous week. LMU Freshers fair reminded me of the vast pool of opportunities that are ahead of you in the first few weeks of university.

Amongst the numerous stalls in the LMU hall, CND put up our colourful stall and we stood at the ready with tablets, temporary peace tattoos and badges eagerly awaiting the influx of students. As a single-issue campaign organisation, our message is pretty clear. No Nuclear Weapons. No Trident replacement. No Nuclear Power.

Being politically active and engaged for the first time can be a little bit daunting. A number of students at LMU initially retreated by saying “but, I’m not political.”

However, when posed with the questions;

“Do you agree with Nuclear weapons?” – “No.” “Do you support the government spending £205 billion on Trident replacement?” – “No.” “Do you wish the government could spend that amount of money on your current education and future jobs?” – “Yes.”

Being politically active doesn’t mean you have to grab your soapbox, stand in Speakers Corner by Hyde Park and scream your heart out. Nor does it mean that you have to watch the Andrew Marr show religiously or read Private Eye every fortnight. If you have strong opinions about government choices and you actively want to be a part of the change, you are political.

By giving your e-mail to a direct action campaign, like CND, you are taking a small step into a world of grass-roots protest. At LMU alone we managed to collect over 200 signatures. These signatures and e-mail addresses will be sent to the government to show the how thousands of students, all across the UK, are disappointed with the replacement of Trident in the face of increasing cuts to student bursaries and increased student fees.

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For the past few years, “millennials” have been constantly mocked and accused of not being politically interested or engaged. We are accused of spending all of our time devoted to mindless social media, reality TV shows and spending money solely on booze and nights out. Yet the engagement that we received from such an eclectic mix of students at LMU fly’s in the face of the idea that the youth don’t care.

Initially, we were greeted by the Sabbatical Officer and deputy President for LMU Students Union Barbara Ntumy who readily signed up to our petition and wielded herself with a placard (pictured above in the red jacket). The majority of students we engaged with knew immediately about the catastrophic result of the recent Trident vote, grabbed our tablets and sign-up sheets to proudly voice their concern.

Even if they hadn’t heard of CND specifically, the vast majority new and disliked Trident and the government’s proposal to replace it. Once they’d signed our campaign sheets, taken advantage of the free peace tattoos and played around with our placards, many asked us exactly how much the government was spending on the replacement of Trident. Unfortunately, that answer is £205 billion.

 

205-billion

£205 billion.

£205,000,000,000,000.00

Two-hundred and five billion pounds.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think anyone can truly comprehend that amount of money. Even one billion pounds seems pretty intangible to me if I’m honest, let alone 205 of those. This is the figure that CND have estimated that Trident will cost over the course of its lifetime. This is a worryingly huge amount, given in current economic climate of austerity in Great Britain.

Imagine the amazing and incredible resources that university’s and schools could acquire if we pumped this money into them. Imagine how our NHS would look with the heightened care the public would receive from well-paid and well-rested staff with good resources. Imagine how the money would ease the housing crisis that we are currently facing in the UK exponentially. The possibilities are endless if you consider where else the Trident pay-cheque could be spent, to create a more direct and positive impact on our lives.

Mharia Black MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (SNP) concisely stated the hypocrisy coming from our government…

 “the very same people who made the argument for austerity are now  telling us that we can afford to write a blank cheque for these useless  weapons”

This blank cheque could be better spent on a many number of things that our government have cut in the previous few years in power. At CND, we focus on four areas in which we think are priority issues, which we have hashtags for in order to put all discussion around these topics in the same place;

#NHSNotTrident #JobsNotTrident #ClimateNotTrident #HomesNotTrident

Particularly amongst students, there was a strong feeling of resentment towards the Tory government for the increased cuts towards university bursaries and the increased student fees to the ridiculous £9,000 a year. Specifically at LMU, who are renowned for having a particularly green and clean university campus, the #ClimateNotTrident was also a prevalent campaign many wished to pursue.

Having spent several hours talking about and discussing Trident with students at LMU, and having spoken to students all across the UK previously, we are certain that young adults and students have a strong opinion on the replacement of Trident. In extension, many of the youth would not consider nuclear weapons to be a significant security threat looking forward. These are the groups of people for whom the Cold War is within history books and not on the television, they have grown up with global terrorism being the prevalent threat instead of nuclear war.

Student and youth engagement generally in politics is on the rise, especially in the wake of Brexit, Labour Coups and an increase of MP resignations in 2016 alone. Whatever you may personally think of the Milibaes and the Corbynista’s, they are emerging groups of dedicated and passionate young adults who are engaging with politics in a new, humorous and exciting way. We urge you, regardless of your political leniency, to sign the petition that over 200 students signed last week at the LMU Freshers Fair.

If you are thinking of having an event or a stall, and would like to have sign up sheets to collect e-mails and signatures, feel free to download our PDF and JPEG version – and don’t forget to let us know how you get on!