Global Arms Trade Treaty agreed
Amnesty International, which campaigned very actively on the issue, has welcomed the UN General Assembly’s agreement at the start of April on conventional weapons sales, prohibiting exports to states which would be in violation of arms embargoes or in situations where they could be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorism. There are, however, many different issues involved even in implementing the treaty, including ratification, implementation, the fact that non-state parties buying weapons are not included, and that arms exporters and exporting countries will look for loopholes. CAAT, the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade has said that the Treaty risks legitimising the arms trade while doing effectively nothing to stop exports by the world largest arms producing companies and countries, see CAAT website [See Editorial this issue for exploration of some wider issues].
Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland said, in welcoming the Treaty: “The arms trade is worth billions every year. There were huge economic and political forces opposed to this treaty. In the last two weeks of negotiations thousands of people across Ireland collected petitions, wrote letters, sent emails or phoned embassies to keep up the pressure on key states like the United States. The Irish Government played a formidable role in negotiations. It was one of the treaty’s strongest supporters and its representatives in New York worked extremely hard over the last two weeks to ensure a strong treaty was agreed.” http://www.amnesty.ie. For the AI’s campaigning on the issue since 2003 see this video.
The Arms Trade Treaty text is available here .
Sustaining Activism’s Fire: Caring, Campaigning, Creating
This is happening on Saturday 20th April, 10am – 6.15pm, at Mount Druid, Castletown Geoghegan, County Westmeath, organised by Afri in association with Friends of the Earth. This event is aimed at activists and those interested in the preservation of the planet and seeks to explore the elements that enable sustainable activism at a personal, group and movement level; and to promote an increased awareness of the global and justice dimensions of environmental issues. The venue is close to the Hill of Uisneach, traditionally believed to be the place where the four provinces of Ireland meet.
There will be contributions from activists from previous campaigns – such as the Dunnes Stores Strike and the anti-nuclear campaign – together with an input from Abjata Khalif from Afri’s partner organisation, the Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network.There will be space for participants to share their own stories and examine what helps to keep the fires of activism burning. In order to arrange food and transport participants are asked to book in advance. Booking online here or by contacting Afri at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01 8827563 for a booking form. The brochure can be downloaded from the Afri’s website.
Afri’s Famine Walk 2013
This will take place on Saturday 18th May 2013 in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo. For the first time since its inception in 1988, the Afri Famine Walk will complete the journey from Louisburgh to Delphi Lodge – the exact route of the original ‘journey of horror’ of March 30th/31st 1849. The Famine Walk is a solemn act of respect, remembrance and solidarity with the forgotten people who died as a result of poverty and hunger in Ireland and continue to die throughout the world today. The welcome being extended to walkers by Delphi Lodge this year is rich in symbolism - representing a much needed ‘opening of the gates’. Further details will be available soon on Afri’s website. Please contact Afri at email@example.com or phone 01 8827563 if you would like to receive information about the walk.
Shamrock, Shame & Shannon
Dublin, 1st April 2013; Actors Raymond Keane, Dylan Tighe & Donal O'Kelly participated in an Afri event at Dáil Éireann marking the 10th anniversary of the illegal Iraq war and highlighting Ireland's complicity in war crimes and torture. See short film or Afri’s website.
Here is Afri’s statement on the Tenth Anniversary of the Iraq War:
“As we embark on Ireland’s own decade of remembrance it is crucial to reflect on the last decade and more of complicity in disastrous and immoral onslaughts on Afghanistan and Iraq. Even if these wars were not illegal – lacking UN authorisation – they have proved catastrophic for the populations and environments involved and in their bitter legacy of resentment and enmity. As a Security Council member in 2001-02 Ireland failed utterly to express our Constitution’s commitment to “the pacific settlement of international disputes” (Art. 29.2), thus abetting the undermining of UN authority on foot of unfounded claims about weapons of mass destruction. Our failure to confront the so-called War on Terror is also revealed in the indifference of successive governments, and the Garda, to the evidence of Ireland’s involvement with illegal rendition flights for torture.
