SfP Bulletin August 1996

Full text version of all articles from SfP Bulletin August 1996. A PDF edition is also available.

President's Inaugural Message

Colleagues—It is an exceptional honour to follow the footprints not only of Eric Fawcett, my immediate predecessor and the founding President of SfP, but also of such distinguished scholars and scientists as Anatol Rapoport, the late George Ignatieff and David Parnas. But there is a warning concealed in the honour — both to me and for the organisation as a whole. Unlike most of my predecessors I have only limited scholarly credentials in the various areas of peace studies. As a practising research scientist with an NSERC operating grant, students, postdoctoral fellow and research assistant, I may be part of the problem rather than of the solution.

The problems are both local and global. The local problem is, that our organization may be in danger of losing direction and ceasing to function effectively. It is when such dangers exist that organizations choose to change their officers, in the hope of changing their fortunes — the final spin of the wheel. It rarely works.

The global problem is that a practising scientist has a certain world view, and changing that world view may be the key needed to change the future prospects of humanity in the direction of peace and justice. Since the Reformation, science has provided a secular alternative to religious faith in giving us an understanding of the physical world, our place in it and the potential to change that world for our perceived benefit. Its successes, which are immense and obvious, have also come at a cost, which was high but hidden. In a separate short essay in the Science for Peace section of Peace Magazine*** (Vol. XII, July/August, 1996, page 23), I try to explain how some changes in mental outlook as well as some operational changes may be needed. I shall probably not personally be among the first to change my outlook. J. B. Priestley said: “The world will change. It will probably change for the better. It won’t seem better to me”.

I am in this position at least for the coming year. At the end of that time I should like evidence that both organizationally and politically SfP has changed — adapted to the new world environment. Organizationally it needs to change by bringing fresh people into its decision-making structures, into the Board and onto the newly extended executive committee (see the reports of the AGM and May Board meetings). Those people should include more representatives of the social sciences, to balance the past preponderance of physical scientists, and even non-scientist political activists who (unlike me) are sceptical of the Baconian enterprise. There should also be an approximately even balance between men and women on the executive, the Board and in the working groups.

Politically, as explained in Peace Magazine, SfP needs to change to take account of the many misuses not only of science but of the name of science, which accompany the drive for commercial and economic success in a world where ‘progress’ — in its form of continuous personal and societal enrichment — is less certain than it was during the first three quarters of the 20th. century. Society continues to ride rather rough shod over those who challenge it — whether those challenges are to destruction of woodland to make highways or to sales of potentially lethally contaminated foodstuffs to maintain economic viability in a branch of agribusiness.

Science, technology and the need for ‘progress’ are publicly invoked in political support of such dubious societal enterprises, as well as being used to underpin their actual implementation. This needs to be questioned from within the house of science as well as from outside it. To do so we need to be sure of our facts, where facts are to be obtained. Science must be used to subvert its political misuse. Every member of Science for Peace should be a member, at least by e-mail, of one of the working groups. At each Board meeting during the coming year (the dates of which are listed elsewhere in this bulletin) there should be both members and non-members of the Board present to report on the activities of both old and new working groups. At each extended executive committee meeting I want to have one of the working groups report on a current political problem that involves and misuses science. At the end of the year there could be enough new activity that my election to the Presidency this May will not be looked back on as the last gasp of an enterprise that had lost its ‘raison d’etre’ in a changed world. There are currently very few political organizations, fewer major political parties, that seek actively to create a different and better world. Hope for the future is at a low ebb. Of this too we should take advantage, so that when optimism returns it will not be the old unthinking optimism of the past.

Peter Nicholls, Dept. Biol. Sciences, Brock University,
St. Catharines On., Canada L2S 3A1.

Footnote: All members of SfP should have a subscription to Peace Magazine because this is now our regular vehicle for communication of ideas. Canadian subscriptions (including GST) are $17:50 for one year, $30 for two years, for 6 issues/year, from: 736 Bathurst St., Toronto M5S 2R4 tel: 416-533-7581; fax: 416-531-6214

Annual General Meeting

The 1996 Annual General Meeting was held in the International Student Centre, at U. of T., on the afternoon of May 4. This is a brief description, beginning with the more formal matters, and concluding with some general matters of interest. (Copies of the complete Minutes, reporting discussions of the items, are available from the SfP office.)

The Report of the Nominating Committee was presented by Chandler Davis. On the basis of its recommendations, as well as a nomination from the floor, six brand new members were elected to the Board of Directors: Tony Arrott, Jonathan Borwein, Helmut Burkhardt, Myron Gordon, Angelo Mingarelli and Jean Smith. In addition, eight members were re-elected for further two-year terms: Walter Dorn, Shirley Farlinger, Peter Nicholls, Alan Slavin, Metta Spencer, Craig Summers, Henry Wiseman and Gerhard Stroink. (The Nominating Committee also made recommendations regarding the table officers of the Executive. These were adopted by the Board Meeting that followed the AGM, with the elections of Peter Nicholls as President, Eric Fawcett as Vice-President, Helmut Burkhardt as Secretary and Ian Russell as Treasurer.)

The outgoing President, Eric Fawcett, commented on his written report. He drew attention to the projects and accomplishments of the past year, but also expressed disappointment that there were not more members actively contributing to these initiatives. He drew attention to the impressive research programmes directed by Walter Dorn (for whom a new position as “Research Officer” was created by the subsequent Board meeting), and thanked also Jenny Scazighino and Peter Shepherd for their generous voluntary assistance during the past year.

The Treasurer, Ian Russell, submitted both a final financial statement for the year ending March, 1995, and a preliminary statement for that ending this March. He pointed out, with respect to the latter, that our expenses had substantially outstripped our income, but that some uncertainties, especially concerning the cash flow of our publishing activities, made it unclear how serious that was. Fund-raising activities and/or an expanded membership will be required to support the proposed level of activities. He thanked Karen Laughton and Geeta Khosla for their assistance.

