International Disarmament Institute News

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 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.

July 28, 2017
by mbolton
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How the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Helped Expose Disarmament’s Weakness on the Environment

In this new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute and the Toxic Remnants of War Project, Doug Weir, explores the implications of the new Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty for the protection of the environment:

The successful adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 was a significant step forward for efforts to stigmatise, and ultimately ban, the final weapon of mass destruction not addressed by a specific legal prohibition. Much has, and will continue to be written on the treaty’s potential impact on ossified state-centric debates about nuclear security. The Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons intentionally posed a direct challenge to the rarefied world of nuclear experts and think tanks, particularly those captured by, and actively participating in, the prevailing state security discourse. However, beyond the conflict between the state and human security advocates, there was another story playing out, and it was a story that highlighted the fact that disarmament doesn’t really do “the environment” as effectively as it should. Addressing this weakness would strengthen future humanitarian disarmament initiatives.

To read the full report, click here.

Weir is Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies’ Marjan Centre at King’s College London and coordinates the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and manages the Toxic Remnants of War Project.

July 8, 2017
by mbolton
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Op-Ed: UN nuclear weapons treaty takes most significant step since Cold War

 

Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s  International Disarmament Institute, published the following op-ed in The Hill on 7 July 2017 on the new Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.

While U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley condemned the North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test this week at the U.N. Security Council meeting and threatened military action, a very different conversation was happening elsewhere in the building.

The majority of the world’s countries were negotiating a new treatybanning nuclear weapons, which was adopted today by a vote of 122 in favor and only one vote against and one abstention. It is the most significant development in nuclear politics since the end of the Cold War, placing nuclear weapons in the same category of international law as other weapons of mass destruction or that cause unacceptable harm: chemical and biological weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

June 15, 2017
by mbolton
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Side Event on Positive Obligations in a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute will co-host a panel on positive obligations in the draft Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty at United Nations Headquarters, 1.15-2.45pm, 21 June 2017 in Conference Room B.

During the March negotiation session of the nuclear weapons ban treaty, 27 states plus the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the ICRC and civil society called for the new legal instrument to include not only a comprehensive set of prohibitions but also positive obligations on states parties. The first draft of the treaty responded to these calls and incorporated general provisions on positive obligations. Negotiating states should now work to expand and strengthen the provisions in order to maximize their effectiveness.

This panel discussion and dialogue will assess the positive obligations in the first draft of the treaty, suggest ways to improve them, and highlight why such revisions would be particularly important to the prohibition treaty. Including positive obligations would enhance the treaty, its operation and impact and is consistent with recent international weapons prohibition treaties. Such positive obligations could include:

  • Rights and remedial measures (e.g. environmental remediation, risk education, victim assistance),
  • Promotion of the treaty and of its norms (e.g. universalization and disarmament education),
  • International cooperation and assistance to implement the above two sets of obligations.

By promoting the inclusion of strong positive obligations in the new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons, this event will help ensure that the treaty not only builds on previous humanitarian disarmament treaties but it also contributes to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.

Featured speakers include:

  • H.E. David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN
  • Roland Oldham, Moruroa e Tatou (MET), President of an organization advocating for the rights of victims of nuclear testing in Tahiti
  • Bonnie Docherty, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, expert on humanitarian disarmament law
  • Erin Hunt, Mines Action Canada, expert on victim assistance
  • Elizabeth Minor, Article 36, expert on humanitarian disarmament
  • Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute

This event in co-sponsored by the UN Mission of Ireland, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, Mines Action Canada, Article 36 and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Click here for the full flyer.

To read an analysis of positive obligations in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty by the International Disarmament Institute, click here.

June 14, 2017
by mbolton
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The Nuclear Weapons Ban and Human Security for All

As government gather in New York to begin a second round of talks on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, the International Disarmament Institute’s Matthew Bolton assesses the treaty’s draft from a human security perspective. The report, published by Friedrich Ebert Foundation, argues that:

  • Current negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban treaty have revived the efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. Similar to other types of weapons, it is hoped that the stigmatization and prohibition of nuclear weapons will pave the way towards their elimination.
  • The Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (DCPNW) offers a strong basis for negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban in June and July 2017. If adopted, it would be the most significant shift in nuclear politics since the end of the Cold War and a policy victory for human security.
  • While finalizing the treaty text in a timely fashion, states should still seize the opportunity to enhance its human security dimensions, for instance by incorporating references to human rights and environmental law; bolstering the core prohibitions by adding an explicit prohibition on financing nuclear weapons production; and by strengthening positive obligations on victim assistance, environmental remediation and disarmament education.
  • The final treaty should offer nuclear-armed and nuclear alliance states a pathway for engagement with and eventual accession to the agreement.

To read the full report, click here.

To read the International Disarmament Institute’s more in-depth analysis of the draft treaty’s positive obligations on victim assistance, environmental remediation and norm promotion, click here.

December 15, 2016
by mbolton
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Op-Ed: Saving Rhinos while Protecting Human Rights: The Value of the Arms Trade Treaty for Global Anti-Poaching Efforts

Republished from the Forum on the Arms Trade’s “Looking Ahead 2017” blog series.

The world is facing what the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has described as an “Environmental Crime Crisis,” with an unprecedented slaughter of large mammals, particularly in the African continent. More than 100,000 elephants have been killed by poachers in the last five years and, over the same period, the number of rhinoceroses poached has increased every year.

The illicit wildlife trade is now increasingly sophisticated, dangerous and globalized, integrated with armed groups and organized crime. It has been fueled by a proliferation of military-grade guns in unstable regions with high concentrations of rhinos and elephants. Since 2014, the UN Security Council has identified poaching as a regional security threat in Africa (S/RES/2134 and S/RES/2136). This month UNEP released a new report showing how environmental crime “threatens peace and security.” In 2017, the Arms Trade Treaty and other international measures could offer tools to address these problems in an integrated way.

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