The International Peace Bureau awards the Seán MacBride Peace Prize (see also here) every year to a person, or organisation, or movement in recognition of its outstanding work for peace, disarmament, human rights. It is named after Seán MacBride, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was chair of the IPB from 1968–74 and president from 1974-1985. Continue reading “MacBride Prize 2020 awarded to Black Lives Matter and Hibakusha Signature Campaign”
Written by Colin Archer, former IPB Secretary-General
A great loss of a great man: IPB echoes the many tributes flowing in from around the world, and from within his own city of Belfast, following the death on Aug. 3 of John Hume, the co-founder and leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP) of Northern Ireland. See Guardian obituary and comments from his biographer.
IPB awarded John the Sean MacBride Peace Award, shortly before the announcement of his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. In his MacBride acceptance speech, held in Brussels in October 1998, he lavished praise on the European Union as a great peace-making institution. Indeed, as a Member of the European Parliament he had been able to harness its influence and prestige in support of the Irish peace process. Just four years earlier, in Sept. 1994, IPB’s Cora Weiss had organised an Irish Peace Process Tour to encourage all the parties to take advantage of the IRA Ceasefire and move more swiftly to an inclusive peace agreement.
Many more links about John Hume’s work are available at: https://www.betterworld.info/peace/peace-prizes/sean-macbride-peace-prize/1998-john-hume-northern-ireland
Statement on the 75th Anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Invitation to August 9 special worldwide screening of “The Vow From Hiroshima”
*Updated on 16 July 2020 to reflect Botswana’s TPNW ratification
As we recall the unprecedented horrors that the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced on August 6 and 9, 1945, we reaffirm the determination of our organizations to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again. Continue reading “IPB/IPPNW Statement on the 75th Anniversary of the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”
In June 2020, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released the Global Rights Index 2020, a report on workers’ rights in 139 countries. The report painted a bleak picture for working people across the globe, most of all in the ten worst countries for working people. That list includes Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, The Philippines, Turkey, and Zimbabwe.
Many countries on this list have also been identified as large military spenders by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database. Furthermore, the overlap of human rights abuses and militarization is all too common and can be a recipe for violent conflict. Below, the cases of each of the ten worst countries for working people are elaborated upon and links are drawn between human rights abuses and military spending, with the goal of identifying larger trends. While the complete picture in any of the given countries is undoubtedly more complicated than the analysis below allows, the summaries underline key points of connection between militarization and human rights violations.
The ITUC report highlights violence, mass dismissal, and regressive laws as the main sources of worker repression in Bangladesh. Over 50 striking workers experienced violence at the hands of police, with thousands more losing their jobs and over 500 facing criminal charges. Simultaneously, the Bangladeshi government spent 1.3% of GDP on the military – 9.7% of all government spending in 2019. The police themselves have been militarized and connected to the violation of human rights within the country.
In Brazil, threats, intimidation, violent repression, and murder are all responses to strikes and demonstrations for workers’ rights. Brazil is the 11th highest military spender globally, making up 1.4% of global expenditure (over half of all South American spending). The strongman tactics and policies of President Jair Bolsonaro are clear and present in both matters – in which all actions rely on and can be solved by threats and violence; unfortunately, his sense of “law and order” does not extend to the extrajudicial killings of union leaders.
Colombia saw the assassination of 14 union leaders between January 2019 and March 2020, among other concerning actions against workers’ rights advocates. ITUC highlights the under-resourced and dysfunctional justice system in the country as one reason why such crimes have gone unpunished; meanwhile, Colombia spends 3.2% of its GDP on the military, the 25th highest in the world. While domestic conflict continues to plague Colombia, a functioning justice system is essential; one must believe that Colombia could reduce its military expenditure to address other issues related to human security, such as the assassination of union leaders.
Egypt maintains strict obstacles to union registration, and strikes have been met with state repression including arrests of participants. In one case, 26 shipyard workers were sentenced by a military court to one year of jail and a 2,000 Egyptian pound fine. While SIPRI data reports 2019 military expenditure as 1.2% of Egypt’s GDP, these figures are “highly uncertain” and likely a severe underrepresentation of actual spending. Given that the country continues to be run by a former general (who was also at one point the Minister of Defense and Director of Military Intelligence), it is clear where Egypt’s priorities are. For a truly stable society, President Al-Sisi’s government should focus on human rights.
In Honduras, union-busting and death threats against workers are commonplace, with nearly no action taken by the government. In fact, military police fired live bullets at a Chiquita picket line. This is commonplace in Honduras, where “military-affiliated death squads” have been accused of killing activists in the country, such as environmental activist Berta Cáceres, or even in the supposed enforcement of the Covid-19 lockdown. While military spending accounts for 1.6% of the country’s GDP, it is clear the government and military are more interested in protecting their own interests than defending human rights.
