1. $1billion awarded in damages from nuclear testing in Marshall Islands
On April 17, the United States Nuclear Claims Tribunal made an award of over $1 billion in compensation to the people of Rongelap, Rongerik and Ailnginae atolls for damages to their islands from nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands in the 1940s and 1950s, and particularly from the Bravo Test of March 1, 1954.
The award comes after a 16 year struggle by the claimants and their supporters including PNND Council member Senator Abacca Anjain-Maddison from Rongelap.
This amount includes $212 million for remediation and restoration, $784 million for past and future lost property value of and $35 million for consequential damages. It follows similar awards made for property damage to Enewetak, Utirik and Bikini.
The awards give recognition to the amount of damage done to property in the Marshall Islands and affirms U.S. government responsibility to provide remedy. However, the U.S. has already capped the amount of compensation for the Marshall Islands and there is only $1 million of that remaining.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands has submitted a Change of Circumstances Claim to the U.S. Congress, which would need to authorize any additional payments. The struggle to receive the awarded compensation thus continues.
At the first session of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva in March, Member States came close to agreement on a program of work that would include negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty and deliberations on nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances (binding commitments not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear States) and prevention of an arms race in outer space.
The CD, the primary multilateral forum for disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations, has been blocked from any substantive work since it concluded negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear test Ban Treaty in 1996. As it works by consensus, any one of the 65 CD members can prevent agreement. The United States has been amongst the key countries blocking progress. However, a change in U.S. policy in 2006 to support fissile-material treaty negotiations opened up the possibility for agreement on such a program of work.
It had been hoped that the U.S. policy shift might also encourage other countries to drop their opposition to the work program. However, by 30 March, the final day of the first session of the CD, it was clear that several countries including China, India, Pakistan and Iran would not agree. China couched its opposition in criticisms of procedure. Many observers, however, suspect that China hopes to hold open the possibility of possibility of increasing its nuclear warheads if it feels they become vulnerable from a U.S. first strike capability backed up by Ballistic Missile Defence.
India and Pakistan appear to also have plans to increase their nuclear arsenals and thus to continue the production of fissile material for such weapons. Iran is not yet believed to be producing fissile materials for weapons purposes, but is developing technology (uranium enrichment) that might possibly be used for such purposes in the future.
The CD may hold a special session in late April to further consider the work program proposal. Otherwise, it will be discussed again at the next regular session of the CD which opens on 15 May. However, even if negotiations commence, there remain differences of opinion in what the treaty should involve. The U.S. claims that it would be impossible to verify a fissile materials treaty putting it at odds with most other CD members and the relevant scientific community (see Global Fissile Report below).
There are also differences of opinion between some States (predominantly the Nuclear Weapon States) and others on whether the treaty should address existing stockpiles. The draft Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty tabled in May 2006 by the United States explicitly leaves the use of previously-produced fissile material unconstrained.
Former foreign ministers join European Parliament conference on nuclear disarmament
- Thursday 19 April 2007
Gareth Evans (former foreign minister for Australia), Lena Hjelm-Wallén (former foreign minister for Sweden) and Senator Emeritus Douglas Roche (Canada) joined members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum in a conference on April 19 calling for a comprehensive approach in addressing nuclear dangers including action on both non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.
Senator Roche recalled the successful campaign 200 years ago to end the slave trade, and noted that those advocating an end to slavery did not accept partial measures such as making conditions for slaves better, but called for complete abolition of this inhumane practice. Senator Roche argued that, similarly, we must not accept partial measures making nuclear weapons slightly more palatable. These immoral, inhumane, illegal and suicidal weapons of mass destruction must be completely abolished.
The conference proposed a number of actions parliamentarians could take including resolutions, declarations, op/ed pieces and other initiatives to support nuclear abolition through a nuclear weapons convention (international treaty) and steps towards this including removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and establishment of a European and/or Nordic/Arctic nuclear-weapons-free zone.
The conference also launched a European Parliament Section of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament.
On April 30, Nobel Laureate organization the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War will be launching a major international campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons (ICAN). The launch will be held at the Conference of States Parties to the NPT in Vienna as part of efforts to implement the obligation of all States parties to achieve complete nuclear disarmament.
