International Disarmament Institute News

October 8, 2018
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Australia: Ongoing Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Concerns at Monte Bello, Emu Field and Maralinga Nuclear Test Sites

Aunty Sue Coleman-Haseldine with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’ 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, Canberra, September 2018. Photo: Martin Ollman.

Australian prisoners of war and occupation forces in Japan were exposed to the effects of the atomic bombings. The UK government carried out 12 atmospheric nuclear weapon tests on Australian territories from 1952 to 1957. Further radiological and toxic experiments continued until 1963. The nuclear weapons tests displaced Aboriginal communities, contaminated land and had long-lasting impacts on the health of veterans, civilians and the environment. Australia was also affected by fallout from French Pacific nuclear weapons tests. Interwoven with this complex history are highly contested nuclear projects including uranium mining and proposals for nuclear waste disposal. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons obligates assistance to victims and remediation of contaminated environments.  Despite significant pressure from Australian civil society, Australia boycotted the negotiations. To honor nuclear weapons survivors throughout the Pacific and beyond, Australia should sign and ratify the Treaty.

new report by Dimity Hawkins and published by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute documents the humanitarian, human rights and environmental harms of nuclear weapons use and testing on Australians, finding that:

  • 16,000 Australian personnel risked exposure to radiation from the atomic bombings in Japan, as POWs and occupation forces.
  • 16,000 military and civilian Australians took part in the 12 atmospheric British nuclear weapons tests between 1952-1963 on Australian territories.
  • The British nuclear weapons tests left a legacy of environmental contamination.
  • There were an additional 600 British ‘minor trials’ – subcritical tests – that spread radiological and toxic contamination across the South Australia desert.
  • Many veterans of the tests and Japanese occupation have health problems consistent with exposure to radiation; descendants also report multi-generational health problems.
  • Mining of uranium and storage of nuclear waste poses humanitarian and environmental hazards, especially to Indigenous communities in Australia.
  • Australia was exposed to fallout from French Pacific nuclear testing from 1966 to 1974.
  • Venting and leaching of radioactive materials from France’s underground test sites into the ocean poses environmental risks to the South Pacific region.

The report recommends that Australia should:

  1. Sign and RATIFY the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  2. Assess and RESPOND to the humanitarian needs of survivors, including nuclear veterans, Aboriginal and other communities affected by nuclear weapons use and testing.
  3. Survey and REMEDIATE contaminated environments in the testing grounds surrounding the Monte Bello islands, Emu Fields and Maralinga.
  4. RESPECT, protect and fulfill the human rights of nuclear veterans and test survivors.
  5. RETELL the stories of the humanitarian and environmental impact of the tests.

To read the full report, click here.

* Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this paper contains images and/or names of deceased persons in photographs or stories.

October 4, 2018
by mbolton
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RNZ: Call for more research on effects of nuclear testing in Pacific

Radio New Zealand Pacific covered the new Pace University International Disarmament Institute reports on the humanitarian and human rights impact of French  nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. Dr. Matthew Bolton, director of the International Disarmament Institute, argues that the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons offers an new normative framework enabling assistance to victim and remediation of contaminated environments through international cooperation and assistance.

September 27, 2018
by mbolton
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The ‘-Pacific’ part of ‘Asia-Pacific’: Oceanic diplomacy in the 2017 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Director of the International Disarmament Institute Matthew Bolton has published an article in the Asian Journal of Political Science analyzing the role of Pacific states in the negotiations of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons:

The 2017 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was negotiated at the UN over the objections of nuclear-armed and -allied states and established a global categorical ban on nuclear weapons framed in terms of humanitarianism, human rights and environmentalism. The TPNW also placed ‘positive obligations’ on states to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and remediate contaminated environments. States and NGOs from the Pacific region advocated for a strong treaty text, particularly its positive obligations. They were influenced by the region’s history as a site of nuclear weapons testing in Marshall Islands, Kiribati and French Polynesia/Te Ao Maohi; the 1985 South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone’s precedent; and earlier diplomatic efforts and activism linking denuclearization with decolonization. In doing so, Pacific and other formerly colonized states flipped the ‘standard of civilization’ script embedded in humanitarian disarmament law and applied it to their former colonizers. The paper demonstrates the agency of small states—the ‘-Pacific’ part of ‘Asia-Pacific’—in multilateral policymaking on peace and security, often overlooked in international relations scholarship. It draws on my participant observation in the Nobel Peace Prize-winning advocacy of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) during the TPNW negotiations.

