The threats from climate change and nuclear weapons are increasingly seen as issues that could lead to the extinction of human civilization as we know it, not to mention countless other lifeforms on the planet. Nuclear weapons are incompatible with Utopia, this much is clear, but how do we get rid of them?
ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to pressure governments to negotiate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and since then the issue has been getting more and more coverage in the media. Yet this coverage tends to portray nuclear weapons campaigners at best as naïve and at worst as collaborators with the enemy, and in all cases we are told that it’s impossible. We disagree.
One of the keys to the existence of nuclear weapons is that there are financial institutions still willing to invest in them but if we would stop dealing with these financial institutions, nuclear weapons would be financially unviable.
Divestment is a tool that has been effective since the days of Nelson Mandela and a growing movement to divest from nuclear weapons is achieving startling results. In New York, a campaign is underway to have the city’s pension funds divested from banks and corporations that profit from nuclear weapon production.
But how can such a campaign be repeated all over the world? Our presenters will show us how.
Pressenza NYC News-show about the nuclear divestment campaign with Anthony Donovan, Director of the documentary ”Good Thinking;” Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will; and Susi Snyder, of Don’t Bank on the Bomb. Hosted by David Andersson, Pressenza NYC. We discussed the campaign in the US, including updates on what’s going on in New York, the New York-based Amalgamated Bank becoming the first US bank to announce that it will not invest in nuclear weapons production and the recently formed NYC Divest Group, which is working with the City Council to divest NYC municipal pension funds from weapons production. We also covered the campaign in Europe and were surprised to have in the studio the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in 2017.
Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, and Carlos Umaña, ICAN coordinator from Costa Rica, came to Madrid at the invitation of Spanish MPs and anti-nuclear activists and organisations to support efforts to promote the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The inviting organisations included World without Wars and Violence who took the opportunity to talk to ICAN about the II World March for Peace and Nonviolence, scheduled for 2019.
Pressenza had the opportunity to interview Beatrice and Carlos to find out why Spain should support the Ban Treaty and what activities they were doing while in Madrid.
The complete transcript and translation is below the video. Video produced by Álvaro Orus.
We are here to really push the Spanish government and encourage the Spanish people to push their government to join the treaty.
We’re here to talk to students at the university, parliamentarians, maybe someone in the government, the mayor of Madrid, just different people in the Spanish public to really get them to understand that their government is going in one direction and that’s not really what the Spanish people want, we think.
So to raise awareness of the treaty and make sure that the government gets a lot of pressure to join it.
(In Congress) And parliamentarians have really played a major role in realizing the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and I’m extremely grateful to every single one of these 91 parliamentarians here in Spain for taking action today.
And, today we continue the fight for the eradication of these immoral weapons and now we look to parliamentarians to help us to promote the signature and ratifications of this treaty by all countries, but more importantly here in Spain; a country that has previously been a champion for disarmament.
I mean parliamentarians are the representatives of the people and they have a huge role to play in shifting government position whether or not they’re in government and engaging parliamentarians is really a key priority for us, because they are the ones who will create this shift in policy that we need.
And we have a pledge that parliamentarians can sign to commit themselves to work to get their governments to join the treaty, because we know that it’s hard to shift the government but we need to start somewhere.
So the more parliamentarians that are engaged, and we’re going to encourage them to do motions, to debate the issue in Parliament, to ask questions to the government, to ask questions to the Ministry of Defence, you know, all these things as follow-up.
So to get their commitment to do this work is really important for us and it’s a good tool to show the building of a movement and the building of political pressure. We can look at Italy, look we have a hundred there, and we can look at Norway or Germany and look here’s parliamentarians thinking the same thing and that can also be a sense of comfort for parliamentarians.
I’m not alone, maybe my government or the Prime Minister won’t change their mind right now but look here, there’s things happening all the time.
(In Congress) And why would a country that has banned other inhumane weapons like biological weapons or chemical weapons anti-personnel landmines or cluster munitions not want to ban nuclear weapons?
Is it a lack of political will?
It is definitely not a lack of the will of the people, because here in 1986 the people of Spain made it clear that it would not accept nuclear weapons on Spanish soil as part of a deal for Spain to maintain its membership of NATO.
And the Spanish government needs to ask itself, does it represent the will of Donald Trump or the will of the Spanish people, who have made it clear that they reject nuclear weapons?
I mean Spain as all the other NATO countries have been pressured a lot by the nuclear-armed states in NATO, so, the UK, US and France, to not participate in the negotiations and join this treaty.
However, Spain has also decided through a referendum in the 80s that they don’t want nuclear weapons here, and they want to be a nuclear-weapon-free country. So, there’s actually not anything preventing Spain from joining this treaty. They can still be a member of NATO and join this treaty.
I mean the United States will say that they can’t, but looking at the legal language in the treaty and the legal requirements of NATO states, you don’t have to be participating in mass-murdering civilians as a NATO member.
You can choose to not participate in this weapon. NATO members have joined the landmines treaty, the cluster munitions convention despite the fact that some big powerful members of NATO didn’t, and that’s operational weapons, weapons that are used together, and they still managed to do that.
So, we see no reason why Spain couldn’t just basically implement the decision in the 80s by joining this treaty.
(In Congress) And by joining the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons Spain has the opportunity to bring democracy to disarmament, to be a leader in Europe and in the world in terms of advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
The responsible thing to do for Spain is to declare its opposition to the use and modernization of nuclear weapons by strengthening the international norms against them.
Well, we, the ICAN campaign, are promoting the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
I was invited to participate in the European Humanist Forum, which took place here in Madrid about a month and a half ago.
And so, there was a meeting with members of the Spanish Congress at that time and the members here, because in reality here in Spain there is a rather large movement, which only needed to be dug a little to bring it to the surface.
There is a strong sense of rejection towards nuclear weapons.
There is also a history of prohibiting nuclear weapons that came with the 1986 referendum to remain a NATO member.
Then, in that meeting with the MPs we wanted to promote the Ban Treaty more.
The MPs commit themselves to promoting the Ban Treaty, and to getting their country to sign and ratify the ban treaty.
So, we managed to get more than 90 signatures in Congress.
Upon obtaining these 90 signatures our executive director, Beatrice Fihn, came.
Beatrice received the signatures, and we also had a forum in the Complutense University in which the rector of the university, and Federico Mayor Zaragoza, participated.
Now we are going to have a meeting with the mayor’s office, with the City of Madrid, with Mayor Manuela Carmena, and several things are happening.
This is just the beginning. It is the way in which we are seeing different connections and how this movement is awakening here in Spain as well.