Action Alert:

World Peace and Justice Conference Gathers Online During Pandemic

Calls on Nations to:

     Abolish Nuclear Weapons;

     Resist and Reverse the Climate Crisis;

     Work for Social & Economic Justice

by Joseph Gerson

It’s not often that organizations as diverse as the Poor People’s Campaign, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Japan Confederation of A- & H-Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations, Peace Action and an Iranian disarmament organization collaborate on a major international project.

In late April, a remarkable international and intersectional world peace and justice conference was held online. It brought together more than 2,000 people from 37 countries, primarily from across the United States and Japan. The event was initially planned as a world conference, rally and march in New York City to influence the UN’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. When the latter was derailed by the pandemic, peace conference organizers regrouped and transformed their international physical gathering into a powerful on-line assembly to promote disarmament and peace, climate action, and social and economic justice.

In addition to sharing information, analyses, and building actions outlined by speakers at the height of the global pandemic crisis, the conference served as testimony and inspiration that national and international peace, climate and justice movements are alive, well, and preparing for the future.

The conference Organizers’ Statement outlined contexts and priorities. The world faces existential challenges:  

  • nuclear weapons and wars that can destroy the planet, along with rising militarism around the world;
  • creeping destruction and threats to daily life caused by manmade climate change, ecological devastation, and pandemic threats;
  • enormous social injustices, massive impoverishment and a dramatically widening gap between the 1% and the 99%.; children going hungry every day; and the increased vulnerability of workers and the poor to the Covid-19 pandemic, which lays bare the abysmal inadequacies and injustices of existing healthcare and economic systems;
  • increasing number of authoritarian governments and the growth of far-right radicalism and fascist threats.

Conference speakers included: Reiner Braun (IPB), Sharron Burrow (ITUC, Australia), Xiye Bastida (Fridays for Future, US), Joseph Gerson (CPDCS, US ), Emad Kiyaei (IDG Group, Iran), Izumi Nakamitsu (U.N. High Representative for Disarmament), Hiroshi Taka – (Gensuikyo, Japan), Terumi Tanaka (Nihon Hidankyo, Japan) Rev. Liz Theoharis (Poor People’s Campaign, US), Dr. Carlos Umaña (IPPNW, Costa Rica), Masako Wada (Nihon Hidankyo).  The conference can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKUYU6xefhQ with transcripts being posted at: worldconference2020.org.

The initiating coalition included the Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security, Gensuikyo (Japan Council against A- & H- Bombs), the International Peace Bureau and the International Trade Union Confederation, N.Y. and N.J Peace Action played leading roles in the organizing, as did the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (Foundation), and International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.  A host of other international, U.S. and Asia-Pacific peace, justice and climate organizations joined in the planning as co-sponsors. (See worldconference2020.org.)

The organizers’ statement, which has since been widely circulated, calls for:

  • Immediate fulfillment of Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires cessation of the arms race and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Early entry-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an important and reinforcing step towards a nuclear-weapons-free world.
  • Early establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons as agreed by the States parties to the NPT.
  • Regional détente processes to end conflicts and arms racing in all regions including South Asia, North East Asia, and Europe.
  • Global disarmament with just transition for workers in the weapons industry and a policy of détente that reduces conflicts and favors peaceful conflict resolution is essential. Military budgets should be slashed worldwide, with those funds redirected to meet human needs and protect the environment.

    Terumi Tanaka, co-chair of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations displays a graphic about their 10 million+ abolition petition signatures.

Conferences are important for what they build for the future. In addition to reaching more than 2000 activists with cutting edge information and analysis, this conference:

  • Built intersectional & international coalition that will endure;
  • Created resources in the form of the conference recording and transcripts which are being widely circulated, especially in U.S., South Asia and Japan;
  • Provided the model for online Japanese August 75th World Conference events;
  • Provided partner organizations and participants with an intersectional model to integrate other issues into their nuclear disarmament organizing;
  • Spawned an international youth network that since held an online conference and regional breakout session;
  • Built strong relationship with U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs;
  • Launched process of coalition planning for future activities (see below).

The coalition is now promoting 75th anniversary Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemoration activities, with an emphasis on building with Gensuikyo’s Peace Wave this August. In the U.S. we are preparing a webinar to promote 75th anniversary activities and to build understanding that the A-bombings were not needed to end the Asia-Pacific War and to explain the impacts and true reasons for the A-bombings. We are also in the earliest stage of preparing activities for the NPT Review Conference now rescheduled for January 2021.

—Joseph Gerson is a member of the MAPA Board and several MAPA working groups. Long associated with the American Friends Service Committee, he is now president of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau. He served as the lead organizer for the World Conference and is the author of Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.  His World Conference speech, “A Pandemic, the Geopolitical Struggle for Power, and the Urgency of Common Security,” can be found at: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/04/25/pandemic-geopolitical-struggle-power-and-urgency-common-security