Could we abolish the arms trade and prosper?

April 13, 2017

Earlier this month *Imam Farhad Ahmad was moved to write to the Financial Times about plans by the US administration to approve weapons sales to nations with known human rights abuses. Multibillion dollars worth of sales of F-16s to Bahrain and precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia are on the table. He continued:

“These plans and other sales, including those that have been making their way into the hands of Isis from eastern Europe, did worry me, but what made me really convinced that it ought to be stopped was when I listened to a Muslim leader refer to curbing arms trade as a “ready-made” instant solution to world disorder.

National Peace Symposium

On 25th March 2017, the 14th National Peace Symposium was hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in London with an audience of more than 1000 people, from 30 countries – including more than 600 non-Muslims. Ms Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima bomb survivor and peace activist, was presented with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace in recognition of her outstanding efforts in campaigning for nuclear disarmament. Farhad Ahmad wrote:

“I was at the National Peace Symposium at UK’s largest mosque last week, where more than 1,000, including over 600 non-Muslims, had gathered to listen to a Muslim caliph. He called on effective sanctions to be put on weapons from powerful nations, including those in the west and eastern Europe, which are fuelling conflicts in Muslim countries.

“There is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that “A wise word is the lost property of a believer”. I think it is time that governments listened to these words of the Caliph and adopted them like their lost property, rather than worrying about their coffers:

“For the sake of the good of mankind, governments should disregard fears that their economies will suffer if the arms trade is curbed. Instead, they should think about the type of world they wish to bequeath to those that follow them.”

*

We recommend that he strengthens his case by drawing on the work of noted arms conversion authority, *Dr Steven Schofield. Though not underestimating the complexity of such a change, he calls for the release of skills and finance for the rebuilding of economic, social and environmental security. In Arms Conversion – A Policy Without a Purpose, Steve says:

“Turning swords into plowshares remains one of our most evocative images of peace, reflecting the universal desire to bring an end to war and to use skills for productive rather than destructive purposes.”

Since the 1950s, Schofield points out, a permanent military-industrial complex and highly specialised arms corporations in aerospace, shipbuilding,  engineering and electronics has emerged “to satisfy the byzantine demands of the MoD” and the context is completely different from that time of restructuring after the Second World War, when there was “pent-up demand for goods made effective by wartime savings and sectors with a similar skills base such as civil aircraft, communication satellites and cruise ships, already have well-served mature civil markets”.

Curb exports and fund a major arms conversion programme

He pointed out in another report, Making Arms, Wasting Skills: “[C]entral government has a vital role to play in developing a radical, political economy of arms conversion and common security. By moving away from military force projection and arms sale promotion, the UK could carry out deep cuts in domestic procurement including the cancellation of Trident and other major offensive weapons platforms, as well as adopting comprehensive controls on arms exports, including the suspension of weapons exports to the Middle East. The substantial savings in military expenditure could help to fund a major arms conversion programme.

“Here the emphasis would be on environmental challenges, including a multi-billion pound public investment in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind and wave power, that would substantially cut the UK’s carbon emissions and reduce dependency on imported oil, gas and uranium supplies. These new industries will also generate more jobs than those lost from the restructuring of the arms industry. In this way, the UK would be taking a leading role in establishing a new form of international security framework based on disarmament and sustainable economic development”.

Will the peace movement and unions heed this message? 

*Farhad Ahmad Imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Surbiton, UK  

*Steve completed a doctorate on arms conversion and was co-founder of the Project on Demilitarisation in the 1990s. His most publications include Trident and Employment: The UK’s Industrial and Technological Network for Nuclear Weapons (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament); Making Arms, Wasting Skills : Alternatives to Militarism and Arms Production (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) and Local Sufficiency and Environmental Recovery (Local Economy Journal, Vol 24, No 6, pp 439-447). He lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

 

 

 

 


Now open: Imperial War Museum exhibition: People Power: Fighting for Peace

March 25, 2017

IWM London – 23 March – 28 August 2017

Take a journey from the First World War to the present day, exploring how peace movements have influenced perceptions of war and conflict in this major exhibition.

From conscientious objectors to peace camps and modern day marches, Fighting for Peace tells the stories of passionate people over the past one hundred years and the struggles they have endured for the anti-war cause.

A march of 2,000 anti-conscription protesters in London, May 1939

Over three hundred objects including paintings, literature, posters, placards, banners, badges and music reveal the breadth of creativity of anti-war protest movements, reflecting the cultural mood of each era.