ICAN complements Abolition 2000 – the international network of over 2000 organisations which was formed at the 1995 NPT Review Conference and which called for negotiations to achieve an international nuclear abolition treaty. ICAN aims to increase the political will and momentum for such a treaty through public education and engagement with policy makers and by highlighting the increasing urgency and feasibility of comprehensive nuclear disarmament.
States Parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty will meet in Vienna from April 30 – May 11 - the first time they have met since the failed NPT Review Conference in 2005. The 2007 Conference is a Preparatory Committee Meeting (Prep Com) for the NPT Review Conference in 2010. As such, it is unlikely to make any substantive decisions. However, the conference will be an opportunity for countries to focus on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues, submit proposals, increase political impetus for such proposals and take steps outside the NPT to implement the non-proliferation and disarmament obligations.
On March 14th, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament which calls on the European Council and Commission to become more actively engaged in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament including at the forthcoming NPT Prep Com in Vienna.
The resolution notes that “for multilateral efforts to be effective, they must be set within a well-developed vision of achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world at the earliest possible date,” and expresses concern that “we are approaching a point at which the erosion of the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation.”
The resolution also emphasises “the role of parliaments and parliamentarians in promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and, against this background, welcoming the efforts of the global Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament,” and calls for parliamentarians to be part of the European Union delegation to the 2007 NPT Prep Com.
Senator Roméo Dallaire
- Canadian resolution
On March 29, Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire (Liberal, Gulf) introduced a motion calling on the Canadian government to “take a global leadership role in the campaign of eradicating the dire threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons,” and in particular to take initiatives in this vein at the 2007 NPT Prep Com and the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
In his speech supporting the motion Senator Roméo Dallaire noted that:
Most member states of the United Nations are calling for immediate negotiations on a convention on nuclear weapons that would ban the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat and even the ultimate use of nuclear weapons. No physical or financial obstacle is preventing us, within a decade or less, from freeing the world from the man-made scourge of nuclear weapons.
Action on the resolution is expected within the next few weeks.
- Australian resolution
On March 27, the Australian Senate narrowly rejected (34-30) a Resolution on Nuclear Weapons introduced by PNND Council Member Senator Lynn Allison calling on the Australian government to endorse the March 14 European Parliament resolution, send a cross-party delegation of Australian federal parliamentarians to Vienna to participate in the NPT PrepCom events, encourage federal parliamentarians to form an Australian Parliamentary Network on Nuclear Disarmament, and encourage mayors to form an Australian Mayors for Peace organisation.
In October 2005, the Middle Powers Initiative launched the Article VI Forum as a means for like-minded States to explore and develop the legal, technical and political elements for achieving a nuclear weapons free world. MPI has held Article VI Forum meetings, each involving 15-20 governments, at the United Nations in New York, Clingendale Center in the Netherlands, Canadian Foreign Ministry and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
The Article VI Forum has highlighted a number of steps that could be taken in the near future by the NWS including ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, commencing negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, de-alerting all nuclear weapons, developing legally binding assurances of non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear States, and strengthening systems for the verified and irreversible reduction and elimination of nuclear arsenals.
In addition the Article VI Forum has highlighted a number of steps that could be taken by the non-NWS including national legislation to prohibit and criminalize nuclear weapons, establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, removal of tactical nuclear weapons deployed on foreign territories (U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in NATO countries), and divestment of government funds from corporations involved in the development or manufacture of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
In March 2007, the Belgian Chamber Commission on National Defence voted unanimously in favour of a binding resolution banning the use of depleted uranium "inert ammunitions and armour plates on Belgian territory." The Belgian army does not currently use uranium weapons, and the resolution will make such practice law. In addition, the ban will affect U.S. shipments of uranium ammunition and armour plate via the port of Antwerp.
Acknowledging the Precautionary Principle, the deputies agreed that the manufacture, use, storage, sale, acquisition, supply and transit of conventional uranium weapon systems should be prohibited.
The term "conventional" was included in order to ensure that the law did not ban the deployment of U.S. thermonuclear bombs that are currently stored on the Air Force base of Kleine Brogel, nor that it would challenge the arrangement Belgian has to take control of these weapons in wartime. Some Belgian legislators have been campaigning intensely against these much more destructive nuclear weapons. But, there is not yet a majority of legislators willing to face the political impact of prohibiting a weapon system still seen by NATO as an essential component of their defence policy and of their relationship with the U.S.