September 11, 2018
by mbolton
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Briefing Paper on Disarmament Education for UN General Assembly First Committee 2018

The International Disarmament Institute has provided an article on the disarmament education policy agenda for this year’s First Committee Briefing Book (2018), which provides guidance to delegates and advocates attended the UN General Assembly’s meetings this coming fall on disarmament and international security.

The successful negotiation of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has provided new political and legal impetus for disarmament education. The preamble specifically recognises “the importance of peace and disarmament education in all its aspects and of raising awareness of the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons for current and future generations, and committed to the dissemination of the principles and norms” of the TPNW. It also stress the role of multiple stakeholders in pressing for nuclear disarmament. This framing represents a welcome turn toward a more vigorous approach to disarmament and non-proliferation education. First Committee will likely pass a disarmament education resolution this year, and the TPNW and UNODA’s Occasional Paper offer opportunities to educate governments on their responsibilities to support disarmament education, as well as build political will.

To read our article, click here.

 

September 5, 2018
by mbolton
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Pace University Featured in UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Education Report

Pace University was highlighted in UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ July 2018 report on disarmament education:

Pace University plays a globally recognized leading role in disarmament education. Its Peace and Justice Studies major is among the largest undergraduate programmes in the United States of America. Faculty members offered relevant classes, including Model United Nations and Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control. Pace students engaged in disarmament internships, on-the-job training and service-learning placements.

The report specifically acknowledges the involvement of Pace faculty and students in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, as well as Pace’s International Disarmament Institute’s  dissemination of “research and … technical assistance to States and non-governmental organizations involved in disarmament policymaking.” It notes Pace’s UN-funded training on the Arms Trade Treaty in East Africa, conducted in partnership with Control Arms.

Read the full report here.

June 13, 2018
by mbolton
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Harvard Podcast on Humanitarian Disarmament

 

Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, Matthew Bolton, was featured today on a podcast of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative on humanitarian disarmament. The episode convenes “leading experts and practitioners in the humanitarian disarmament movement” to discuss “humanitarian approach to disarmament, and lessons from particular campaigns, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalitions behind the 2017 Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty and the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, as well ongoing movements to address the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, lethal autonomous weapons systems (“killer robots”), toxic remnants of war, and other remaining challenges for civilian protection in armed conflict.”

Bolton spoke primarily about the victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations in the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, highlighting findings from recent research in Kiribati.

Click here to listen to the podcast. 

May 17, 2018
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Call for help for Pacific’s neglected nuclear test victims

 

Radio New Zealand Pacific covered the new Pace University International Disarmament Institute reports on the humanitarian and human rights impact of UK and US  nuclear weapons testing on Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands. Dr. Matthew Bolton, director of the International Disarmament Institute, argues that the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons offers an new normative framework enabling assistance to victim and remediation of contaminated environments through international cooperation and assistance.

A version of the interview also appeared in The Fiji Times.

May 17, 2018
by mbolton
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Using the Arms Trade Treaty to Address Pastoralist Conflict and Wildlife Crime in Kenya’s Marginalized Regions

The Forum on the Arms Trade report Addressing Non-State Actors: Multiple Approaches has published an article by Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute on ways to use the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to address armed violence in Kenya (which has signed but not yet ratified the treaty):