 

Book Now

 

 

 

 


Paul Rogers’ January article has a bearing on yesterday’s London attacks

March 23, 2017

A Yardley Wood reader draws our attention to an article by Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, openDemocracy’s international security adviser

Some points made:

Rogers refers to the bombings of London’s transport network on 7 July 2005 (correction), when fifty-two people were killed on a bus and three underground trains. (The four perpetrators also died), describing it as “the defining event for Britain in relation to political violence, closely connected to the Iraq war although this was strenuously denied by the Blair government at the time”. He continues:

“This “disconnect” has remained a feature of British attitudes to al-Qaida, ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups, even if some people pointed out at the time that the loss of life on “7/7” was no higher than the daily loss of life in Iraq.

“Now, nearly twelve years later, the war goes on with a similar disconnect – there is simply no appreciation that Britain is an integral part of a major war that started thirty months ago, in August 2014. It may take the form of a sustained air-assault using strike-aircraft and armed-drones, but its intensity is simply unrecorded in the establishment media. This is a straightforward example of “remote warfare” conducted outside of public debate.

“Thus, when another attack within Britain on the scale of 7/7 happens, there will be little understanding of the general motivations of those responsible. People will naturally react with horror, asking – why us? Politicians and analysts will find it very difficult even to try and explain the connection between what is happening “there” and “here”.

“The straightforward yet uncomfortable answer is that Britain is at war – so what else can be expected? It may be a war that gets little attention, there may be virtually no parliamentary debate on its conduct, but it is a war nonetheless”.

He lists some of the factors which underpin this approach:

  • The post-9/11 western-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have left three countries as failed or failing states, killed several hundred thousand people and displaced millions. This causes persistent anger and bitterness right across the Middle East and beyond.
  • While the Syrian civil war started as the repression of dissent by an insecure and repressive regime, it has evolved into a much more complex “double proxy war” which regional rulers and the wider international community have failed to address. This adds to the animosity.
  • The situation in Iraq is particularly grievous, given that it was the United States and its coalition partners that started the conflict and also gave rise directly to the evolution of ISIS. The Iraq Body Count project estimates the direct civilian death-toll since 2003 at more than 169,000. After a relative decline over 2009-13, an upsurge in the past three years has seen 53,000 lose their lives through violence.
  • Since the air-war started in August 2014 the Pentagon calculates that over 30,000 targets have been attacked with more than 60,000 missiles and bombs, and 50,000 ISIS supporters have been killed.
  • But there is abundant evidence that western forces have directly killed many civilians. AirWars reports that:”As ISIL was forced to retreat in both Iraq and Syria, the year [2016] saw a dramatic jump in reported civilian deaths from Coalition airstrikes. A total of between 2,932 and 4,041 non-combatant fatalities are alleged for 2016, stemming from 445 separate claimed Coalition-caused incidents in both Iraq and Syria.”
  • ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and other groups have no air-defence capabilities yet are determined to continue the war, seeing themselves as guardians of Islam under attack by the “crusader” forces of the west. At a time of retreat they will be even more determined than ever to take the war to the enemy, whether by the sustained encouragement and even facilitation of individual attacks such as Berlin or Nice, or more organised attacks such as in Paris and Brussels.

These groups seek retribution via straightforward paramilitary actions, responding especially to the current reversals in Iraq. They want to demonstrate to the wider world, especially across the Middle East, that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

Rogers thinks that a repeat 7/7–level attack in Britain is probable, although when and how is impossible to say.  Again, it will not be easy to respond. But in trying to do so, two factors need to be born in mind:

The aim of ISIS and others is to incite hatred. Politicians and other public figures who encourage that is doing the work of ISIS, adding “This can and should be said repeatedly”.

And the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made: “That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required” and ends:

“Politicians who make these points will face immediate accusations of appeasement, not least in the media. But however difficult the case, it needs to be made if the tide of war is to be turned”.

.

—————————————

———————————————-


Science Council of Japan panel upholds rejection of military research, aka “security studies for military purposes”

March 14, 2017

Though Japanese universities have faced a series of funding cuts from the government, a panel of the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) has proposed to uphold the organization’s postwar rejection of military research. (Update: proposal passed: https://www.rt.com/news/382346-japan-scientists-military-research)

It was recently revealed that at least 128 Japanese university researchers had accepted funding from the United States military, apparently to the tune of more than 800 million yen in the six years from the 2010 academic year.

In a new statement following a review of past statements on the issue, the council’s exploratory committee on national security and science drafted the new declaration titled, “A draft statement on security studies for military purposes”, which states the council will “succeed” the past two statements rejecting research for military purposes from the Ministry of Defense and agencies tied to the U.S. military.

