International Disarmament Institute News

Education and Research on Global Disarmament Policy

May 7, 2018
by mbolton
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“No Results Match Your Search”: Lack of Public Information about Nuclear Weapons Testing in Kiribati Illustrates Disregard for Survivors

As illustrated by the lack of availability of a key environmental survey (pictured above), there is very little public information available on the health and environmental risks of UK and US nuclear weapons testing at Kiritimati (Christmas) Island, now in the Republic of Kiribati.

Sydney Tisch ’20, Undergraduate Research Fellow in Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, reflects on the difficulties of finding information about UK and US nuclear weapons testing at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands: “That documents were seemingly impossible to find shows whose lives and bodies we in the West care about and whose we don’t.” Tisch helped with research for the Institute’s reports on the humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons testing in Kiribati.

When I found an email from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute in my inbox asking for applicants for an Undergraduate Research Fellow to assist in a researching on victim assistance for people impacted by nuclear testing in the Pacific, I was excited and, in retrospect, completely unaware of what the position would actually entail.

In the past I had conducted my own research projects for class, where the furthest out of my way I had ever gone was visiting the Bryant Park branch of the New York Public Library to look at documents they had stored in their archives.  I had also worked on a research project with Dr. Emily Bent, another professor at Pace University, which primarily consisted of qualitative analysis and coding of data that had already been collected.

Even after I found out I got the position, was handed a literal “List of Things to Find,” and was told that my search to find various environmental surveys would be difficult, I still could not imagine how difficult that could be.  In my mind, at most I would be taking a week’s worth of research to find one of the items on the list; it never even occurred to me that I would be unable to procure any of them.

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May 7, 2018
by mbolton
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Fiji: Addressing the Humanitarian and Human Rights Concerns of Kirisimasi (Christmas and Malden Island) Veterans

Paul Ah Poy, President of the Fiji Nuclear Veterans Association was posted to Christmas Island during the UK nuclear weapons testing program. Photo: Matthew Bolton.

Between 1957 and 1958, Fijian soldiers participated in the nine UK nuclear weapons tests at Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands, now part of the Republic of Kiribati. Test veterans, including Fijians, and civilian survivors claim their health (as well as their descendants’) was adversely affected by exposure to ionizing radiation. Their concerns are supported by independent medical research.  Though the UK government assured coverage of Fijian troops’ service-related health problems during the tests, it has offered them no assistance or compensation. Instead, the Fiji government has stepped in to offer a one-off grant to veterans to support medical and welfare costs in 2015. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which Fiji has signed but not yet ratified, obligates assistance to victims and remediation of contaminated environments, including those affected by the Christmas and Malden Islands nuclear tests. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for the role of its advocacy in achieving the treaty.

A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute documents the humanitarian, human rights and environmental harm caused by these nuclear weapons tests, finding that:

  • 276 Fijian troops were among the 15,000 personnel who participated in the UK nuclear weapons tests in and around Kiribati; Fijian dignitaries also visited.
  • Fijian soldiers and sailors were often allocated more dangerous tasks, like dumping birds killed or blinded by the tests, and even radioactive waste, into the ocean
  • Sixty years after the tests there are 32 surviving nuclear test veterans in Fiji, plus surviving spouses, children and grandchildren.
  • Many military and civilian survivors of the Christmas and Malden tests have health problems consistent with exposure to radiation; descendants also report multi-generational health problems.
  • The tests killed thousands of birds and fish. The environmental impact of the nuclear tests has not been adequately analyzed.

The report recommends that Fiji and the international community should:

  1. Sign and RATIFY the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  2. Assess and RESPOND to the humanitarian needs of survivors, including the Fijian veterans.
  3. Survey and REMEDIATE contaminated environments at Kiritimati and Malden Islands.
  4. RESPECT, protect and fulfill the human rights of nuclear test survivors.
  5. RETELL the stories of the humanitarian and environmental impact of the tests.

To read the full report, click here.

For a more comprehensive report on the impact of the Kiritimati and Malden Island tests, click here.

For a general overview of the global humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons use and testing, click here.