“Militarized state interventions to address cattle rustling in Kenya often exacerbate the situation, introducing new weapons (that enter the illicit market sector through theft or sale) and extrajudicial violence. Heavy-handed suppression is also expensive, diverting important resources away from sustainable development. Similarly, militarized state responses to the collapsing populations of elephants and rhinos—such as shoot-to-kill policies—have often failed to meet human rights standards and have even been implicated in poaching. Indeed, such responses may undermine important efforts to engage and build local capacities for sustainability, peace, and alternative livelihoods. There are, however, alternatives to militarized responses to pastoralist conflict and wildlife crime, rooted in human rights, the rule of law and international cooperation and assistance. The previous African elephant poaching crisis in the 1980s—which was fueled by the influx of guns in Africa’s Cold War proxy conflicts—was stopped not so much by militarized interventions but rather through international legal and normative change. In 2013, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) established, for the first time, global regulations on the transfer of conventional weapons that can prevent arms getting into the hands of human rights abusers, terrorists, war criminals and organized criminal groups. The majority of African states have signed the ATT and Kenya was particularly crucial in this diplomatic victory, as one of the eight “co-authors” (seen as custodians of the process) of the 2006 General Assembly Resolution that launched the treaty process. However, Kenya has not yet joined the ATT. If it is universalized and rigorously implemented, States like Kenya can use the ATT as a normative framework for assessing and mitigating the risks that arms transfers will exacerbate armed violence in pastoralist communities, including cattle raiding and wildlife crime, as well as counterproductive, militarized approaches to controlling pastoralist regions.”

To read the full article, click here.

This article is based on research conducted by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute during its 2016-2017 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Academy East Africa project. In partnership with the Control Arms Secretariat, the International Disarmament Institute’s  ATT Academy was a year-long program of education, research and training on the ATT for  East and Horn of Africa officials and civil society activists. This project was supported by the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR).

 

May 11, 2018
by mbolton
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The Devastating Legacy of British and American Nuclear Testing at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands

 

Just Security ran an article 11 May 2018 covering reports by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute (one on Kiribati and the other on Fiji) on the humanitarian, human rights and environmental impacts of UK and US nuclear weapons testing in what is now the Republic of Kiribati:

“In addition to the some 500 indigenous I-Kiribati people on Kiritimati island, now part of the Republic of Kiribati, 43,000 military and civilian personnel from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States and Fiji participated in the total of 33 U.K. and U.S. nuclear weapons tests in and around Kiribati between 1957 and 1962. …

“In 2015, Kiribati’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Makurita Baaro stated, “Today, our communities still suffer from the long-term impacts of the tests, experiencing higher rates of cancer, particularly thyroid cancer, due to exposure to radiation. …

“There has never been a sufficiently comprehensive, public, and independent analysis of the environmental impact of nuclear testing at Kiritimati, nor Malden Island. … Nevertheless, there is extensive evidence that the tests killed and maimed wildlife and damaged vegetation. …

“The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) frames nuclear weapons as an affront to humanity and acknowledges the humanitarian and environmental harm of use and testing, including the disproportionate impact on women and girls and indigenous peoples. In addition to banning nuclear weapons, the TPNW obliges states that join it to address the harm inflicted on people and the environment from nuclear weapons use and testing.”

To read the whole article, click here.

For the International Disarmament Institute’s comprehensive report on the impact of the Kiritimati and Malden Island nuclear weapons tests, click here. For its report on the impact on Fijian veterans, click here.

For the International Disarmament Institute’s general overview of the global humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons use and testing, click here.

 

May 11, 2018
by mbolton
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Comments from International Disarmament Institute Director on US Withdrawal from Iran Deal

 

Director of the International Disarmament Institute, Dr. Matthew Bolton, told Reuters this week that:

“The decision to withdraw from the Iran deal is truly irresponsible, putting political posturing above human security. The Iran nuclear deal made the world safer and less at risk of nuclear proliferation. The agreement cut off all the pathways to an Iranian bomb. This plays into the hands of hardliners in Iran who also want to scuttle the deal. It is a blow to America’s credibility, undercutting its capacity to persuade others that the US keeps its promises. The rest of the signatories of the Iran Deal – Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the EU – should forge ahead with upholding the agreement.”

He was also interviewed by WAMC Northeast Public Radio and Newsweek.

Last year, he published a more comprehensive analysis in The Hill outlining the importance of the Iran Deal, saying:

“The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the “Iran deal,” represents one of the most significant recent diplomatic victories in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons. It resulted from complex technical negotiations that do not lend themselves to snappy slogans. Nevertheless, at its heart, the agreement’s simple bargain has made the world safer.”

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