Otago Peace Lecture 2008

Kate Dewes


11 August 2008

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak with you this evening. It is an honour to be here. I wish to begin by acknowledging one of our own visionary leaders - the late David Lange who gave the Inaugural Peace Lecture here in 2004 - his last public appearance. A few months before, he opened the Gandhi exhibition at the Canterbury Museum on the eve of his 60th birthday and the day he heard that he probably had less than a year to live. (see photo)

As he described how Gandhi was "shot dead with three shots, and died with God's name on his lips", the tears flowed. Full of emotion, he concluded ... 'We have the capacity to love and be loved. They're pretty old fashioned words. That's the guts of it; and that's why I'm here tonight'.

Mahatma Gandhi epitomised a leader with a vision of love and hope. He was strengthened in his struggle for peace by his deep faith in all the major religions which he respected and practiced daily. He devoted his life to the promotion of non-violence and in turn he inspired many great leaders like Martin Luther King, Aung San Soo Kyi, Mandela and others. He now stands outside the Wellington Railway Station as a constant reminder to our politicians and peoples of the values he aspired to.

Today we live under the threat of so called "terrorism", and the urgency of the devastating effects of climate change. When I began my peace journey 33 years ago we knew the terror of the threat of nuclear annihilation. There were enough nuclear weapons to kill everyone on earth 24 times over and the potential to poison mother earth forever. Today the threat is still there. There are over 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert and stockpiles of over 26,000 spread among 9 countries. This will grow with the nuclear power renaissance and the risks of nuclear proliferation from the enrichment of spent nuclear fuel.

In the early 1980s it was the inspiring actions of the indigenous peoples from Belau, the Solomons and Vanuatu fighting to declare their Pacific Islands nuclear free; the thousands of ordinary women camped outside the US bases at Greenham Common; the millions of anti-nuclear protestors marching throughout Europe and Australia demanding change, and the leadership by some New Zealand activists and politicians which inspired me to dedicate my life to peacemaking.

Aotearoa/New Zealand Peace History

Aotearoa/New Zealand has a proud heritage of peace and disarmament. The Moriori and Waitaha peoples were committed to peace and non-violence. Gandhi was inspired by the leadership of the prophets Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi who led the people of Parihaka in non-violent direct actions to save their land and culture from the colonisers.

During the First and Second World War many Christians and people of other faiths were conscientious objectors - some were even imprisoned for up to five years. Opposition to nuclear testing by our Western allies in Australia and the Pacific was led by Quakers and others. In 1963 the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) collected over 80,000 signatures calling for a Southern Hemisphere nuclear free zone. In 1972 Auckland CND launched another petition (81,475) and Peace Media and Greenpeace organised an international Peace Fleet to put their bodies on the line by sailing into the test site. When the French Navy rammed a protest boat, the worldwide publicity helped embolden the Labour Party, led by another visionary leader Norman Kirk, to make resolute anti-nuclear election promises.

In 1973, New Zealand joined Australia to take France to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking a legal ruling against atmospheric testing and an immediate injunction to stop them. The ICJ accepted the case and approved the injunction request. When France indicated it would continue testing, Prime Minister Kirk immediately announced that a frigate, with a Cabinet Minister on board, would sail to the test site to mobilise world opinion to help persuade France to comply with the ICJ's order. International media coverage ensured that over 800 million people saw the frigate approaching Moruroa on television.

During the mid-late 1970s, public anger at visits by US nuclear warships spilled over into defiant protests by the Peace Squadron, also attracting international media interest. The Squadrons were the result of Reverend George Armstrong's vision of a "public liturgy" by non-violently confronting the agents of terrorism on the water. Inspired by these actions thousands of citizens marched and petitioned for a nuclear free country, and in 1980 began declaring homes, schools and local councils nuclear free zones. A network of over 300 small neighbourhood and other independent peace groups, not bound by political ideology, formed throughout the country. This resulted in widespread public participation, and created accountability in most electorates to which political parties are still extremely sensitive. The nuclear free legislation was passed in 1987 and is now part of our identity as a small but leading player in the international disarmament scene.

