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.






Some hope for constructive dialogue: Putin and Psaki

October 27, 2014

Neil Buckley (FT) reports (October 24th & 26th) that President Vladimir Putin attended a meeting of foreign academics and journalists at the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. This summary adds excerpts from the Associated Press report by Vladimir Isachenkov with contributions from Matt Lee in Washington.

putin at valdai sochi 

President Putin said that the US has been undermining the post-Cold War world order and stressed the need for a new system of global governance. (AP) He criticised the United States for what he called its disregard of international law and unilateral use of force.

On October 26th, Buckley added to his account of Putin’s charges: “US had repeatedly violated the rules through military action – sometimes with NATO or European allies – in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and instigating often ill-fated “coloured” revolutions. Along the way, President Putin alleged, it had even used Islamist terrorists and neo-fascists as instruments. That had made the world much more dangerous. Americans were ‘constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throwing all their efforts into addressing risks they themselves created’ “.

He insisted that Russia has no intention of encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, alleging that US support for ‘an armed coup’ against former president Viktor Yanukovich in February triggered Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine and the current conflict. (AP) “Russia is not demanding some special, exclusive place in the world,” he said. “While respecting interests of others, we simply want our interests to be taken into account, too, and our position to be respected.”

(AP) President Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “tailor the world exclusively to their needs” since the end of the Cold War, using economic pressure and military force and often supporting extremist groups to achieve their goals. He cited the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria as examples of flawed moves that have led to chaos and left Washington and its allies “fighting against the results of their own policy.”

A string of US-led military interventions from Kosovo to Libya was listed with the comment:

“This is the way the nouveaux riche behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune – in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely … I think they have committed many follies.”

See the Washington Post: a brief history & picture gallery of key military interventions by the United States.

us intervention

President Putin asserted that Russia was a strong country and could weather the measures. He advised the US and Russia to draw a line under recent events and sit down with other big economies to redesign the system of global governance along “multipolar” lines.

Noting that since the US had ridden roughshod over existing rules – for example when it invaded Iraq without UN Security Council backing – he suggested the UN could be “adapted to new realities”, while regional “pillars” of a new system could help to enhance security. President Putin warned that the alternative could be serious conflicts involving major countries: (AP) “hopes for peaceful and stable development will be illusory, and today’s upheavals will herald the collapse of global world order”.


Alexander Rahr, a leading German expert on Russia and Putin biographer, said he believed Moscow was “not looking for confrontation”. Realpolitik might yet come into play, notably because of the crisis in the Middle East. “America needs Russia’s help in dealing with ISIS,” he said. “That might start to change things.”

Moscow was ready for “the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament” and to discuss rules on when military intervention in third countries was permitted, President Putin said. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has been able to work with Russia on a range of issues and hopes to engage with Moscow again on areas of mutual concern.


A new vision for nuclear disarmament: the President of Austria, ‘Stigmatize, ban, eliminate’

September 28, 2013


ICAN logoA reader has drawn our attention to the ICAN press release, summarising the outcome of High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament (26 September 2013). Our readers from several countries (below W/E18/9/13 snapshot) may find this of interest.

PCU3 18.9

The opening paragraphs of the ICAN press release:

NEW YORK: The first ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament concluded its work today in New York City. The meeting – convened by the United Nations General Assembly – puts the issue of nuclear weapons once again at the top of the global agenda. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) welcomed the ever-stronger focus by states on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the growing calls to ban them.

Despite resistance from nuclear-armed states, a growing number of states and international organisations compelled by the undeniable evidence of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and concerned about the limited progress of nuclear disarmament, recognised the imperative to address the global humanitarian threat of nuclear weapons, with bold and urgent actions toward prohibition. The conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons held in Oslo in March and the second conference on this topic to be held by Mexico in February 2014, were welcomed by many during the debate.

The President of Austria, H. E. Mr. Heinz Fischer, in his statement to the UNGA outlined a clear path towards abolition: Stigmatize, ban and eliminate, noting that prohibition of nuclear weapons could come before their elimination. Similar statements delivered today by a wide range of non-nuclear weapon states show that a shift in the nuclear weapons debate is taking centre stage, a shift that focuses on humanitarian arguments rather than security doctrines and power politics. The debate was a further sign that non-nuclear weapon states are gaining in confidence as they reclaim ownership of a debate that has previously been controlled by nuclear weapons possessors . . .

Read the whole statement here:

It is good to learn that an ever-growing number of governments and NGOs are collectively demanding a ban on nuclear weapons, along the same lines as the prohibitions on chemical and biological weapons.

Statements by the representatives of a great number of states may be read here:


A major address delivered by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

April 11, 2013


james martin institute non proliferation

News of a major address delivered by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in January was sent by two readers some time ago, but – as the content is not time-sensitive – no harm has been done by the delay in reporting it.

The Institute, based in the United States, is devoted to combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

ban ki moonBan Ki-Moon mentioned with approval the work of several organisations and the main points from this long address were summarised by Jenny Maxwell in a WMCND newsletter:

* Nuclear disarmament progress is off track.

* World leaders have become too focussed on the spread of nuclear weapons instead of their dismantling. There are no right hands for wrong weapons.

* Nuclear deterrence is not a solution to international peace and stability. It is an obstacle.

* I want to stress the special responsibility of the nuclear-armed States.

* The world spends more on the military in one month than it does on development all year, and four hours of military spending is equal to the total budgets of all international disarmament and non-proliferation organisations combined.

* Non-governmental organisations such as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Global Zero movement and many other groups are making significant contributions.

He ended by saying:

“The world was lucky that the nuclear arms build-up that followed did not result in a global nuclear catastrophe. Yet the nuclear sword remains — as does that slender thread. But so, too, does that plea for abolition — an appeal rooted in the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction and the unrestrained global competition for more, and more potent, weaponry. So I will add my own appeal to you today. Focus your minds not on clever ways to strengthen the thread. Focus instead on how to remove the sword. This is the true challenge for disarmament and non-proliferation”.


The address was videoed and may be seen here: