Here goes, I'll start with the updates. An especially interesting recent development, I would say, is that the Austrian Pledge has been renamed the Humanitarian Pledge to ensure that it is viewed as being international. Skip to the 19th May for this point.
I thought this was really clever. It's from the World Federation of United Nations Associations website and was reprinted by Reaching Critical Will.
18th May. According to Ray Acheson, "the last [draft outcome text] is the weakest yet, with some particularly troubling backward steps; replacing eliminations with reductions, detonation with conflagration, and narrowing the reflection of support for initiatives and undertakings that the vast majority of states consider most important." It is concerning that intentions to create a comprehensive, progressive document are still being stymied by the nuclear-armed states and their allies. Ray Acheson urged all states to do their utmost to make forward progress. "In this final week of the Review Conference, states committed to multilateral action on nuclear weapons must hold their nerve, uphold the purpose of humanitarian reframing of nuclear weapons which has brought so much promise, and stick together on the basis of their common pledge to fill the legal gap."
A recent NGO side event focused on peace education. This is considered by many civil society and government delegates to be an integral part of keeping the momentum on disarmament going. Disarmament veterans unfortunately cannot keep going forever, so we must educate youth and imbue us youngsters with a determination to take up the cause. According to the Mexican Deputy Director-General for Disarmament, "education is central to cultivating an understand that a peace sustained by nuclear weapons is not a sustainable peace." Peace education ideas include: briefings for students, professional development for teachers, tailored programmes for diplomats, conferences, and sharing information over the web. The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs organises art and poetry competitions on disarmament. NGOs working on disarmament offer volunteer positions and internships.
With some of the New Zealand delegation on my last day.
Raylene, me, Dell, Joanna and Lyndon.
Raylene, me, Dell, Joanna and Lyndon.
The organisation Hibakusha Stories has taken to heart the need to spread the word on disarmament. For the last eight years, it has been involved in outreach in New York schools, reaching an audience of 30,000+ students. Hibakusha have spoken at student gatherings and have given first-hand testimonies of surviving the atomic bombings. An educational initiative took place during the Review Conference itself - 30 German students simulated negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention at the church centre opposite the UN. Delegates were encouraged to head across and watch as the students took on different country positions and role-played how a Nuclear Weapons Convention (based on the one drafted in 1996) would be created. Apparently it took longer than expected, but the students completed negotiations successfully in the end!
19th May. The Austrian Pledge was renamed the Humanitarian Pledge. Austria sought to make it crystal clear that the pledge is an international one and is does not only reflect an Austrian viewpoint. The link with "Austria" had been a sticking point with some nuclear-armed states. (Though this was apparently not considered an issue when it came to the Australian Pledge.) It remains to be seen if this move will be viewed favourably.
Ray Acheson remarked that during Main Conference One, "the nuclear-armed states delivered statements railing against the humanitarian initiative and the demand for a legally-binding instrument to fill the legal gap on nuclear weapons." However, Ray expressed hope in the ongoing relevance of the Humanitarian Pledge. "Four days are left in this RevCon, but the Humanitarian Pledge is a living document that will carry forward the momentum, the will, and the explicit commitment to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons."
A line up of civil society campaigners on Friday afternoon.
Gabriella, Mia, Ray, Tim, Thomas and Alice.
Gabriella, Mia, Ray, Tim, Thomas and Alice.
Varying views were expressed on the issue of negotiations arguably being dominated by a select number of states. According to France, most of the world's population lives in nuclear-armed states, so if we're discussing majorities and minorities, the majority of people in the world actually receive security benefits from nuclear weapons. According to South Africa, however, only a few states can reject an NPT outcome at any cost, so the NPT risks becoming a treaty of the nuclear-armed states.
At a side event, Dr Emily Welty of the World Council of Churches dismissed claims that disarmament discussions should be solely pragmatic or realistic and noted that for people of faith, disarmament requires engagement in aspects of "prophetic imagination."
Thomas Nash wrote up a motivational report for diplomats hailing from nuclear-armed and -dependent states, encouraging them to "listen to the voice inside yourself that is questioning your opposition." His message to government officials was that, "you need to show leadership, to reject this negative culture around you."
20th May. There is still no consensus on any of the Main Committee texts!! Chairs of Main Committees have been meeting in smaller, parallel groups to try and reach agreement. The downside to this arrangement is that developing countries and civil society may be (inadvertently or otherwise) excluded from negotiations.
The Humanitarian Pledge now has over 90 endorsing states!!
There was a huge Falun Gong demonstration in Dag's Plaza on Friday. Protesters from near and far were decked out in matching bright yellow t-shirts.
Japan has requested that language asking world leaders and youth to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki be inserted into outcome documents. This is positive, although it is a political move, as it seems that the Japanese government is trying to deflect attention away from its continued adherence to the doctrine of extended nuclear deterrence. The suggested additional language has angered China and South Korea, which claim that Japan should not be recognised given the grave atrocities it committed during World War Two. It is notable though that the Philippines and the Marshall Islands (whose people also fell victim to Japanese wartime atrocities) did not oppose the amendments.
A side event was held examining how the EU contributes to disarmament and non-proliferation. There is very little agreement within the EU on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy (more disagreement than ever since 1990 apparently), however, EU members accept that the use of force is not the proper way to resolve disputes.
And here are some thoughts of mine that never made it into a separate blog post. Just because I may as well post rather than discard them!
It rained for the first time in three weeks on my last day in New York. In a city full of motion - people bustling about with prams and shopping bags, cars turning in front of pedestrians, the ubiquitous police chase - the soft rain provided an element of constancy in an otherwise uncertain world. I felt I should do something symbolic to mark my last day, but I wasn't sure what. I ate a soft serve cone. I watched a street parade; clapping along as people marched by and trucks decked with colourful streamers rumbled along 47th Street. When the time came to head to the airport, I stepped onto the road and hailed my first taxi.
The airport bookshops were bursting with self-help books.
As my plane took off, a lady nearby exclaimed, "everything gets small so fast!" Indeed. My three-week trip was fast receding into the hazy New York skyline, transforming into a mysterious window of my life that can never be relived. Three monks sat behind me on my flight to LAX, a baseball-playing Australian sat beside me on my flight to Brisbane. He thought Wellington was in New South Wales.
Sometimes when I think about the goal of nuclear disarmament, it seems distant and complicated. There are thousands of nuclear weapons in the world, (16,400 according to SIPRI, I can parrot off this number without thinking, but I still cannot get my head around the immense destruction this number invokes) and destroying them will be a laborious business. Nuclear elimination would still not guarantee that the nuclear threat will never again rear its ugly head. In the meantime, there are plenty of people who are convinced that abolishing nuclear weapons is not possible, or even desirable.
Other times, I feel more optimistic. One hundred years ago there were no nuclear weapons. Who is to say that it is inevitable they must exist one hundred years from now? Or even twenty years?? There are a huge number of people agitating for change, and there is an extraordinary amount of untapped potential. I believe that most people, once they understand the gravity of the situation, would not support the retention of nuclear weapons. The 90+ states supporting the Humanitarian Pledge give us something to get inspired about. My personal goal now is to keep learning on this subject and to keep communicating the need to abolish nuclear weapons. My contribution may be tiny in the vast scheme of things, but it is important to take action as we are able, whilst appreciating that we are part of a wider movement pressing for a safer, fairer world.