Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
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Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Goes into Force
Yes, you read that right. This past Saturday, October 24th, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) became international law when the 50th nation (Honduras) ratified it. US press paid little attention to this agreement (including the Sun, but neither did big brothers Globe or Times). It made the headlines in much of the rest of the world. Under its provisions, the possession, threat of and any actual use of nuclear weapons is an international crime. Of course, the nuclear nations and their allies have boycotted it. In fact, in a breath-taking affront to other nations’ sovereignty, the US made a last-ditch effort to sink the treaty by sending letters to its signatories urging them to withdraw (!) But its implementation is a watershed moment in the long fight to eliminate these horrific weapons. The treaty will not cause nuclear weapons to disappear any time soon, but will over time erode their legitimacy and compel nations to pursue a new framework for international security.
In 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing together 122 nations in the UN to approve this treaty. Following approval, it required ratification by 50 of the signatories to come into force. The treaty is based on the recognition that the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are so horrendous that no nation should possess them. This is not unprecedented. The global community (including the US) has in the past agreed to ban chemical and other weapons of mass destruction. The treaty is a particular triumph for those who suffered most in the initial use and subsequent testing of atomic weapons – the Hibakusha (Japanese for “atom bomb survivor”). They have made it their life goal to eliminate these weapons. It is also a remarkable and fitting tribute to the United Nations that this treaty was signed on the 75th anniversary to the day of its founding, and a resounding reaffirmation of the power and need for this global institution for world peace.
The treaty would be unimaginable, of course, were it not for the United Nations itself. In the aftermath of World War II, it was obvious the world needed a global institution to prevent such all-out carnage from ever happening again, much less the Armageddon foretold by the dawning of the nuclear age. Indeed, the very first resolution of that new world body was to seek an end to nuclear weapons. The United Nations that was created has been imperfect — it did not assure 75 years of peace. But it did form the basis of an emergent world order, provide a forum for debate instead of conflict, give rise to some degree of great power restraint, and spawn global efforts to address the needs of an increasingly interconnected planet. Over time, the evidence that certain problems that can only be solved through global collective action has only grown — climate change, migration, a financial system susceptible to global disruption, and now Covid. If there were no UN today, for all its limitations, we would be struggling to invent one.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is not a new idea in international agreements. In 1970, all of the then five nuclear powers agreed to work toward the elimination of their nuclear arms in exchange for other nations forgoing the development of such weapons. This Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was and remains a legally binding treaty. Most of the rest of the world, with four exceptions, lived up to their obligations, such that today we have nine nuclear powers when there might have been dozens. That is a remarkably good thing. But the nuclear “haves” continue to renege on their part of the bargain, exercising nuclear blackmail when it is convenient to do so, risking the welfare of all people’s for their own selfish interests. Now the rest of the world has said “Enough!”
It will take many years and much work for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to fulfill its promise. It will begin by discouraging banks and other companies from doing business with the makers of nuclear weapons. Soon investors will withdraw their funds from companies engaged in what is now by international law a criminal activity. Popular pressures will grow to limit the vast sums spent on nuclear weapons and to adopt such sensible measures as “no first use” policies. Over time, acceptance of the treaty will de-legitimize the self-serving myth of “nuclear deterrence” for some that endangers the future of all. Eventually non-nuclear states under the protection of a “nuclear umbrella” will realize its hollow promise and withdraw from such arrangements — just as New Zealand did long ago. Even the great powers will come to realize that nuclear arsenals are unaffordable, only serve to level the playing field with adversaries, and threaten their own citizens with destruction. Ultimately, the world will contract a new framework for common security based on international agreements — the only thing that history has shown to ultimately endure.
The TPNW is a glowing achievement, but only the glimmer of light that foretells the dawn. To paraphrase Churchill’s words from another time: This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning of the struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons. And one we should wholeheartedly celebrate.
By-line: Jerry Ross lives in North Chelmsford. He is Secretary of the Massachusetts Peace Action Nuclear Disarmament Working Group and serves on the board of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security. In 2018 he was a delegate to the World Conference Against A&H Bombs held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
OCTOBER ONE WILPF CALL
Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy
Kifah Shah, one of four writers of the Hold the Line Guide, spoke about what is included in the guide: critical actions people can take from now until Election day to ensure a successful election; background on potential scenarios that could play out between Election day to Inauguration day; a four-step process to start an election protection group in your community, and begin planning potential actions to protect democracy; an in-depth analysis and model of change from the field of civil resistance.
Another organization to get more information about election protection is Protect the Results.
To hear this and other One WILPF calls, you can go to the One WILPF Call archives.