The peace movement has continued to take direct action on a range of issues and promote a policy of neutral peacemaking and an independent foreign policy. There has been ongoing opposition to the ANZUS alliance; US bases at Harewood, Tangimoana and Black Birch; the Waihopai Spy Base and the purchase of the ANZAC frigates. Groups have scrutinised New Zealand's UN voting on disarmament; challenged the government to have nuclear weapons outlawed at the International Court of Justice; requested representation on government delegations to UN conferences; called for one day's military spending to be redirected to peacemaking and peace education; and encouraged various governments to lead on disarmament and cooperative security.

Although not all these initiatives have been successful, governments have been forced to respond. They have gradually delinked from military alliances and restructured the defence forces to phase out offensive capabilities such as strike aircraft and frigates, in favour of forces more suited to territorial defence and UN peacekeeping roles. It is now bipartisan policy to create security by developing regional security through diplomacy and mediation; the pursuit of disarmament and arms control; addressing global environmental concerns; providing development assistance; building trade and cultural links, maintaining New Zealand's nuclear-free status and promoting a nuclear-free South Pacific. In the last budget the government earmarked $200,000 for a Peacemaking Feasibility Study to look at how New Zealand can expand on its role in resolving conflicts in the world, assisting in post conflict situations. It would also take account of the experience of other small countries, like Norway in the Middle East and Sri Lanka, in helping prevent conflicts, getting negotiations going in conflict situations, working out ceasefire arrangements and helping with reconciliation. Another initiative which helped cement New Zealand's anti-nuclear position internationally was the World Court Project. It was the brainchild of retired magistrate Harold Evans in 1987 and it was led internationally by key New Zealand activists. It sought to obtain an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal status of nuclear weapons. In May 1992 the project was launched in Geneva, led by three leading international citizen organisations: the International Peace Bureau, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.

Through the mechanism of a resolution in the World Health Assembly in May 1993, support was generated among particularly the 110-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) led by countries espousing different faiths and cultures such as Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Iran, Egypt, Mexico, and small South Pacific states. The NAM sponsored a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution later that year requesting an advisory opinion from the Court on the question: "Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance permitted under international law?" Heavy intimidation from the NATO nuclear weapon states prevented a vote. However, in 1994, the National government, bowing to strong public pressure, broke ranks as the only member of the Western alliance to vote in support of the re-tabled UNGA resolution, which was adopted by a comfortable majority. In November 1995 New Zealand joined other South Pacific countries in making strong anti-nuclear presentations at the Court. On 8 July 1996, the ICJ delivered its historic 34-page Advisory Opinion. In a crucial subparagraph, the Court decided that "a threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law". The judges also unanimously agreed that "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." Following this, New Zealand took the lead in the nuclear disarmament ginger group dubbed the New Agenda Coalition. It is comprises countries working outside the traditional 'blocs', and includes Egypt, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, Ireland and South Africa. Since then, New Zealand has continued its leadership on disarmament in the UN on, among other things, landmines and cluster munitions. In February this year, New Zealand coordinated a major meeting in Wellington promoting a Convention on Cluster Munitions. A few months later in Dublin, a text was adopted which completely bans, and requires the destruction of stockpiles of cluster bombs within eight years. It was supported by 111 nations including Britain which like Japan changed its position at the last minute as a direct result of NGO pressure.

Disarmament and International Law

The government also opposed the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003. As David Lange said here four years ago, the US adopted a radical new doctrine of preventive war which showed contempt for the UN and rules of international law. "It was simply unprovoked aggression."

It would be music to David's ears if he could hear Barack Obama, another lawyer like himself, espousing a very different vision for the US and the world. Obama, the new media phenomenon, and potentially the next US President, admits that he too has been inspired by Martin Luther King and other peace leaders. It seems that some of the peacemaking policies New Zealand, Costa Rica and others have been promoting are now gaining currency.

Obama offers a "clean break from the failed policies and politics of the past". In a little publicised speech he gave on 19 March 2008 entitled " The World Beyond Iraq" he promised to end the war and help solve the root causes of war.

He says: "We will help Iraq reach a meaningful accord on national reconciliation. We will engage with every country in the region - and the UN - to support the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq. And we will launch a major humanitarian initiative to support Iraq's refugees and people."

Similarly with Afghanistan, he calls for long term investment in the Afghan people. We will start with an additional $1 billion in non military assistance each year aid that is focused on reaching ordinary Afghans. We need to improve daily life by supporting education, basic infrastructure and human services. We have to counter the opium trade by supporting alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers.