The decision has made Belgium the first country in the world to ban ammunitions and armour that contain depleted uranium or any other industrially manufactured uranium. The law will enter into force two years after publication in the Belgian Statute Book, a provision intended to facilitate dialogue with other countries to establish which would be willing to follow the Belgian example.
- PNND Germany hosts expert on U.S.-India nuclear deal
On March 20, PNND Council member Uta Zapf hosted a briefing in the Bundestag by Indian journalist and political scientist J. Sri Raman on the U.S.-India nuclear technology deal. Sri Raman expressed concerns from Indian academics and peace activists about the implications of the deal. Despite assertions from the U.S. and India that the deal is only to support civilian nuclear energy, Sri Raman reported that it is open knowledge that the program will in fact entrench and assist the expansion of India’s nuclear weapons program.
Raman believes that the U.S. policy shift from condemning and punishing India for going nuclear in 1998 to now offering preferential support for its nuclear industry, has arisen due to changing U.S. strategic interests in the region, in particular the desire for India to be an ally in emerging conflicts with Islamic states and with China.
Raman reported that a growing sense of nationalist pride, which is occurring across the political factions in India, has minimized opposition in the government, parliament and press. The debate in India is mostly about whether the deal puts undue international interference in India’s nuclear activities.
A PNND European Parliament Section was established on April 19, during the European Parliament Conference on nuclear disarmament (see European Parliament hears that nuclear abolition like abolition of slavery above). The PNND EP Section currently comprises of 5 MEPs from across the political parties and will be led by two co-chairs and four deputy chairs. These positions are currently filled by Angelika Beer (Green), Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck (Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), Andre Brie (Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left), Girtsvaldis Kstovskis (Union for Europe of the Nations Group) and Ana Maria Gomes (Socialist). (One position remains to be filled).
- PNND members in Canada and Sweden consider proposal for Nordic/Arctic nuclear-weapons-free zone
PNND members in Canada and Sweden have been considering the possibility of proposing a Nordic/Arctic nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ). This zone could include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Arctic Ocean. The zone would prohibit the stationing of nuclear weapons on the land territories of these countries and could also prohibit nuclear testing and nuclear waste dumping in the ocean areas.
There are no nuclear weapons currently deployed in any of these countries making the establishment of such a zone possible. However, it might entail a policy shift in Canada, Denmark, Iceland and Norway, all of which are NATO States that do not currently preclude the possibility of deployment of nuclear weapons on their territories during wartime. In this sense such a zone would bear some similarities to the recently established Central Asian NWFZ which includes former Soviet countries that entered into a security relationship with Russia (the Tashkent Treaty) following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Given current policies permitting the transit of nuclear armed vessels through the arctic waters and port visits of nuclear capable vessels in some of the Nordic/Arctic countries, it is not expected that the NWFZ would prohibit these practices. Rather, it would likely mirror the South Pacific NWFZ which prohibits nuclear testing and waste dumping in the ocean area, but does not prohibit transit or port visits of nuclear capable vessels.
- PNND New Zealand hosts Indian cabinet minister Mani Shankar Aiyar
PNND New Zealand joined with other peace and disarmament organizations to host a public lecture in Auckland on 28 March by Indian Cabinet Minister and PNND member Sri Mani Shankar Aiyar on the topic - The Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free and Nonviolent World Order: Is this an Alternative to the Clash of Civilizations?
Prior to becoming a parliamentarian Sri Mani Shankar was personal assistant to Rajiv Gandhi, and was one of the principal drafters of the Rajiv Gandhi plan, which was submitted to the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in 1988. Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has recommitted India to the Rajiv Gandhi Plan in his speeches to the Parliament in July 2005 and August 2006. Sri Mani Shankar believes that the plan was unable to be implemented in 1988 due to the Cold War and other factors, but that political conditions make it ripe for achievement now.
In his public lecture and associated media interviews, Sri Mani Shankar highlighted a long and detailed history of cross-ethnic and cross-religious dialogue and cooperation that has enriched the Asian subcontinent and disproves the pessimistic perspective that there is an inherent clash of civilizations. Rather he believes that it is opportunist power seekers who forment conflict and sow hate and fear in order to buttress their climb to privilege and domination. This fear has fueled the flames of conflict between India and Pakistan leading to the possibility of war and even nuclear catastrophe. However, saner minds are coming to the fore and the possibilities for peace are increasing.