TAKE ACTION TO PASS A FULL RELIEF PACKAGE
NATIONAL WATCH PARTY OF FILM “THE LAUNDROMAT”
Tuesday, NOVEMBER 17th at 5:30pm PST
Join a WILPF Watch Party to see and discuss THE LAUNDROMAT, a film starring Meryl Streep and Antonio Banderas. This film is about a woman who gets to the bottom of a fraud scheme that injures her family and uncovers international criminal efforts to shelter tax dollars and swindle unsuspecting families. This film is based on the real facts surrounding the PANAMA PAPERS , which published details linking high placed business and corporate executives to illegal activities and determined exactly how much they profit from these shady enterprises. Independent journalists have been murdered for reporting on this.
Invite your friends, family, and co-workers. Pass the popcorn and watch with us using the Netflix Party App. Put it on your calendar now and contact Marybeth Gardam firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions on how to join the watch party. Click here to see the TRAILER for the film.
A discussion will follow. Everyone who attends will receive a RESOURCE GUIDE with links for more information about The Panama Papers and the journalist who was murdered for reporting on them. We’ll review the ANTI-CORRUPTION ACT which is being put in place city by city now and the work our ally Represent US is doing to advance this effort nationally.
AFGHANISTAN: PEACE IN REAL TIME
As part of the Day of Peace Events, the United Nations Assoc. of S.F. sponsored a discussion of the future of Afghanistan. There were four speakers: from the U.S. Institute of Peace, from UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, from the Int’l Medial Corps, and Fawzia Koofi, President of Movement of Change for Afghanistan, Parliamentary Legislator, and Member of Afghanistan’s negotiation team with the Taliban. She is a leader in rights for girls and women in Afghanistan and will bring this focus to the negotiating table. She said that the people are demanding long-lasting justice and freedom and a diversity of views.
You can listen to this discussion by going to the International Day of Peace 2020 page on the United Nations San Francisco Chapter Website.
BEFORE ENLISTING – A VIRTUAL PROGRAM FOR HIGH SCHOOLS
Because of the pandemic, our Before Enlisting group has not been able to go into classrooms to talk to students about the realities of military service that they won’t hear from recruiters. We are working hard to develop a virtual program to be used in high schools, which will include our main video “Before You Enlist” as well as shorter videos by veterans about their experiences, videos about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), career alternatives and financial help for education. Also included in the program are lesson plans, quizzes and essay questions for teachers to use. These videos will be launched soon on our Before Enlisting website.
CALIFORNIA ELECTION ACTION TO SUPPORT PROPOSITION 16
Vote Yes on Prop 16 is working hard to reinstate affirmative action in California. They need your help with phone banking. There is a lot of young leadership in the campaign and great ads on social media. They have a video saying “Voting yes on Proposition 16 means taking on discrimination in California public contracts, employment, and education by restoring an improved affirmative action.” Share if you have a Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=992143931287202
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN: EXPLOITATION BEYOND THE PAY GAP
Tuesday, Oct 27 – 5pm
Macroeconomy’s erasure of caring work at home and in our communities via the GDP—and women’s adventurous ways to fix this.
Riane Eisler, revered author of The Chalice & The Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations, will reveal the links between macroeconomic GDP measures and microeconomic invisibility of care work, women’s discounted paychecks for care work, and what the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us see more clearly: all our work at home we’re expected to do for free. She says “our society values what we count, and we don’t count women’s unpaid labor.”
Khara Jabola-Carolus of Hawaii’s Commission on Women will join us. She put together a report on government stationary called Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19) and she is also an artist.
Patti Maciecz has created an invoice she calls Bill the Patriarchy, part of her Invisible Labor Union.
WILPF’s own Martha Collins will bring the perspective of single moms who are doing it all, and often facing poverty, through her work for the Milwaukee Area Food Bank.
Find registration information for the events at
NOW IS THE TIME END THE U.S. BLOCKADE OF CUBA IN 2021
The Cuba and the Bolivarian Alliance Issue Committee has been very active, working on ending the blockade on Cuba. If we have a new Administration in Washington D.C., the possibility of making progress in normalizing relations with Cuba are more hopeful. There will be an International Conference Webinar and Concert for the Normalization of U.S.-Cuba Relations on November 13-15:
Next WILPF EB/SF Meeting: Saturday, November 14, 10 am to Noon
If you would like to join us virtually, you are very welcome. Just send an email to email@example.com and we’ll send you the information you need to join the call.
EXPLORE WILPF TODAY
Local branch web pages
WILPF East Bay
P. O. Box 13083, Oakland, CA 94661
P. O. Box 590253, San Francisco, CA 94159
National WILPF www.wilpfus.org
International WILPF: www.wilpf.org