May 7, 2018
by mbolton
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Kiribati: Addressing the Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Harm of Nuclear Weapons Tests at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands

Teeua Tetua, President of the Association of Cancer Patients Affected by the British and American Bomb Tests, Kiritimati, January 2018. Photo: Matthew Bolton.

Between 1957 and 1962, the UK and USA tested 33 nuclear devices at Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands, now part of the Republic of Kiribati. British, Fijian, New Zealand and American veterans of the testing program and I-Kiribati civilians who lived on Kiritimati claim their health (as well as their descendants’) was adversely affected by exposure to ionizing radiation. Their concerns are supported by independent medical research. However, analysis of the ongoing humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons testing at Kiritimati and Malden Islands has been inadequate. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which Kiribati has signed but not yet ratified, obligates assistance to victims and remediation of contaminated environments, including those affected by the Christmas and Malden Islands nuclear tests. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for the role of its advocacy in achieving the treaty.

A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute documents the humanitarian, human rights and environmental harm caused by these nuclear weapons tests, finding that:

  • 43,000 military and civilian personnel from the US, UK, New Zealand and Fiji participated in the UK and US nuclear weapons tests in and around Kiribati; family members and dignitaries also visited
  • The 500 I-Kiribati civilians living on Kiritimati during the tests received little protection
  • There are at least 48 first generation survivors in Kiribati, plus 800 children and grandchildren of survivors
  • Many military and civilian survivors have health problems consistent with exposure to radiation; descendants also report multi-generational health problems
  • The tests killed thousands of birds and fish. The environmental impact of the nuclear tests has not been adequately analyzed

The report recommends that Kiribati and the international community should:

  1. Sign and RATIFY the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  2. Assess and RESPOND to the humanitarian needs of survivors, especially at Kiritimati
  3. Survey and REMEDIATE contaminated environments at Kiritimati and Malden Islands
  4. RESPECT, protect and fulfill the human rights of nuclear test survivors
  5. RETELL the stories of the humanitarian and environmental impact of the tests

To read the full report, click here.

For a related report on the impact of the Kiritimati and Malden Island tests on Fijian veterans, click here.

For a general overview of the global humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons use and testing, click here.

November 5, 2017
by mbolton
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Tribute to Bishop Cornelius Korir

Bishop Korir helps a family rebuild their house after the post-election violence of 2007/2008.

It is with great sadness that the International Disarmament Institute has learned of the passing of a dear friend and partner, Bishop Cornelius Korir of the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret in Kenya. At great risk to himself, Bishop Korir intervened personally to address violence in the North Rift region of Kenya, notably in conflict following elections in 1992, 1997 and 2007/2008. He was known to step between groups of fighters, mobilize care for wounded people, build connections across lines of hostility and encourage antagonists to seek healing and reconciliation.

“We wish to offer our deepest condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of Bishop Korir, as well as the Diocese of Eldoret,” said Dr. Matthew Bolton, Director of the International Disarmament Institute. “He was a courageous witness for peace, social justice and reconciliation in Kenya, but his voice also resonated far beyond East Africa, inspiring many of us around the world to work for peace at the grassroots level.”

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October 24, 2017
by mbolton
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Analysis of ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize-Winning Advocacy Campaign

In an article for Just Security, Director of the International Disarmament Institute Matthew Bolton and two leaders of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Beatrice Fihn and Elizabeth Minor, examine the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning advocacy effort culminating in the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

ICAN’s strategy was primarily a discursive one. We aimed to change the way that people talk, think and feel about nuclear weapons, changing their social meaning from symbols of status to outdated, dangerous machines that have repulsive effects.

Representatives of the nuclear-states often marginalize those calling disarmament by dismissing them as deluded. In her protest outside the room where states were negotiating the TPNW, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley chided them, saying “we have to be realistic.” However, ICAN campaigners called attention to the discrepancies between these claims to “realism” and the mystification that surrounded these nuclear weapons.

