LAUNCH OF ACTION FOR UN RENEWAL'S

"ARMS REDUCTION CAMPAIGN"

VIJAY MEHTA

Vice Chair

CAMPAIGN BASED ON: A Proposal for a UN Convention/Protocol on Implementing Article 26 of the UN Charter Regarding Reducing "diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources" by a set percentage per year.

We are advocating, as a core principal of our campaign, a reduction of 1% (one percent) as a set percentage to be reduced from Arms/Military expenditure and the savings on human resources to be diverted to non-military peaceful purposes. The huge figure of 8 billion dollars per year thereby achieved in monetary terms against current 800 billion dollars spent per year on Arms will be utilised on poverty reduction, education, healthcare, conflict resolution, sustainable development and maintaining the environment.

As the world is awash with weapons Article 26 is being side-stepped and not being implemented by the major arms producing and selling countries. According to a survey by United Nations 500 million small arms and light weapons are in circulation world-wide and being used in conflicts and wars across the globe. It presents serious humanitarian challenge and grave implications for development, human rights, and justice. Some of the facts and figures are daunting.

Let us examine the role of largest exporters of arms in the World. Small Weapons are produced by 300 manufacturers in 50 countries. However, the largest suppliers are the 5 countries who happen to be the permanent members of Security Council. The primary supplier of these weapons is the United States, which exports 4,000,000 small arms a year to 155 countries. UK is also one of the largest exporters supplying arms to over 100 countries According to the Times Newspaper Saturday 21st July UK has managed to double its exports of arms and military equipment. British companies sold arms worth 1.7 billion to foreign countries in year 2000 compared to 900 million in 1999. Some of these countries were Angola, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Philippines, where they were used for internal repression and human rights abuses.

Then there are nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Around 30,000 nuclear warheads are in circulation in the world. Britain's submarine based nuclear weapons system Trident costs 1.5 billion a year to maintain every year. Last week's launch of the missile test in US costed the taxpayers 100 ml dollars. Who needs them and why? Big gun makers are the winners. Multinational corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and TWR are in cahoots with the military and the governments dubbed as "Military Industrial Complex". It is for profit, greed, world domination, and control of land space and other resources. It is about protecting interests and investments of the big corporations and powerful governments. It is about creating tensions, upsetting the balance of power among different countries. If two neighbours like India and Pakistan and China and Taiwan are in State of alert and tension, they are bound to arm themselves to the hilt to avoid the danger of being a loser in the event of a conflict. So the demand for production and manufacture of arms, and nuclear weapons including the new space technology (National Missile Defence) continues to increase. Accelerated polarisation of wealth, unemployment, and economic depravation is leading to more and more proliferation of arms.

For the last thirty years governments NGOs and other peace movements via treaties ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty). NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty) and Disarmament sessions of the UN have been trying to control the Arms race. Many organisations like the CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade), safer world, Oxfam. CND (Campaign Against Nuclear Disarmament) Abolition 2000, UNA, and our own Action for UN Renewal have been doing useful work in pointing out the dangers of Arms race and working for a more peaceful world. In practical terms to start and run a campaign successfully is a tall order. People need to be clear about the objectives of the campaign, in depth analysis of the issues, long and short term plans all have to be carefully laid out.

Let us examine the hurdles. Countries arm themselves as they think this is the only course for their defence and sovereignty. Alarmed, the neighbours are provoked to arm in response. National Missile System will scrap all the existing arms control treaties laboured by diplomats in the last thirty years and start a new Arms Race.

Big corporations do not care as long as they can increase their sales and profits for their shareholders. How many civilians and children are killed indiscriminately as a result does not ring alarm bells in the plush hotels where arm deals are brokered. If Article 26 becomes a Treaty can it be operational? This is a tricky question as we are witnessing in the Landmine Treaty signed in Ottawa. After signing the treaty to ban production of the landmines, US is spending 800 million dollars on producing alternative personal mines replacement which will fall outside the regulations of the Ottawa treaty.

However, as obstacles mount it becomes even more important for us to work harder to find solutions. I suggest the following positive steps to kick start the campaign:

  1. Make the message simple and short like 'Drop the Debt' Campaign. Choose a name for the campaign, a catchy one. The ones I have suggested are as follows
    1. ARC (Arms Reduction Campaign)
    2. or

    3. ROAC- (Reduction of Arms Campaign)
  1. Have a policy statement to explain the issue and Action plan. It will include:
    1. Maintaining an Arms Register that is patents, quantity, future productions and sale records.
    2. A reduction of Arms per year agreement
    3. A verification procedure followed by rewards for compliance and penalties/sanctions for non-compliance.
    4. UN or similar international body to link savings in human and monetary resources to be linked to economic and social development.

