Statement of Reiner Braun (IPB) and Joseph Gerson (IPB, AFSC, Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security) on the Conference “Growing Nuclear Risks in a Changing World: New Thinking and Movement Building, co-organised by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office.
Saturday, May 4, 2019
8:30am – 5:30pm
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square, New York, New York 10006
Download the program here.
The Conference “Growing Nuclear Risks in a Changing World: New Thinking and Movement Building” brought together 200 leading peace, disarmament and justice figures from Europe, Asia and across the United States. The conference’s panels and breakout sessions focused on deepening our understandings the challenges of the post post-Cold War era, especially the dangers of escalating great power and South Asian nuclear arms races, the environmental crisis, and above all how our movements can best respond and collaborate to achieve nuclear disarmament, peace and justice.
The international conference took place parallel to the NPT PrepCom, while governments met at the United Nations for the last round of preparatory meetings prior to the 2020 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. In the current climate of increasing military confrontations, and the resistance of the P-5 nuclear weapons states to fulfilling their Article VI obligation to engage in good faith negotiations for the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals, the PrepCom provided little hope for nuclear disarmament in the near term.
The U.S. and Russian withdrawals from the INF-Treaty and the disintegration of the arms control architecture of the 1980s and ‘90s 1 poses increasing dangers for world peace. All the nuclear-armed countries are upgrading their nuclear forces, with the United States and Russia apparently determined to embark once again on a dangerous and increasingly unrestrained arms race.
The wide range of speakers and perspectives, along with their difference perspectives, unity =of purpose, and commitments to work together were exceptional. They included leading peace and disarmament figures from Japan, South Korea, India, Iran, Russia, Germany, France and Britain, as well as from across the United States, as well as speakers from international and U.S. labor movements and the Movement for Black Lives.*
Speakers, led by Daniel Ellsberg, who once drafted the United States operational plans for general nuclear war that would have brought on nuclear winter, were unanimous in stressing the urgency of the moment and the imperative to act for nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons, speakers and conference participants agreed, pose an imminent, existential threat to human existence, one that we must respond to with all the power and urgency we can assemble. The Ban Treaty, developed by civil society and many governments, and the increasing collaborations between disarmament, environmental, social and economic justice movements were seen by many as signs of hope.
There was general agreement among those who have long h campaigned for nuclear disarmament and peace, that we will not succeed as a siloed movement. A strong thread running through the speeches and breakout sessions was recognition of the common roots of the existential crises that threaten human existence. The challenges to peace, democracy (including the rise of authoritarian governments) economic and social justice, and the ecological prerequisites for human survival have never been as inextricably intertwined as they are today. The environmental and economic challenges we face are both a cause and effect of the deteriorating political conditions that drive international conflict.
In response, the conference underlined the need to build intersectional international social movements, bringing above all together the movements against the two existential threats to human survival –nuclear weapons and climate change, but which also require us to authentically engage struggles for social and economic justice including anti-racist, gender equality and immigrants’ rights. New coalitions and broader actions with new forms of action with growing participation of and leadership by young people are essential.
Among the takeaways from the conference is the recognition that we are living in a state of emergency in the uncertain interregnum marked by the decline of U.S. hegemony and the growing competition – military, economic, technological and otherwise – as well as from growing repression and violence from above The nationalist rhetoric of fear and hate that are employed to and to divide us from one another is the same that is and will be used to march our young people off to war, including the danger of nuclear cataclysm. People left the conference committed to simultaneously defending those who are most vulnerable, resisting the growing and increasingly dangerous confrontation among nuclear-armed states, and rededicated themselves to the task of building a fair and sustainable world. In collaboration with other movements and across borders, the international peace movement –weak now in many countries –will play determinative roles across this range of issues.
Among the commitments made during the conference were planning for a World Conference for disarmament, peace, the environment and justice on the eve of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, to be rooted in the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-Bombings; campaigning for the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and for peace and disarmament on the Korean Peninsula; development of a draft treaty for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, solidarity with South Asian peace and disarmament movements, and in defense of those most vulnerable among us.
Videos and transcripts from the conference will be posted online, as resources with which we can build our committed and inter-connected movements.
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*The Conference was organized by the American Friends Service Committee, Campaign for Peace Disarmament, International Trade Union Confederation, International Peace Bureau, Peace Action (National, New York, and New Jersey,) Peace and Planet, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – New York Office, and Western States Legal Foundation.
Speakers included: Oleg Bodrov, Reiner Braun, Jackie Cabasso, Reece Cheanult, Arielle Denis, Sharon Dolev, Daniel Ellsberg, Joseph Gerson, Boris Kargarlitski, Emad Kiyaei, LEE Taeho, Andrew Lichterman, Rev. Karlene Griffith Sekou, Yayoi Tsuchida, Owen Tudor, and Achin Vanaik,