For Nuclear Weapons Abolition; Resist & Reverse the Climate Crisis; for Social & Economic JusticeBy Monica McAghon & Susie Ravitz
Due to the world-wide pandemic, The World Conference for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Resist and Reverse the Climate Crisis, for Social and Economic Justice was live-streamed to well over 1,000 people on April 25. Each of the panelists was allowed 10 minutes to speak. In crisis there is opportunity to learn and prepare for future pandemics as well as reverse threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. One of the organizers who also introduced both panels was Joseph Gerson, disarmament coordinator of American Friends Service Committee, and Vice-President of International Peace Bureau.
Wada Masako from Japan spoke about the Hibakusha Organization formed in 1956 by survivors of the US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help each other and educate for never using nuclear weapons again. The Hibakusha Petition has over one million signatures (LEPOCO members have signed it) and in 2017, 122 countries voted in support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Weapons. Thirty-six countries of the needed 50 have ratified it. The last of the Hibakusha, averaging 83 years old, put a human face on the tragedy of nuclear weapons.
Countries around the world have conducted 2000 nuclear tests, and 14,000 nuclear warheads are vulnerable to accident, cyber attack, and war, which would overwhelm Earth with widespread devastation, famine, and nuclear winter.
Panelists urged us to join in creative intergenerational conversations and partnerships, involve youth and marginalized communities, work on problems of nuclear waste and storage, listen to science and support the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). This current pandemic crisis urges us to revive common security and diplomacy, curb dictatorial powers and fascism. Western democracies are being diminished as China’s influence is growing, and the Pentagon continues to strengthen the military with new weapon systems that include nuclear weapons.
A passionate call to action came from Rev. Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s campaign, which will sponsor a virtual march on Washington, June 20. This national moral revival is calling for transforming our war economy into a peace economy. This necessitates addressing systemic racism and poverty, universal healthcare, fair taxes, affordable housing, ecological devastation and distorted religious nationalism. We must confront the continuous “scarcity narrative” that our political system touts, saying “we don’t have enough to fund social programs,” while the Pentagon grabs the largest slice of the US taxpayers’ pie.
Emid Kiyari from the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO) suggested that the pandemic offers the possibility of creating a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone that includes all 22 countries in his region of the world, including Iran and Israel. The many unresolved issues sow distrust and breed terrorism, carnage and injustice. Kiyari stressed that this pandemic surely connects us all, and urged countries to diminish spending on war and come together in a revival of cooperation, trust and goodwill to write new treaties that can unlock positive social actions.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said we need to push a world re-set button with the creation of a new social contract that transitions to a better future where peace, without nuclear weapons and arms proliferation, is the foundation for hope and security, recovery and resilience. Burrows gave support for freedom of association and bargaining rights central to labor, and UN Secretary Guttierrez’ call for a world-wise ceasefire. “To accomplish these goals, we must organize, organize, organize.”
Reiner Braun from the International Peace Bureau in Germany asked the rhetorical question, “Where are the voices to end war and poverty? Who is raising questions? Politicians? The media?” Answering his own question, he said “only peace and social movements raise the voice of humanity. We are needed.”