On Thursday, 5th of September, The Peace Foundation hosted an event in the spirit of Nuclear Abolition Day in cooperation with the Public Policy Club and the Public Policy Institute. The event was also celebrating the 30th Anniversary of New Zealand’s nuclear free legislation and the recent Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. The theme for the evening was, “The New Zealand Government Stance on Nuclear Disarmament Promotion, and how can we do better?”.
The event started with a roundtable discussion including four panelists and the audience. The panel included Samunditha Rupasinge, senior year law student and member of The Peace Foundation, Tamkeen Saeid, one of the Schools Peace Week Ambassadors and law student at the University of Auckland, Dr. Lyndon Burford, Fellow of the Disarmament and Security Centre, and Richard Northey, former MP and Patron of The Peace Foundation. The panel was chaired by Lucy Stewart from The Peace Foundation and Jake Bransgrove, member of the Public Policy Club and intern at The Peace Foundation.
The panelists’ diverse backgrounds provided the unique possibility of having different perspectives on the issues of NZ disarmament policy, and the various facets of this such as the NZ legislation, our commitment to international disarmament initiatives and disarmament education. Given its recent opening for signature, the Nuclear Ban Treaty, its implications, and value in the pursuit of a nuclear free world were widely discussed. Having been at the negotiations in July 2017, Lyndon reported about his experiences and his personal evaluation of the Treaty and New Zealand’s role in the negotiations. He said that the New Zealand delegation did a fantastic job and were hugely constructive in the process. Richard Northey, having been a Member of Parliament for several years, further elaborated on the stance on nuclear disarmament of the different parties.
Given The Peace Foundation’s mission as educative organisation, disarmament education for the next generation was also addressed. Tamkeen, just having finished high school herself, admitted that the awareness amongst for the threat of nuclear weapons is rather low. She was nevertheless optimistic that through events such as Schools Peace Week by The Peace Foundation, and use of social media and in cooperation with schools throughout the world, students can be made aware of the threat nuclear bombs pose and also provided with constructive ways to engage to make change. Christina Barruel from The Peace Foundation also emphasised the unique opportunity that the high school setting provides for education in disarmament and conflict mediation.
We were happy to experience a very engaged audience, that contributed in many aspects. Especially Tricia Reade, President of the Council of The Peace Foundation was interested in investigating the circumstances under which the Nuclear Ban Treaty could be used against nuclear powers under international law. Samunditha provided insight into the procedures of the International Court of Justice which is used to hold states accountable for their actions. Before the discussion started, she also initiated a moment of silence for Stanislav Petrov, the “man who single-handedly saved the world from nuclear war” who recently passed away. With great approval, audience further called for a reinstatement of the Minister of Disarmament.
“There was a high mortality rate, children were dying, plants were dying, the earth was suffering.“ Karipbek Kuyukov
The discussion was followed by the New Zealand premiere of “Where the Wind Blew”, a 2017 Kazakh production documenting the humanitarian consequences of nuclear testing in Kazakhstan and Nevada.
We are thankful to Spring Films for allowing us to show this film.
It portrayed the horrors of nuclear testing but also the powerful struggle of those living around or downwind from testing sites against nuclear testing. Victims, activists and scientists reported of the negligence of the governments of the USSR and the US to warn and protect the people in the surrounding areas, and in some cases they were used as human guinea pigs. The consequences for the communities is devastating and the effects continue to this day, almost 70 years later. We were honored to hear a welcoming message by Karipbek Kuyukov, nuclear activist and victim of testing in Kazakhstan: “There was a high mortality rate, children were dying, plants were dying, the earth was suffering.“ Karipek was born with no arms due to the radiation poisoning his mother suffered. Many in his community have suffered horrific health issues due to radiation poisoning. He commenced his message by stating that he hoped the film would make us think about the consequences of nuclear testing. He explained the title of the film by emphasising the impact of the winds which blew radiation outside of the testing zone.
Karipek has started the Atom Project, a petition to abolish nuclear weapons. Please check out the project and sign the petition here.
About the Atom Project:
The ATOM Project is an international campaign designed to do more than create awareness surrounding the human and environmental devastation caused by nuclear weapons testing. The ATOM Project hopes to affect real and lasting change by engaging millions of global citizens to permanently stop nuclear weapons testing by joining together to show the world’s leaders that the world’s citizens deserve and demand a world without nuclear weapons testing. By signing The ATOM Project petition and joining the dialogue, we can stop nuclear weapons testing forever.