3. Form a group or committee to start and maintain the campaign. Include other NGO's,

Peace and humanitarian organisations.

4. Make presentation about the campaign at other organisations and public events.

  1. Assist in challenging UK, EU (European Union) and policies of other states.
  2. On manufacturing, export licensing and illegal trafficking of Arms.

  3. Learn from the two most famous and successful campaigns i.e. Landmines and ICC (International Criminal court)
  4. There are at present 1900 NGO's working directly or indirectly for Landmines Campaigns in different parts of the world. This shows organisation skills, co-ordination and power of conveying your message to the public. Same is true of the ICC (International Criminal court) which; through diligence and hard work have got the ratification of 32 countries. Once ratification of 60 signatory states is achieved, the court can come into formation.

  5. To start twice yearly newsletter, high -lighting work already done and future plans.
  6. To stop glorification of war. (A military odyssey) A military fashion show in Kent is just doing by encouraging youngsters to take part in recreation of skirmishes and battles. It is to be held in September 22-23 of this year.
  7. Lobbying Parliament and government ministers, MP and MEP's to bring legislation for the reduction of Arms. Direct it at the government, arms manufacturers and civil society. Campaign for arms collection centre for destroying or burning the hardware. Make civil Society, police, and the state part of a joint effort.
  8. Campaign for protocol/convention on 'reduction of arms by set percentage' and link savings to poverty reduction. The convention will be a starting point to discuss and review the finer points of the issue.

11. Networking with other similar organisations to raise the issue in the press and the media. We are publishing the campaign speech in the September issue of Nonviolent Action Monthly of Peace News. Text of the speech will also be available on ACT UN WEBSITE (www.action-for-un-renewal.org.uk.)

12. Speaking to schools, universities, and other educational establishments in order to promote greater understanding, especially amongst young people of the issue.

Ultimately all countries will have to sign to an arms reduction protocol which can become a treaty to be ratified by states. Only by universal enforcement, goal of Arms reduction and ultimate abolition of gun culture and senseless killings can be eliminated. For the campaign to succeed we need the United Nations General Assembly to place the issue of Article 26 on the international agenda and hold a conference in New York. United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan describes small arms as "weapons of mass destruction" in terms of the carnage they cause. Yet there is still no global non-proliferation regime to limit their spread, as there is for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Addressing the Security Council in September 1999, the Secretary General called the effort to constrain small arms proliferation "One of the key challenges in preventing conflict in the next century".

I am going to close my talk with various positive notes: There is an interesting solution to arms, which is being tried by a church based charity in Mozambique. They cut up the guns and make sculptures and ploughshares out of them. People are encouraged to hand over their arms without any questions asked and they are handed back ploughshares by which they can till their land. The programme is backed by government, state police, and the charity Christian Aid. Over 100,000 guns and rocket launchers have been destroyed so far. United Nations in the past have collected and destroyed weapons of ex-combatants in a number of its peacekeeping operations.

At a recent conference on illicit arms which took place is July this year, delegates from 120 nations were at the United nations headquarters in New York to negotiate curbs on the flow of revolvers, assault rifles and anti tank missiles. They were greeted by an exhibition of animal and bird sculptures, chairs and coffee tables by Mozambican artists. These items were made entirely out of guns and other weapons.

We are living in the International decade for a culture of peace and non-violence. The constitution of UNESCO, states that since wars begin in the minds of man, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.

We have to stop the culture of mindless killings and death and start a culture of peace. We can together turn 'Reduction of Arms' into a vibrant successful campaign.

To end my talk I am going to quote " His Holiness Dalialama who said," if you think you are too small to change the world, try sleeping with a mosquito".

For further enquires contact Action for UN Renewal : 3 Whitehall Court, London SW1 2EL. Tel: 020 8399 2547 Fax: 020 7930 5893, e-mail coordinator@unforum.fsnct.co.uk Web Site www.action-for-un-renewal.org.uk

Vijay Mehta is vice-chair of Action for UN Renewal and can be contacted at vijay@anglo-sphere.com