Ban Ki-moon urges anti-nuke activists to “Keep it up”

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NEW YORK - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged participants in the International Conference for a Nuclear-Free Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World here May 1 to "keep it up."

Ban told the assembled crowd of nearly 1,000, "On the eve of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, we know the world is watching. Let it heed our call. Disarm now!"

Ban's remarks concluded the two-day non-governmental organization (NGO) conference at Manhattan's historic Riverside Church. It was attended by activists, scholars, elected officials and hibakusha -survivors of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 - all committed to the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.

The gathering was held days before the opening of the month-long 2010 Review Conference for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the United Nations. The ministerial conference, held every five years, is aimed at fulfilling the treaty's goals of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and dismantling existing nuclear stockpiles.

Riverside Church's Rev. Dr. Arnold Thomas opened the NGO conference by welcoming the international crowd to a place of history. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "Beyond Vietnam" speech at the church in 1967. Nelson Mandela spoke at the church during his first trip to the United States after being freed from Robben Island prison. The Rev. Thomas said that Ban Ki-moon's speech at the conference was another historical occasion with a "sacred cause."

Conference participants took part in workshops and panels discussing environmental impact of nuclear weapons, the health implications of uranium mining, the experience of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the success of nuclear-free zones around the world, the role of NATO, foreign military bases and many more topics.

The NGO conference and the subsequent NPT conference occurred at a turning-point moment on the issue of nuclear disarmament. In January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of its Doomsday Clock one minute away from midnight (midnight symbolizing the end of the world in nuclear war), stating, "We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons."

Just last month, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new bilateral START treaty reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles. The U.S. and Russia account for 90 percent of all nuclear weapons worldwide. Weeks later Obama then hosted a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, gathering 47 nations and the United Nations to initiate new measures to control and contain fissionable materials that can be used for nuclear weapons.

Many in the nuclear abolition movement acknowledge a new opening today for reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons. But speakers at the NGO conference, while hopeful, remained committed to total abolition as the only way to ensure prevention of nuclear proliferation and the catastrophic use of nuclear weapons, accidentally or intentionally.

Dr. Terumi Tanaka, secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A-H Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), who at the age of 13 experienced the blast of the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki and lost five family members in a flash, told the crowd, "Nuclear weapons should never be allowed to exist for whatever reason. Nuclear weapons are from the devil."

"The sovereignty of the nations and world peace is essential and cannot be postponed," said Brazil's Socorro Gomes, president of the World Peace Council.

The United States is the only country in the world that maintains nuclear arsenals on other countries' territories and remains the only power to have ever used a nuclear weapon.

"The NPT and nuclear disarmament [are] within the broader peace and social justice and environmental context," said Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action, the largest peace and disarmament organization in the U.S. with 100,000 members. In response to the announcement that the U.S. government would reveal for the first time the count of its nuclear arsenal, he said, "The U.S. now feels that it has to be more transparent. They have to come to the NPT Rev Con [Review Conference] with more than they have been able to produce so far. We are not just satisfied with some of the small steps the Obama administration has taken. We are always pushing for more."

In closing his remarks to the gathering, Ban Ki-moon said, "Today, we have reason for renewed optimism. Global public opinion is swinging our way. Governments are looking at the issue with fresh eyes. Consider just the most recent events: Leading by example, the United States announced a review of its nuclear posture, foreswearing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, so long as they are in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty ... And on Monday, we hope to open a new chapter in the life of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

The conference was followed by a mass march against nuclear weapons on Sunday May 2.

All of the conference plenaries are available to be viewed on the website of Riverside Church.

Photo: Japanese trade unionists march against nuclear weapons, May 2 in New York. (PW/Libero Della Piana)

 

 

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  • Of all events which foreshadow the 29th Convention of the CPUSA,near month's end,this series of articles by brother Libero Della Piana is most significant.
    Judith Le Blanc and Kevin Martin's article on April 29,in PW,Three days that could change the world-This weekend in New York City!,Thousands march to UN for nuclear disarmament and Ban-Ki moon urges anti-nuclear activists to "Keep it Up",along with the interview from PA-Building a New Peace Movement-including a comment which recognizes the astonishing peace contributions of our W.E.B. Du Bois(Du Bois was a founder of the UN)-comparing him to Lenin and Marx as peace maker.
    All American Communists who seek to be world peace contributors,who do not know Du Bois's In Battle for Peace,for example,are severely disadvantaged in the fight for peace.
    Many historians will argue,that the significant activities of Du Bois in the late '40s helped put tremendous pressure on imperialism to both concede to civil and human rights,and to increase repression on liberation or anti-imperialist,anti-colonial organizations,the CPUSA,and like organizations abroad.
    It is an age old problem of oppression and wrong that more oppression and wrong are the responses of reactionary governments to burgeoning human liberty.
    To this,our Du Bois might answer,as was his wont-"The price of liberty is less than the cost of slavery."
    Peace fighters like Du Bois,Harriet Tubman and Moses can never be held responsible for the fact that tyrannical power corrupts humanity and humanity's perceived absolute power corrupts absolutely. They directly,justifiably and heroically confronted this power,to save it from destroying others and itself.
    Peace fighters like Robeson,Flynn, Ben Davis,Du Bois,Jackson,Winston,Green,Lightfoot,Hall and many more were repressed in the '50s and '60s and we have yet not recovered our political,social and cultural vitality-but we shall. We shall do this pursuing the white gleam of peace,in the van of organizations like ZENROREN,ITUC,UE,National Council of Churches,Peace Action,UFPJ,Mouvement de la Paix of France,Mayors for Peace,Gensuikyo,hibakusha,Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament of the UK and many,many more individuals and organizations in our communities.
    As the conveners of the historic Nuclear Free and Just World Confab at Riverside Church return to their localities,let them be reinvigorated in peace to fight for it,to state with the the great peace warrior,W.E.B. Du Bois,"Peace will be my applause."

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 05/11/2010 3:59am (5 years ago)

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