International Disarmament Institute News

October 8, 2018
by mbolton
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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.

May 17, 2018
by mbolton
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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 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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“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.

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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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 15, 2017
by mbolton
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Report on Strengthening Positive Obligations in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Accepted as Official UN Working Paper

A summary of Pace University International Disarmament Institute research on strengthening positive obligations in the draft Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty has been accepted as an official working paper by the UN negotiating conference.

The working paper recommends:

  • Strengthening the human rights and environmental framing of the preamble, particularly regarding the impact on victims, indigenous peoples, gender equality and sustainable development,
  • Making victim assistance an obligation and elaborating further on its necessary activities and institutional arrangements,
  • Making environmental remediation an obligation and elaborating further on its necessary activities and institutional arrangements,
  • Including a risk reduction education obligation in the environmental remediation provision,
  • Establishing obligations to promote and universalize the norms stigmatizing nuclear weapons, condemn violations and support disarmament education,
  • Specifying further the types of national implementation measures to be put in place including legal, administrative and other measures,
  • Adding transparency and reporting obligations to ensure accountability in implementation,
  • Specifying further international cooperation and assistance measures, including the establishment of a voluntary trust fund to aid implementation of positive obligations and other provisions.

To read the working paper, click here.

To read the full research report, click here.

May 31, 2017
by mbolton
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Improving Positive Obligations in the Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The humanitarian framing of the Draft Convention for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (DCPNW) and its positive obligations – on victim assistance, environmental remediation, universalization, national implementation and international cooperation and assistance – offer the potential for tremendous normative progress on nuclear weapons. They focus policy and legal attention on the unacceptable harm caused by nuclear weapons to people and the environment, rather than abstract and unverifiable notions of “deterrence.”

However, a new report from the International Disarmament Institute compares the DCPNW with other humanitarian disarmament instruments – such as the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty, Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War and Convention on Cluster Munitions, showing that there is room for improvement as states turn the DCPNW into a final treaty at the UN in New York in June and July 2017.

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