This complicity has been detailed by Shannonwatch, and criticised by the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and, this year, the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative. The call from our own Human Rights Council in 2007 for an effective inspection regime for all relevant flights has been met with callous indifference. The new Chief Executive of Shannon Airport has recently declared that military traffic “has been in the DNA of Shannon for many years… [;] it’s lucrative and we are certainly going to go after it as much as possible.” This obscene metaphor blithely ignores the real genetic legacy of war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam. And no-one checks whether equally appalling weaponry, such as depleted uranium, currently flows through Shannon’s bloodstream.
Official Ireland’s line is ‘whatever you do, say nothing, hearnothing, see nothing.’ But in the real world, DNA is a complex of different strands. Ireland’s ‘DNA’ contains a vital strand of peacekeeping, non-aggression and friendly co-operation. This has been shamefully suppressed by our political establishment and police authorities, all-too-conscious of their imagined role among the high and mighty, all-too-contemptuous of basic human rights at home and abroad. Our conniving in illegal aggression and the denial of human rights is a lamentable stain on Ireland’s role in world affairs. The continuing pressure for further aggression in Iran and elsewhere makes it urgent that we as Irish citizens hold our government to account, not merely to correct a vast historic injustice but to prevent even more death, destruction and denial in the future.”
G8 2013: Time for a fairer world
A wide variety of groups and organisations are organising activities to precede or mark the G8 summit in Fermanagh (17th – 18th June). A group is meeting under the aegis of the ICTU to publicise activities and organise a march and rally in Belfast. This group has made the following statement:
“Civil society organisations have come together to offer people an opportunity to challenge the policies and priorities of the G8 leaders who meet in Northern Ireland in June 2013. Our organisations represent many different interests but we are united in a commitment to the creation of a world that is fair and just for all.
We believe that achieving social, economic and environmental justice must be central to political decision-making. We will coordinate a festival of events to coincide with the G8 summit, including a major public demonstration in Belfast, calling for a fairer world. Any civil society organisation wishing to become involved should contact Kevin Doherty at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, on 028 90247940 [Belfast number], or at firstname.lastname@example.org”
Inclusive Peacebuilding Locally and Globally
April 10th is the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and the day of an INCORE/University of Ulster seminar with ‘Permeating boundaries and challenging conventional views through Active Dialogue’ as the major focus. The keynote speaker is Dr Olivier Urbain, Director of Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, Tokyo. He will propose original and new ideas concerning peace building and dialogue, based on his research of Dr Daisaka Ikeda's philosophy and practice. Ikeda's philosophy has been applied mostly in cultural and structural peace building. Respondent: Dr Duncan Morrow. Chair: Professor Brandon Hamber, Director INCORE, University of Ulster. Time: 9.30am-1.00pm, Wednesday 10th April 2013, Room 82A31, Belfast Campus, University of Ulster. RSVP to reserve your place by contacting Mrs Janet Farren email:JE.Farren@ulster.ac.ukor call Janet at INCORE, 028 – 71675575 or visit the website
Human rights and Belfast/Good Friday Agreement
‘Mapping the Rollback? Human rights provisions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 15 years on’, taking place in Belfast on 26th April, is a full day conference timed to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in April 2013. Significant commitments were made in 1998 and the Agreements and commissions which flowed from it to ensure human rights (including equality) provisions were mainstreamed into the peace settlement. In contrast to this, increasing concern has been expressed by CAJ and other human rights organisations that there are, at present, persistent attempts at a ‘rollback’ of the human rights provisions of the Agreements, e.g. the failure to implement commitments to a Bill of Rights, Irish language legislation, an anti-poverty strategy and the ending of emergency legislation; retrogression or slow progress in areas of policing and justice reform or equality commitments.
This conference, featuring prominent speakers from civil society, aims to discuss and map an alternative view. The conference format will involve panel discussions and specialist sessions on: Protection of Rights Frameworks, Substantive Equality, Policing, Security and Justice Reform and Dealing with the Past. The event is organised by CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice in collaboration with the Transitional Justice Institute of the University of Ulster and the Human Rights Centre at Queen's University Belfast. Booking is accessible via CAJ website or directly here.
Corrymeela open events
Corrymeela open events coming up at the Ballycastle (Co Antrim) Centre include ‘Decoding your body – a way through’ (working experientially, focusing on the importance of the body in sustaining and maintaining psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being) from 3rd – 5th May, a Friends Weekend from 31st May – 2nd June, a Girard Study Weekend with Duncan Morrow from 7th – 9th June, and a Silent Retreat from 4th – 6th October. Full details on the Corrymeela website which has lots of other information about the work of the Corrymeela Community.