To change how nuclear weapons were discussed, we brought nuclear weapons into new arenas where humanitarianism, human rights and environmentalism are regular conversations, and to inject these discourses into traditional nuclear forums.

We demanded from states the meaningful participation of survivors, affected communities, medical professionals, faith leaders, humanitarian agencies, activists and academics in the nuclear conversation. We pointed out when forums and panels excluded women, people from the Global South and those who have experienced nuclear weapons’ effects.

To read the full article, click here.

October 16, 2017
by mbolton
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Panel at UN on Addressing Nuclear Harm

Side event on addressing nuclear harm during the UN General Assembly First Committee, chaired by Trinidad and Tobago.

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute co-hosted a panel at the UN last Thursday on addressing the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons use and testing.

The session was opened by Ambassador Pennelope Beckles of Trinidad and Tobago and chaired by Elizabeth Minor of Article 36.

Bonnie Docherty of the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic provided an overview of the victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance provisions in the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Erin Hunt of Mines Acton Canada offered insights on lessons learned for victim assistance from implementing such provisions in the landmine and cluster munition ban treaties.

Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute provided a summary of his new report “Humanitarian and Environmental Action to Address Nuclear Harm.” He particularly urged on states to draw on lessons learned from implementing the clearance and demining provisions in other humanitarian disarmament treaties.

The event was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung New York Office.

October 16, 2017
by mbolton
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The Humanitarian Impact of Drones

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute launched a new report, co-edited by Article 36 and Reaching Critical Will, on the humanitarian impact of armed drones last Friday, in a side event during the UN General Assembly’s First Committee deliberations. With contributions from academics, legal analysts, and survivors of armed drones, this report aims to refocus the debate about drones on the harm caused to people by these weapons as specific technologies of violence. It examines the significant challenges raised by drones to international law, human rights, ethics and morality, peace and security, environmental protection, development, transparency, surveillance, privacy, policing, gender equality, and more.

To download the report, click here.

To learn more about the side event, click here.

October 8, 2017
by mbolton
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The Role of the Pace Community in the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Campaign to Ban the Bomb

Pace University students along with their professors Matthew Bolton, PhD, and Emily Welty, PhD, have been working intensely for three years on negotiations of a nuclear weapons ban treaty with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) that on 6 October was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017.

ICAN has led the way in recent years in campaigning for an international treaty to make nuclear weapons illegal. The Nobel Prize adds momentum to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted at the United Nations by more than 120 countries on July 7 of this year, and should help the process of ratification, with 50 more countries needed. The treaty makes nuclear arms illegal and calls for assistance to victims and remediation of environmental damage.

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October 8, 2017
by mbolton
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Humanitarian and Environmental Action to Address Nuclear Harm

The development, production, testing and use of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian and ecological consequences on people and environments around the world. ‘Nuclear harm’ – the damage caused by blast, incendiary and radioactive effects of nuclear weapons use, testing and production, as well as by other nuclear technologies – poses threats to the pursuit of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute explores possibilities for new global humanitarian and environmental action to address nuclear harm.

Due to advocacy by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), recognized by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) established ‘positive obligations’ on affected states to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and to remediate contaminated environments. To ensure that the burden does not fall unduly on affected states, the TPNW requires all states to engage in international cooperation and assistance to achieve these and the treaty’s other goals. While the TPNW does not explicitly cover all forms of nuclear harm, and the universalization of the treaty may take some time, its implementation offers the opportunity to build a normative framework and institutional architecture for humanitarian and environmental action to address nuclear harm.

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September 6, 2017
by mbolton
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Briefing Paper on Disarmament Education for UN General Assembly First Committee 2017

The International Disarmament Institute has provided an article on the disarmament education policy agenda for this year’s First Committee Briefing Book, which provides guidance to delegates and advocates attended the UN General Assembly’s meetings this coming fall 2017 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 UN, “International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, other international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, religious leaders, parliamentarians, academics and the hibakusha” as representatives of the “public conscience” in pressing for nuclear disarmament. This framing represents a welcome turn toward a more vigorous approach to disarmament and nonproliferation education.

To read our article, click here.

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