Vancouver World Peace Forum's Vision

With 5,000 others from around the world, I attended the World Peace Forum (WPF) in Vancouver from June 23 to 28. Its vision was caught at the first plenary by Vancouver philanthropist Jennifer Simons’s claim that “we must and can end war,” and by former International Court of Justice Judge Christopher Weeramantry’s call for recognition of the immorality and illegality of nuclear weapons and the urgent need to get rid of them.

The WPF’s 350 plenaries and workshops included five Science for Peace (SfP) events:

Our panel, “Creating a paradigm shift towards social justice and a green Earth,“ which drew some 70 people, involved Helmut Burkhardt, Rose Dyson, Julia Morton-Marr, and me from Science for Peace, Helga Breuninger (of the Breuninger Foundation, Stuttgart and Wasan Island), and Audrey Kitagawa and Ashok Gangadean (our moderator) (both of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality). Helmut set out global issues demonstrating the need for policy and action based on the holistic paradigm of interconnectedness – the shift to “web of life” thinking sketched in my introductory comments. Rose spoke about transformations required to deal with violence in the media, Helga on collaborative approaches in business and community, Julia on sustainability and peace education, I myself on the urgency of moving beyond nuclear weapons and war, Audrey and Ashok on enhanced consciousness, values, and spirituality.

Deep dialogues,” a workshop led by Ashok (emeritus philosophy professor from Haverford College, Penn.) involved Helga, Audrey, and me and engaged the participants in a process of talking and listening to foster the openness and collaborative spirit needed for moving beyond problems to solutions.

Three other workshops: Helmut, with Julia, presented the Handbook on global issues and solutions developed through the Evolution of World Order Conferences; Rose and Metta Spencer discussed media concerns; and Tamara Weiss, a California teacher mentored by Julia, presented methods of peace education that can empower children to become peacemakers.

SfP board member Lee Lorch and I were also at the WPF in its premiere of Veterans against nuclear war, a film produced by Toronto filmmaker Anton Wagner. The film has an interview of me in Hiroshima’s Peace Museum in August 2005, original footage of the atomic bombings, and interviews of members of Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA)- including pithy comments from Lee. A Japanese soundtrack and inclusion of the film in the global education curriculum for Ontario’s public schools might result!

Two major organizations for cities held meetings at the WPF. The International Association of Peace Messenger Cities (of which the UN made Toronto a member in 1986) issued a call for a UN special session on disarmament, as an introduction to an international decade for disarmament, and also for national commissions on disarmament to help civil society participate. Cities should support this initiative. Mayors for Peace (MfP) — an organization with 1,403 mayors of which Toronto became a member in 1983 when city council voted to make it a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) — brought forward a Cities Are Not Targets project based on a resolution of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. MfP’s 2020 Vision, of a world free of nuclear weapons by 2020, is energizing cities around the world. Right now, with more than 1,000 nuclear missiles in the U.S. and an equal number in Russia on launch-on-warning, Canadian cities are targeted. Our mayors should take action on this resolution and spread it by bringing it to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

I attended numerous workshops on nuclear weapons, including a meeting of Abolition 2000, the global coalition of more than 2000 NGOs. These events made clear how grim our prospects are, with the modernization of arsenals proceeding and military doctrines of nuclear war-fighting, in the U.S. case even in preventive war. The threat to survival of life on Earth hangs over all of us with the growing danger of proliferation and of their use inadvertently or deliberately, instant retaliation, and nuclear winter. One hope to build on is the NWFZ movement. NWFZ treaties cover over half the world – Latin America, the Pacific, Africa, Antarctica, Mongolia. We should work to make Canada a NWFZ.

The WPF’s Nuclear Weapons Working Group put out an action agenda calling on:

  • All states to comply with their legal obligation and revive negotiations in good faith on an agreement for verifiable, irreversible nuclear disarmament and to end reliance on nuclear weapons within all defence policies;
  • The nuclear weapons states to take all nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert and to reject all policies for nuclear weapons use;
  • Citizens to educate the public about nuclear weapons and international law, encourage professional associations to develop codes of conduct to prohibit their members from participation in development of nuclear weapons, and work to establish effective national whistleblower protection legislation.
  • Affirming an inextricable link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons (as does Abolition 2000), the agenda also calls for phasing out of nuclear power and for establishing an International Sustainable Energy Agency. It also asks for global volunteers to come and help UK activists convince the British government to not replace its Trident nuclear submarine fleet, in hopes of a domino effect for disarmament. Much work to be done!

At the end, the WPF issued an appeal – Make Peace! – now on its web site (www.worldpeaceforum.ca). Here are some highlights:

The Forum concluded that at this critical juncture in history a world without war is achievable.

We will build a just peace based on social justice, human and democratic rights, and economic equality.
We will educate our children … to cultivate a culture of peace.
We will recognize the needs and aspirations of all indigenous peoples.
We will ensure the leading role of women and youth as peacemakers.
We will declare war as a crime against humanity and demand an end to war.
We will insist on protection of the environment.
We will work to eliminate nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and terror.

The Appeal sets out goals to mobilize, network, support, and collaborate across generations and the globe and so realize the capacity of civil society to build peace. It ends with the ringing cry: “We want a world without war – the world our children deserve.” At a Voice of Women gathering in Vancouver, Dr Mary-Wynne Ashford, co-author with Guy Dauncey of Enough Blood Shed claimed that we are at the beginning of a social revolution; ending war is no longer an idealistic dream, but a realistic goal based on sound evidence. A belief shared by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Joseph Rotblat, it could inspire our work!