The aim of Co-operation Ireland is 'to underpin political agreement on the island of Ireland by building positive relationships at community level, both within Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, through the promotion of mutual understanding and co-operation'. Full details of some of the work at http://www.cooperationireland.org/ including the cross-border Maracycle event, taking place this year from 29th – 30th June.
Spirit of Enniskillen Trust closes
As recorded in some media both locally and elsewhere, the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust, founded by Gordon Wilson in 1989, working with young people and having an office in Belfast, decided in mid-March to close due to a large pensions deficit, with several jobs being lost. For Trustees statement see http://www.soetrust.org/
Not such a d’Hondt-ing prospect?
In relation to the NI Assembly’s review of the d’Hondt voting process, the de Borda Institute has recommended an inclusive, non-sectarian polity, part of which – the matrix vote – could also help other ex-conflict zones, Kenya for example, to choose a government of national unity. De Borda points out that some parliaments form their power-sharing governments in a purely verbal process but, in a plural society, this can be protracted. Iraq took 249 days; Belgium 541. A few post-conflict societies have rules, but these too are problematic. Northern Ireland has designations, Bosnia ethno-religious labels, and Lebanon over a dozen confessional distinctions. In all three, the chosen formula perpetuates the very sectarianism it was meant to obviate. Switzerland too relies on party labels. “The matrix vote is accurate, robust, inclusive and proportional. Furthermore, it is ‘ethno-colour blind’. It is thus ideally suited to post-conflict jurisdictions. The de Borda Institute has asked the Assembly Review to recommend the matrix vote”. See http://www.deborda.org
As always there are many interesting courses of various shades of green coming up through Cultivate website including a series of free workshops in Ennis, Limerick City, Nenagh and Portarlington, delivered by Cultivate in partnership with four local authorities during April 2013. These explore how we can nurture our communities to be healthier and more sustainable, backed by local economies that are stronger and more resilient.
Oslo conferences on humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons
Over 500 campaigners from around the world attended the Civil Society Forum organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on 2-3 March, while 132 states, international organisations including the Red Cross / Red Crescent, and civil society movements represented by ICAN participated in the international conference hosted by the Norwegian Government on 4-5 March.
Paths of Peace Project, Austria, July and August
The Friends of the Dolomites are working to restore mountain paths many of which were used during the First World War. They have two projects in July and August for hardy volunteers (working at 1275m!). Volunteers are needed to reconstruct old trails, as well as helping to excavate and reconstruct historical sites. More details from www.vsi.ie (including 500 international volunteer projects worldwide) or phone 01 – 8551011.
'Seek the welfare of the city' – The prophetic mandate of the Church
This is the title of the Church and PeaceInternational Conference 2013 taking place at the CommunityChristusbruderschaft in Selbitz, Germany from May31st – June 2nd. The conference flyer is available for download at www.church-and-peace.org/events.html There will be separate programme for teenagers and young adults; child carecan be arranged, the fee for this depends on children’s age.
Drones quilt in England
The Drones Quilt is a project of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in England that hopes to challenge decision makers and the public to think about the real people, and their stories, who are killed by drones strikes. FORE is inviting people to make a square of a quilt decorated with their name and the name of someone killed by a drone. FOR believes drones are inhumane, not only are they ineffective and imprecise, but they reduce human beings to statistics, little red dots on a black screen. Participation is possible up until the 1st May, details are on the website at dronesquilt.wordpress.com The quilt will then tour the country, raising awareness and being used as an educational tool with school aged children. For more information, please contact email@example.com
Belfast Peace Trail meeting
There will be a meeting to plan a local peace trail for Belfast, as part of an overall Irish Peace Trail, on Monday 15th April from 7.30 – 9.00 pm at Corrymeela House, 8 Upper Crescent, Belfast, organised by INNATE. This meeting will look at what peace and justice features should be included and start to plan the content. Anyone interested is welcome, contact INNATE for further information as well as looking at readings in NN 200 for background. [This piece also appeared in NN207
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