A UN 'Brain Trust"?

“Brain Trusts” became fashionable during the Franklin Roosevelt regime in the U.S. before and during World War II. “Think Tanks” have become an important part of the intellectual scenery in every country of the globe since then. An internationally sponsored think tank concerned with global problems has been the Int’l Inst. of Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. This “Think Tank” has been circumscribed by the fact that its sponsorship has been international rather than trans-national, and it has consequently been dependent on the good will of the sponsoring countries. One type of limitation was imposed by a tacit agreement to avoid approaches to global problems that could raise ideologically sensitive issues. Another dramatic limitation resulted from the cutting off of US support by the Reagan administration. Eventually other American sources of support were found, but the intimidating power of national governments directly intruding in an international enterprise of this sort was made clear.

Scientific knowledge has become the basis for the “high tech” weapons industry and modern military systems. Wishful thinking, need for support contracts or outright dishonesty motivate scientists to work on killing-systems problems and on developments that lead to almost criminal waste of human or material resources.

It is now recognized that the most formidable obstacles on the way to solution (or even consideration) of many of the most important global problems are political rather than technical. A “lack of political will” is frequently mentioned as blocking measures aimed at reducing the chronic threat of omnicidal war. What is performed by individuals or small groups. There will be an effort made to insure coordination and relevance of research whose sponsors want a Science for Peace imprimatur. Proposals will be reviewed and assistance given their development by the regional and national directors. Final approval will be given by the national directors after refereeing by experts as needed. Only after this process can a proposal for a research project or an educational program be submitted for funding consideration to outside financing organizations. The Board of Science for Peace approved this process at its September 15 meeting.

Programmes endorsed by the conference included the national “Peace from Science” prize awarded by the National Youth Science Foundation and the workshops on Surveillance and Verification, Chemical and Biological Weapons. An international conference on Peaceful Development in the Arctic (chaired by Franklyn Griffiths) was endorsed for 1988, as was a national conference on NORAD before the next renewal date. Continuation of an enlarged Bulletin, implementation of a long-planned publication programme, of on-going chapter lecture series, etc., were all endorsed. A most intriguing proposal was the joint sponsorship (CIIPS and SfP, at least) of summer sessions for university faculty preparing peace and conflict studies programmes.

A full report is in the making and will soon be available. We hope a “Think Tank” will grow out of our activities, but we will not blueprint one: the underlying philosophy of our present program is that structure should grow out of function. Perhaps we can explore for a future UN Think Tank, as well as develop a “National Component” of such a transnational venture that might eventually arise.

— Anatol Rapoport, Toronto

To follow up :

On the NORAD Conference, contact David Horwood, 3540 Durocher, # 12, Montreal,P.Q. H2X 2E5, (514)849-6605.

Proliferation: Phil Ehrensaft, Bitnet R14644@UQAM or Dept. de sociologie, UQAM, CP 8888, Succ. A. Montreal H3C 3P8 (514)482-6586.

Special “review of pertinent literature” section for the Bulletin: Phil Ehrensaft (see above) and Philip Wallace. (See list at left.)

Papers Prepared For The Conference — Available From The Bulletin

  • David Parnas,Building Helpful Fences Parnas & Chik-Parnas, STEP at Queen’s
  • G.W. Hoffmann,
    • The Use of the Chess Clock in Formal Discussions and Debates
    • Minterviews
    • A Theory of War and a Strategy for Peace
  • J. Neelin, The Peace from Science Winners at the UN
  • Franklyn Griffiths, The Arctic as an International Political Region
  • A. Rapoport, The Largest Number, A game to be played by participants in a communicating net
  • T.C. Hutchinson and Julie Chouinard, Environmental and Agricultural Consequences of a Major Nuclear Power Plant Accident (Brief submitted on behalf of Science for Peace to the Ontario Nuclear Safety Review).
  • Derek Paul and Bryan Southern, Radioactive Air Monitoring: A Survey of Ontario (Brief submitted on behalf of Science for Peace to the Ontario Nuclear Safety Review).

A detailed Conference Report will include evaluations and comments by participants.