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.
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.”
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).
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Alex Brizer ’19, speaking about his experiences of disarmament education at the 2018 Mortola Society luncheon at Pace University.
The following reflection is a speech that Alex Brizer ’19 delivered to the Mortola Society luncheon, celebrating donors to Pace University on 19 April 2018, reflecting on his experiences in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2016.
Good morning everyone! Thank you for inviting me to speak today at the Mortola Society luncheon. My name is Alex Brizer. I’m a student here at Pace University, at the New York City campus, majoring in Communications and minoring in both History and Criminal Justice.
In the fall of 2016 I signed up for what seemed like an interesting class called “Global Politics of Disarmament,” not knowing a thing about the topic or professor, Dr. Matthew Bolton. What transpired over the next few months was undoubtedly the most meaningful and by far best experience I have had at this University.
Pace University’s disarmament education efforts are featured in a new collection of essays published by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). The chapter provides an overview of the development of disarmament education at Pace University and then offers detail on two undergraduate initiatives: the Model United Nations program and a service learning class on the “Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control.”
“[I]n Pace University’s experience, disarmament education is most successful when it engages students directly, in ways that are relevant to their lives and the political realities around them,” writes Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, in the chapter. “Through simulation, service learning, guest speakers and internships, we have found that disarmament education can empower people that were once marginalized from multilateral policy processes to feel that they are part of the conversations affecting their world.”
The new UNODA publication celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of the UN Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education, which was presented to the United Nations General Assembly in 2002. It contains contributions from experts from around the world, which showcase fresh perspectives, new ideas and innovations in disarmament and non-proliferation education.
Participants in the 27th UN Conference on Disarmament Issues (UNCDI) in Hiroshima lay flowers at the Cenotaph honoring those who died in the atomic bomb attack.
Full Written Remarks by Matthew Bolton, director of the International Disarmament Institute, for Session on “Education for the Next Generation on the Realities of the Atomic Bombings” at the 27th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues (UNCDI) in Hiroshima, 29-30 November 2017.
I must admit that when asked to speak on this panel, I initially felt awkward about the request. I have no personal experience with the realities of the atomic bombings here in Hiroshima, or Nagasaki. I have not myself suffered the impacts of nuclear weapons testing in the places where I live. However, in preparing for this panel I have been reflecting on how I came to know about the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons.
I spent some of the first years of my life here in Japan. Though we left when I was only three-years-old, I still have memories of Tokyo and the friends my parents made there would often visit our home in Leicester, England. As a result, I grew up with a positive regard for Japanese people and so always felt disturbed when history classes debated whether the atomic bombings “ended the war.” I could not so easily dismiss the lives of Japanese people as “collateral damage.” I could imagine people in the casualty statistics.