In order to address the four critical security challenges of the 21st century he says:

"First, in addressing global terror and violent extremism, we need to strengthen security partnerships to take out terrorist networks, while investing in education and opportunity. We need to give our national security agencies the tools they need, while restoring the adherence to rule of law that helps us win the battle for hearts and minds. This means closing Guantanamo, restoring habeas corpus, and respecting civil liberties. And we need to support the forces of moderation in the Islamic world, so that alliances of convenience mature to friendships of conviction."

He acknowledges that "weak and failed states risk spreading poverty and refugees; genocide and disease. Now is the time to meet the goal of cutting extreme poverty in half, by doubling our foreign assistance.... and now is the time to build the capacity of regional partners in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and the reconstruction of ravaged societies." He promises to "invest in our civilian capacity to operate alongside our troops in post-conflict zones and on humanitarian and stabilizations missions. Instead of giving up on the determination of young people to serve, it's time to double the size of our Peace Corps."

Thirdly, the catastrophic consequences of the global climate crisis are matched by the promise of collective action. He called on America to take actions so that others will act as well.

Fourthly, on the threat of militarism and nuclear proliferation he says in a youtube presentation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7o84PE871BE

"As President I will end misguided defence policies and stand with caucus priorities in fighting special interests in Washington.

First, I'll stop spending 9 billion a month in Iraq- I am the only major candidate to oppose this war from the beginning - and as President I will end it.

Second, I will cut tens of billions of $s in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defence systems. I will not weaponise space. I will slow our development of future combat systems and I will institute an independent defence priorities board to ensure that the quadrennial defence review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.

Third, I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons - to seek that goal I will not develop new nuclear weapons. I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material and I will negotiate with Russia about take our ICBMs off hair trigger alert and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals

You know where I stand: I have fought for open, ethical and accountable government my entire public life. I don't switch positions or make promises that can't be kept. I don't posture on defence policy and I don't take money from federal defence priorities for powerful defence contractors. As President, my sole priority for defence spending will be protecting the American people."

Obama also promised to increase U.S. funding by US$1 billion a year to more aggressively secure nuclear weapons materials, and to strengthen policing and interdiction efforts aimed at dismantling nuclear trafficking networks. He has since vowed to convene a summit on preventing nuclear terrorism and set the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

His statements on nuclear proliferation have spurred Senator McCain to speak out. "A quarter of a century ago," McCain noted, "President Ronald Reagan declared, "Our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.' That is my dream, too." " It is time for the US to show the kind of leadership the world expects from us, in the tradition of American presidents who worked to reduce the nuclear threat to mankind."

McCain's speech was prepared with the help of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is one of a group of former US Secretaries of Defence and State including George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn - who have led an exciting initiative over the past few years. They have published two articles in The Wall Street Journal describing a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and articulating some of the steps that, cumulatively taken, could help to achieve that end. They have been visiting key policymakers in most nuclear weapon states and encouraging them to speak out for nuclear abolition.

A few months ago, former British Foreign and Defence Ministers Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind, David Owen and George Robertson joined their call. They are concerned about so-called "loose nukes". They argue that "Substantial progress towards a dramatic reduction in the world's nuclear weapons is possible. The ultimate aspiration should be to have a world free of nuclear weapons. It will take time, but with political will and improvements in monitoring, the goal is achievable. We must act before it is too late, and we can begin by supporting the campaign in America for a non-nuclear weapons world."

In response, the former Conservative Party leader William Hague set out eight proposals for UK policy, including a strategic dialogue between the nuclear weapon states on how to achieve future reductions in nuclear stockpiles, on ways to reduce further the risk of nuclear confrontation or accidental nuclear war, and how to make progress on their disarmament commitments in a way that strengthens the NPT.

Jonas Støre, Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2005 also called for nuclear abolition and stated that his government, "collaborating with Germany, has sought to begin a candid discussion of this question within NATO. We hope and will advocate that NATO gradually reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons in its security policy." Norway established and continues to lead the Seven-Nation Initiative on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Again these countries come from differing cultural and religious backgrounds and include Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Romania, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Their primary aim is to establish a global verification regime both for reductions in nuclear arsenals and for accounting of nuclear material that can provide adequate confidence among nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states alike.