India made the ten worst countries for human rights for their regressive laws, brutal repression of strikes, and mass dismissals of workers – including one case of 48,000 employees being let go, by a government corporation. India is also the third largest military spender on the global level, spending 2.4% of GDP on the military in 2019, and the biggest arms importer in the world. Given India’s economic heft and its position as the world’s largest democracy, these conditions reveal the contradictions found in the Indian government; human security is given an undervalued position when compared to the role of the military.
The ITUC report characterizes the repression of trade unions in Kazakhstan as “an orchestrated state policy to weaken solidarity,” including severe obstacles to union registration and the prosecution of union leaders. While military spending was at 1.1% of GDP in 2019, Kazakhstan experienced one of the largest increases in expenditure from the previous year. Political repression and human rights abuses in Kazakhstan are commonplace and have been raised as concerns by many groups. Kazakhstan’s leaders need to reconsider their priorities.
In the Philippines, the ITUC report makes clear that there is indeed a connection between the military and trade union repression – illustrating the case of a Coca-Cola union in Bacolod City, where two men “identifying themselves as military officers…denounced the union and threatened that the government ‘had ways of silencing troublemakers’.” In another case, the military accused a union leader of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Paramilitary groups that are not officially part of the military (but have equipment) are also known to be involved in illegal operations in the country. While the country spends 1% of GDP on the military, it is clear that this money goes to funding the repression of human and workers’ rights.
The crackdown on civil liberties that has been ongoing since the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey has included repression and prosecution of trade unions. At the same time, Turkey remains the 16th highest military spender in the world, with over 2.7% of GDP going to the military in 2019 – that’s over 1% of the global total, and an 86% increase since 2010. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian tactics – including the heavy emphasis on military strength and union busting practices – are discouraging signs for democracy and democratic institutions in the country.
Union members in Zimbabwe have suffered violent attacks, threats, and prosecution, particularly the leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). While, interestingly, Zimbabwe’s military spending decreased by 50% from 2018-2019, the nation’s central troubles – economic, political, and social – continue to inhibit the freedoms enjoyed by citizens, and workers in particular. It begs the question – military spending was significantly lower, but where did this money go instead? Demilitarization should create a peace dividend that improves the lives of Zimbabweans – including in their labor rights.
What we learn from the above analysis is that the ties between military spending and workers’ rights are complicated, multi-faceted, and varied. Nonetheless, there are important common threads that must be elaborated:
- Political crises are present in all countries in some form, many cases with a strongman or populist leader at the helm who has legitimized themselves and their leadership through emphasis on law and order, military strength, and economic development. While some of the list had very high military spending, this was not directly connected to repression of trade unions; however, all countries have leaders who are stark defenders of the military and strongman policies.
- Links between police forces and the military are often blurred or may include unofficial groups, such as para-military groups. Many of the countries either had military directly involved in the repression of trade unions or indirectly through the militarization of police forces, military courts, or groups whose exact connection to the government remains vague but who have military-grade equipment.
- Social and economic crises are present in most, if not all, the ten countries. Inequality is high and the distance between elites and workers is certainly a factor. Most countries saw either a large or moderate increase in military spending from 2018-2019, while a couple remained constant and very few saw decreases to military expenditure; even in the case of the latter, it is not sure where this money went. Demilitarization could provide a peace dividend to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the rest of society and lead to more fair societies in which workers’ rights are given a higher priority.
At the end of the day, the central concern in all these points is human security. Human rights abuses and the militarization of societies pose severe risks to security and could escalate tensions within any of the countries on this list – many of which are already in states of fragile peace or even outright conflict. These countries and so many more should take these points as a warning sign and evidence of the failure of the traditional understandings of ‘security.’ As a result, policies of demilitarization and arms control could ensure a de-escalation of tensions both domestically and abroad while providing a peace dividend to the larger society. Furthermore, the United Nations emphasizes the importance of human security considerations in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the pivotal moment we currently find ourselves in, it is crucial that we rethink what security really means.
Download the PDF file here.
Written by: Sean Conner, Assistant Coordinator for the International Peace Bureau
The Srebrenica genocide is the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.
Twenty-five years ago, more than 8,000 men and boys were separated from their families and brutally executed. Many more tried to flee through the woods, but were eventually captured and murdered by the Bosnian Serb forces. In an effort to conceal the crimes that they committed, following the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, they relocated the bodies from the sites of mass execution and buried them in a series of mass graves. Continue reading “Never Forget: 25 Years After the Srebrenica Genocide”
US Conference of Mayors Calls for Human-Centered Security in a Time of Global Pandemic
At the close of its 88th Annual Meeting, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on June 30, 2020, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) Executive Committee unanimously adopted a sweeping resolution Calling for Human-Centered Security in a Time of Global Pandemic. The new resolution calls on the President and Congress: to support United Nations Secretary-General Guterres’ call for an immediate global ceasefire and international cooperation to address the COVID-19 pandemic; to reconceptualize security in human-centered terms, and to redirect funds currently allocated to nuclear weapons and unwarranted military spending to support safe and resilient cities and meet human needs; and to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war and actively pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
The USCM resolution opens with a stark quote from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who on March 23, 2020 declared: “Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19. The virus does not care about ethnicity or nationality, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly. Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world. The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price. They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19. Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed…. That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
The resolution also quotes United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, who warned: “The specter of unconstrained nuclear competition looms over us for the first time since the 1970s. We are witnessing what has been termed a qualitative nuclear arms race, one not based on numbers but on faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons. Regional conflicts with a nuclear dimension are worsening, and proliferation challenges are not receding.”