Sri Mani Shankar Aiyar is author of two related books Pakistan Papers and Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist.
On April 15, PNND launched the PNND German website developed by PNND German Coordinator Xanthe Hall. The website includes (in German) basic information about PNND, the most recent PNND Updates (monthly email/web information), PNND News (annual hard copy newsletter), a list of German members, key documents, information on key events plus links to other relevant sources.
- PNND Japan support group
A Japan PNND Support Group was established in 2006 with support of the Peace Depot, a well-respected independent non-governmental peace research and policy organization. The Japan PNND Support Group assists in outreach to Japanese parliamentarians and in providing relevant information.
A Japan PNND web site has been developed. It contains basic information on PNND Japan, including the statute of PNND Japan, the roster of members and directors, records of past general assemblies and past activities, and translated documents from some of the global PNND documents, with references and links to the Global PNND web site.
An additional web resource - containing all the relevant Diet (Japanese Parliament) discussions on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and missile defense issues - will be launched in May 2007. It is hoped that parliamentary engagement in these issues will be invigorated through these resources.
The 2007 PNND Council will be meeting in New York on October 11 in order to:
a) discuss PNND’s program for 2007-2008
b) elect a President (or Co-Presidents) of PNND to succeed the existing Interim Chair
c) appoint additional Council Members as appropriate
d) consider other organizational matters including PNND promotion and funding
The Council meeting is being held at the end of the first week of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Disarmament Committee 2007 Session. PNND invites all members to attend the Council Meeting, and also to take the opportunity to attend UNGA sessions plus some of the other disarmament events during the week. These will include events organized by our partner organizations the Middle Powers Initiative and the Global Security Institute.
PNND has approximately 480 members in 70 countries. Countries with largest membership are Australia (22), Belgium (19), Canada (60), European Parliament (24), Germany (58), Japan (45), New Zealand (45) and South Korea (19). PNND has cross-party sections in Belgium, Canada, European Parliament, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
The Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction, chaired by Hans Blix, noted that there should be international conventions (treaties) prohibiting nuclear weapons just as there is for chemical weapons, biological weapons and landmines.
“A nuclear disarmament treaty is achievable and can be reached through careful, sensible and practical measures. Benchmarks should be set; definitions agreed; timetables drawn up and agreed upon; and transparency requirements agreed. Disarmament work should be set in motion.”
In Securing our Survival (SOS), the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation, set out in clear and convincing discussion what a nuclear weapons convention is, who would be covered by it, why it is necessary, how it could achieved, where it fits into the current disarmament agenda and by when nuclear weapons could be eliminated.
C.G. Weeramantry, former Judge of the International Court of Justice, writes in the foreword:
There are at least fifteen different reasons why the dangers of the use of nuclear weapons by someone, somewhere, sometime is growing ever closer. Increasing knowledge of how to construct a bomb, increasing availability of the materials with which to make a bomb, increasing numbers of people desperate enough to use the bomb, lack of inventories of fissile materials, lack of the international resolve to ban the bomb and banish it from the arsenals of the world – all these are factors which bring the use of the bomb ever closer to us.
Our desired objective of eliminating the bomb can only be achieved through a Convention subscribed to by all powers, nuclears and non-nuclears alike. The nuclears cannot expect the non-nuclears to pursue a policy of abstention while they themselves desire to keep the bomb as a means of projecting their power and might.
SOS contains an updated Model Nuclear Weapons Convention which outlines the legal, technical and political requirements for achieving and maintaining a nuclear weapons free world. It also includes commentary and discussion from a variety of experts on critical questions relating to the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. These include issues on enforcement, breakout, alternative security, nuclear energy, clean-up, nuclear research, nuclear terrorism, economic aspects and conversion.
The Global Fissile Material Report is the first report of the International Panel on Fissile Materials headed by Frank von Hippel, former Science Advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton. The report documents global stockpiles of fissile materials and describes techniques for fissile material verification. The report concludes that it would be technically and politically possible to verify a global fissile materials treaty, a conclusion that is at odds with the United States position (see States almost agree to commence negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty above).