In July, a similar group of retired Ministers wrote an op-ed in a leading Italian newspaper calling for the total elimination of nuclear arms.  Local Italian NGOs hope they will also support the draft legislation recently submitted to Parliament by over 80,000 citizens aiming at ridding Italy of US nuclear weapons.

Also in Hiroshima in June, Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced an international commission co-chaired by former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and a former Foreign Minister from Japan. The commission plans to report to a major international conference of nuclear experts in 2009 which would lay the groundwork for a planned review of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty in 2010.

Parliamentarians and Mayors

Spurred on by the work of a young New Zealander Alyn Ware and other international NGOs, politicians all over the world are mobilising under the group Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non Proliferation and Disarmament which has over 500 members in 70 countries. Cross party coalitions in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Turkey and the United Kingdom are calling for removal of US nuclear weapons from their soil after a US Air Force investigation concluded that "most sites" used for deploying nuclear weapons in Europe do not meet US Department of Defense minimum security requirements. In June, 110 US tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn from Lakenheath airbase, which means that there are now no US nuclear weapons in Britain - for the first time since 1954. This is a direct result of years of non-violent direct action by NGOs targeting bases throughout the UK, and the recent election of a Scottish Assembly promoting a nuclear free Scotland. On 1 July 69 Members of the European Parliament from 19 EU member states launched support for a Nuclear Weapons Convention to mark the 40th anniversary of nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. This campaign is gathering momentum with groups of lawyers, doctors, engineers, diplomats, mayors and politicians seriously discussing how to secure a Convention similar to those banning chemical and biological weapons

Mayors for Peace is led by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is gathering huge momentum and now has 2,368 members in 131 countries. The objectives of the Mayors for Peace Vision 2020 are: Immediately de-alert all nuclear weapons and start substantive negotiations toward a universal nuclear weapons convention Conclusion of a convention by 2010 with the physical destruction of all nuclear weapons by 2020 To mark the 10th anniversary of the ICJ Advisory Opinion in 2006, Mayors for Peace launched the Good Faith Challenge reaffirming the meaning and importance of the World Court opinion which called on all states "to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiation on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects". At the city level, Mayors for Peace has launched the Cities Are Not Targets project. This encourages and assists cities and municipal associations in demanding assurances from nuclear-weapon states that cities are not and will not be targeted for nuclear attack. "Cities are homes and offices. They are not legitimate targets for bombs. To obliterate a city for any reason whatsoever is an illegal, immoral crime against humanity and not to be tolerated." It is encouraging to note that the capital cities of four of the five Nuclear Weapon States are members of Mayors for Peace - Moscow, Beijing, Paris and London- with major US cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago among the 126 US member cities. The capital cities of key NATO allies such as Turkey (10 cities), Germany (307), Belgium (314), Spain (96), Italy (266), Greece (5), Netherlands (38), Canada (70), Czechoslovakia (28) and Norway (64) are also signed up. The capitals of the other nuclear weapons states of India (16), Pakistan (12) and Israel (5) are also members. These cities are powerful agents of change and are having an impact on changing government policies. For example, 314 cities in Belgium are now members. They work closely with NGOs, politicians and the media to highlight the "cities are not targets" campaign. Some mayors and politicians have been arrested after taking non-violent direct action at the US base where nuclear weapons are stored. These actions are likely to result in the removal of these weapons back to the US. The groundswell against foreign military bases is also spreading internationally. For example, in September, the Ecuadorian government will vote on a referendum on Article 5 in the new Constitution, which reads: "Ecuador is a territory of peace. Neither foreign military bases nor foreign installations with military purposes will be allowed. It is prohibited to grant national military bases to foreign armed or security forces." NGOs are claiming responsibility for this initiative. If adopted, the US military base will be removed like a similar one in Okinawa, Japan. Israel and Palestine Just recently, there was another surprising peacemaking initiative. At a summit hosted by the French Prime Minister, forty-three nations launched an unprecedented Union for the Mediterranean aimed at securing peace across the unsettled region. In a final declaration, Israel, Syria, the Palestinians along with countries across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa agreed to "pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction." The countries committed to "consider practical steps to prevent the proliferation" of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems. Efforts to find peaceful solutions to Middle East conflicts have been boosted by Obama's recent visit where he met separately with Israel leaders and the Palestinian president and Prime Minister. He called for a peace deal with the creation of a "viable and peaceful Palestinian state" alongside a secure Israel. Just this week, the Presidents of Israel and Palestine have held peace talks offering further goodwill gestures to build confidence between them. These government-level peacemaking initiatives are building on a myriad of grassroots peace education and conflict resolution activities around the world. Here are a few examples:

  1. The Partners for Peace programme brings teams of women to the US for a month to speak to communities. The tours are called Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision. These women share their stories of pain and grief because they want to influence government policies. So far, there have been 14 tours in over a hundred communities with extensive media exposure.
  2. Former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters who are members of Combatants for Peace have also been touring the US together advocating for a non-violent resolution to the conflict.
  3. The US-based Jewish Academic Network for Israeli-Palestinian Peace has cosponsored an international conference on the issue. They have launched a sign-up campaign of Jewish academics who support negotiation of a two-state solution, an end to occupation, Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and bilaterally agreed-upon settlements in the West Bank.
  4. In Wellington, the Peace Foundation's Babel Project was run by a Palestinian woman helped by an ex Israeli army soldier. They used their experience of conflict in their homeland to "trigger fundamental questions that are relevant to us all, and particularly to a multicultural community, and an interfaith community." BABEL is a youth driven, creative arts exhibition for all ethnicities between the ages of 15-30.
Other Exciting Peace Initiatives In New Zealand the Peace Foundation runs many peace education initiatives including Cools Schools, Peer mediation, Roots of Empathy and Peaceful Parenting Programmes. From the interfaith perspective, a Christchurch Muslim Dr Ghazala Anwar has developed a model for conflict resolution in Pakistani schools which adapts the Cool Schools model to an Islamic cultural context by relating it to Quranic teachings. Peace Squadron founder Rev Dr George Armstrong is writing a book covering some of New Zealand's peace history with special emphasis on our unique bicultural, multicultural and inter-faith development. His wife Jocelyn who taught Religious Studies in Auckland for many years is writing a text book on World Religions for the new 2007 Social Studies curriculum on the impact of cultural interactions on a society. The Global Campaign for Peace Education Newsletter reports that the Kenyan Government is preparing a conflict resolution policy for its school curriculum in response to effects of post-election violence. The Peace Abbey, a US multi-faith retreat centre, has awarded its "Courage of Conscience" Award to the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. This new global alliance is based on prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children and for the next seven generations to come. An Ambassador for the Grandmothers is Maori elder Pauline Tangiora. She has been involved for 20 years in helping secure the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, finally adopted by the UN last year. As it was International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples on Nagasaki Day, it is important to remember what role the 5,000 indigenous groups (comprising over 370 million individuals) play in creating peace in the world. She has just returned from Rome where the Grandmothers sought an audience with the Pope asking for an apology and requested the revocation of edicts that contributed to the decimation of indigenous people and cultures worldwide for over 500 years. They are encouraged by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's official apology to the aborigines, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent apology to First Nations people in Canada, and Barack Obama's promise, if elected, to appoint a Native American adviser to his senior White House staff. The Grandmothers say they will let nothing deter them from contributing momentum to this wave of support and healing for the world's indigenous peoples.

I would like to finish by giving a couple of other examples of how the United Nations can create a forum and focus for healing and peace for the planet. In October 2000, after intense activity by five leading international NGOs working with UNIFEM, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. A landmark victory, this reaffirmed the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction. It also stressed the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security

The UN International Day of Peace on 21 September provides an opportunity for individuals, organisations and nations to create practical acts of Peace on a shared date. It also highlights the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001 to 2010. Their website contains many exciting examples of young and old, rich and poor from all difference religions and cultures working together to celebrate peace.

My recent appointment to the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters has given me a unique vehicle to promote peace values amongst Ambassadors and academics and to find ways to work together despite our different cultural and religious backgrounds. Finding non violent solutions to all conflicts is an ongoing challenge for us all, but there are many leaders and models to emulate and draw strength from. This country provides new models and a tradition where our peoples are not afraid to speak our peace.

I would like to leave you with the image of Barack Obama addressing over 200,000 Germans, near the footprint of the old Berlin Wall, warning that humanity must build "a world that stands as one" before it is too late.

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand, the walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand, and the walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

Let us continue to do it together using opportunities such as this gathering here tonight.

Thank you.