The proposal will be put to debate at the panel’s final meeting on March 7, where it may be modified. If a consensus is reached, the statement will be adopted at a full council general meeting in April. Although the statement will not be binding, it is expected to affect research policies among member universities and institutions. (Update: proposal passed: https://www.rt.com/news/382346-japan-scientists-military-research)

The SCJ began to deliberate on the Defense Ministry aid program and took a cautious attitude to military research in a midterm report released in February. A minority held that there was no problem with such research if it was for defense purposes only, but it was felt that it is very difficult to draw a clear line between defensive and offensive weapons technology. That being the case, the scientific community should aim to build a consensus not to accept research support from military-related organizations.

After the end of World War II, the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), established in 1949 and now comprising over 2,000 scientists in fields from engineering to the humanities to the natural sciences, made the decisions to ban military research, twice issuing statements on military research; one in 1950 rejecting research for “war purposes,” and another in 1967 rejecting research for “military purposes.”

These promises made by Japanese scientists are consistent with the Constitution of Japan, Article 9 of which renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the maintenance of military forces that could be used for war.

Recently however, these principles have been challenged by the “proactive peace” policy of the Abe administration, which has now permitted the export of arms and related technologies. The Japanese government and some industries have promoted military-academia joint research for the production of dual-use technologies, such as lasers.

Scientists are concerned that military research violates academic freedom because the achievements of military-funded research ( read more here) will not be open to the public without the permission of the military, which threatens the foundation of science. JPC wants the government to boost basic research subsidies, rather than pouring vast sums into military R&D.


The Japan Coalition Against Military Research in Academia, established on September 30th, 2016, acts as a liaison committee for movements against military research, peace movements, university unions and citizens. Co-chief organizers are:

Satoru Ikeuchi, Professor Emeritus of Astrophysics, Nagoya University Ryuzaburo Noda, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Okayama University Katsuo Nishiyama, Professor Emeritus of Social Medicine, Shiga University of Medical Science

Its website explains: “We are responsible for not repeating the bitter experience of participating in war through military research. Such research is inconsistent with the principles of higher education and the development of science and technology for a better future. We are concerned that military research will distort the sound development of science and technology and cause men, women and children alike to lose their trust and faith in science. We sincerely appeal to all scientists, workers in universities and research institutes, undergraduate and graduate students and citizens to join us. Let’s unite scientists and citizens together for peace!”

 

 

 


Paris Peace Conference 2017

January 20, 2017

 vumun-header

 

paris-peace-conf-17

 

Vanderbilt Model UN website

.

.

.

.


Pope Francis: New Year Message

January 3, 2017

.

MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS

CELEBRATING THE FIFTIETH WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2017

 

When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

 

 

With thanks to the Selly Oak Friend who sent this saying, ‘You heard it here first’.

Source: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_messaggio-l-giornata-mondiale-pace-2017.html

 

 

 


Co-operating to build up a new world, rather than fighting to destroy the old

December 22, 2016

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.

msf-staff

In 2015 over 30,000, mostly local, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators provided medical aid in over 70 countries. Private donors provide about 90% of the organization’s funding, while corporate donations provide the rest.

Médecins Sans Frontières was created in 1971, after Biafra’s secession, by a small group of French doctors and journalists who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national borders. One of the co-founders of the organisation was Bernard Kouchner, later a high-ranking French politician.

In emergency situations where there is a lack of nutritious food, but not to the level of a true famine, protein-energy malnutrition is most common among young children. Marasmus, a form of calorie deficiency, is the most common form of childhood malnutrition and is characterised by severe wasting and often fatal weakening of the immune system. Kwashiorkor, a form of calorie and protein deficiency, is a more serious type of malnutrition in young children, and can negatively affect physical and mental development. Both types of malnutrition can make opportunistic infections fatal. In these situations, MSF sets up Therapeutic Feeding Centres for feeding and monitoring the children and other malnourished individuals.

Sanitation is an essential part of field missions, and it may include education of local medical staff in proper sterilisation techniques, sewage treatment projects, proper waste disposal, and education of the population in personal hygiene.

The Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines was initiated by MSF in 1999, as they often lacked effective drugs during field missions, to increase access to essential medicines in developing countries. Most diseases common in developing countries are no longer common in developed countries so pharmaceutical companies find that producing these drugs is unprofitable and may raise the price per treatment, decrease development of the drug (and new treatments) or even stop production of the drug.

Would they agree with the statement of the original Friends Ambulance Unit trainees issued in the 1939 training camp?

“We purpose to train ourselves as an efficient Unit to undertake ambulance and relief work in areas under both civilian and military control, and so, by working as a pacifist and civilian body where the need is greatest, to demonstrate the efficacy of co-operating to build up a new world rather than fighting to destroy the old”.

MSF UK

Lower Ground Floor, Chancery Exchange, 10 Furnival Street, London, EC4A 1AB | +44 (0)207 404 6600. English Charity Reg. No. 1026588

Get in touch on 0207 404 6600 or email uk.fundraising@london.msf.org