The resolution reports that “the administration has requested over $740 billion for the military in its FY 2021 budget proposal, far more than the United States spent for military purposes at the height of the Korean or Vietnam Wars or the peak of the Reagan buildup of the 1980s”, noting that “the biggest increase in the proposed FY 2021 budget is a nearly 20% increase in spending on nuclear weapons at $45 billion”.
Warning that “the fact that this pandemic has come close to overwhelming the health care system even when only small fraction of the population has required hospitalization— and hospitals were intact to provide care – demonstrates that there can be no meaningful response to or recovery from nuclear war,” the USCM notes that “according to a recent study, the amount of money spent in one year by the U.S. on nuclear weapons could instead provide 300,000 ICU (intensive care unit) beds, 35,000 ventilators and 75,000 doctors’ salaries.”
In response to the current multi-faceted global crisis, “the United States Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to support United Nations Secretary-General Guterres’ call for an immediate global ceasefire and international cooperation to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Fundamentally, the USCM “calls on the President and Congress to reconceptualize security in human-centered terms, and to redirect funds currently allocated to nuclear weapons and unwarranted military spending to support safe and resilient cities and meet human needs, including by providing immediate funding for critical needs exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic such as health care accessible and affordable for all, more robust public health capacity at every level of government, programs to secure housing and food security, and measures to assure secure funding for municipalities and states throughout this and future disasters for which they are the first line of defense.”
And “the United States Conference of Mayors reaffirms its call on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first; ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack; taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; cancelling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons; and actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.”
Noting that , “the United States Conference of Mayors has unanimously adopted Mayors for Peace resolutions for 15 consecutive years, on July 1, 2019 “Calling on All Presidential Candidates to Make Known Their Positions on Nuclear Weapons and to Pledge U.S. Global Leadership in Preventing Nuclear War, Returning to Diplomacy, and Negotiating the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons,” the USCM “urges all U.S. mayors to join Mayors for Peace to help reach the goal of 10,000 member cities by the end of 2020, the 75th anniversary year of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
The resolution was sponsored by Mayors for Peace U.S. Vice-President T.M. Franklin Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, and co-sponsored by Trey Mendez, Mayor of Brownsville, Texas;Elizabeth B. Kautz, Mayor of Burnsville, Minnesota; Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, Ohio; and Yvonne M. Spicer, Mayor of Framingham, Massachusetts.
As noted in the resolution, “Mayors for Peace is working for a world without nuclear weapons and safe and resilient cities as essential measures for the achievement of lasting world peace, and as of May 1 had grown to 7,905 cities in 163 countries and regions, with 218 U.S. members.” Mayors for Peace, founded in 1982, is led by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan association of more than 1,400 American cities with populations over 30,000. Resolutions adopted at annual meetings become USCM official policy.
On the 2nd of July the IPB held a webinar on the Colombian Peace Agreement, and where we are today. Many have questioned the peace deal’s survival since President Iván Duque Márquez’s ascension to power in 2018. Further attention will be given to the recent deployment of US troops to Colombia and its effect on relations with Venezuela. Continue reading “Webinar: The Colombian Peace Agreement: Where Are We Today?”
The IPB and GCOMS have signed the following open letter created by ‘Humanitarian Disarmament.’ The letter argues that humanitarian disarmament can lead the way to an improved post-pandemic world and calls on states, international organizations, and civil society to follow its lead to create a “new normal.” It is open for signature by civil society organizations through the form here. Continue reading “Open Letter on COVID-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament”
The world lost a strong and courageous fighter for peace – Lina Ben Mhenni died on the 27th of January 2020. She passed after complications related to a stroke at the young age of 36. IPB is deeply saddened by this loss.
Lina Ben Mhenni was internationally recognised for her work during the 2011 Tunisian revolution, and was awarded the Seán MacBride Peace Prize in 2012. Continue reading “IPB Mourns the Death of Lina Ben Mhenni”
The Organizing Committee of the World Conference against A and H Bombs met on May 8 in full session and proposed that on August 6 through 9 of this 75th year of the A-bomb tragedies it launches an international joint grassroots action “Peace Wave” with the common aim of the elimination of nuclear weapons and with the signature campaign for the “Appeal of the Hibakusha for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons” (petition enclosed) as our common action. Continue reading “The IPB supports the Peace Wave, August 6-9, 2020”