After some discussion, Ken McFarland was reappointed as auditor. The Nominating Committee for the coming year was elected: Terry Gardner (Chair), Metta Spencer and Chandler Davis.

Written reports were received from Walter Dorn (as former Vice-President and as SfP’s U.N. representative), and from Frank Cunningham concerning the operations of the Franz Blumenfeld Peace Fund, as well as from several of our Working Groups: those on Human Rights, Climate Change, CBW Prevention, Scientific Cooperation with Cuba and Electronic Surveillance. (Copies of these reports, and those mentioned previously, may be obtained by contacting the SfP office.) These were discussed, along with a statement by Alan Phillips on behalf of the Working Group on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

John Valleau reported to the AGM about an important organizational initiative that had been adopted by the Board. This consists of a determined plan to grow SfP into a larger and more active organization, better able to support research and to influence public and governmental opinion. In the long-run vision we would support a full-time Executive Director to coordinate our efforts. This is clearly ambitious. The opportunity to succeed depends on the willingness of Carolyn Langdon to share the gamble with us. Carolyn has been an outstanding organizer with Voice of Women and with DEC, and is a dedicated activist for peace and justice. She is willing to join us, on a part-time basis at the start, working with us toward realising these goals. (This plan was still tentative at the time of the AGM, but is now settled and gets underway in July!)

Shirley Farlinger reported on the very successful “Retreat” held in Bolton in March, which has helped to set our agenda for the coming year; (there was also a written report). Many important messages to the Retreat arrived from members who were unable to attend. Shirley stressed that the event had proved enjoyable as well as valuable, and that there was an intention to hold further such Retreats.

Metta Spencer reported on a major current initiative, that of organizing an International Conference on the “Lessons of Yugoslavia”. This Conference (approved by the Board in February) is meant not to review the sorry history, but rather to concentrate on proposing and debating concrete measures to alleviate or prevent further such internal strife. It is proposed for next February, at UofT. Preliminary preparations have gone extremely well. Most of the proposed participants have already accepted; they include many thinkers from the region of conflict itself, and also Michael and Andrew Ignatieff and Margaret Papandreou. (The Conference will be dedicated to George and Alison Ignatieff. George was of course the Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, and later President of SfP.) Funding is necessary if the Conference is to go ahead, and the Committee is presently seeking the necessary grants.

John Valleau, Secretary 1995-96

World Court Nuclear Judgement Day

International Court of Justice
Communique (unofficial) for immediate release
No. 96/23, 8 July, 1996

LEGALITY OF THE THREAT OR USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (REQUEST FOR ADVISORY OPINION BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS) [underlined material is capitalised for e-mail clarity]

ADVISORY OPINION
The Hague, 8 July 1996. The International Court of Justice today handed down its Advisory Opinion on the request made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in the above case.
The final paragraph of the Opinion reads as follows:

For these reasons, THE COURT

(1) By thirteen votes to one,
DECIDES to comply with the request for an advisory opinion; IN FAVOUR: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui; VICE-PRESIDENT Schwebej, JUDGES Guillaume, Shahabuddeen, Weeramantry, Ranjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischhauer, Koroma, Vereshchetin, Ferrari Bravo, Higgins;
AGAINST: JUDGE Oda

(2) REPLIES in the following manner to question put by the General Assembly: A Unanimously,
There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any specific authorisation of the threat or use of nuclear weapons;
B. By eleven votes to three, There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any comprehensive and universal prohibition of the threat or use of nuclear weapons as such;
IN FAVOUR: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui; VICE-PRESIDENT Schwebel; JUDGES Oda, Guillaume, Ranjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischhauer, Vereshchetin, Ferrari Bravo, Higgins;
AGAINST: JUDGES Shahabuddeen, Veeramantry, Koroma

C. Unanimously,
A threat or use of force by means of nuclear weapons that is contrary to Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter and that fails to meet all the requirements of Article 51 is unlawful;

D. Unanimously,
A threat or use of nuclear weapons should also be compatible with the requirements of the international law applicable in armed conflict particularly those of the principles and rules of international humanitarian law, as well as with specific obligations under treaties and other undertakings which expressly deal with nuclear weapons;

E. By seven votes to seven,
It follows from the above-mentioned requirements that the 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; However, in view of the current state of International Law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be a stake;
IN FAVOUR: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui, JUDGE Renjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischhauer, Vereschetin, Ferrari Bravo;
AGAINST: VICE-PRESIDENT Schwebel; JUDGES: Oda. Guillaume, Shahabuddeen, Weeramantry, Koroma Higgins.

F. Unanimously,
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 controls.

The Court was composed as follows: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui, VICE- PRESIDENT Schwebel; JUDGES Oda, Guillaume, Shahabuddeen, Weeramantry, Ranjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischauer, Koroma, Vereshchetin, Ferrari Bravo, Higgins: REGISTRAR Valencia-Ospina.

PRESIDENT Bedjaoui, JUDGES Herczegh, Shi, Vereshchetin and Ferrari Bravo appended declarations to the Advisory Opinion of the Court; JUDGES Guillaume, Ranjeva and Fleischhauer, Koroma and Higgins appended dissenting opinions. A brief summary of the declarations and of the opinions may be found in the annex to this Press Communique.

The printed text of the Advisory Opinion and the declarations and opinions appended to it will become available in due course (orders and enquires should be addressed to the Distributor and Sales Section, Office of the United Nations, 1211 Geneva, 10. The Sales Section United Nations New York, NY 10017; or any appropriately specialised bookshop).

World Court Project-Canada, of which Science for Peace is a member, issued the following Press Release on July 8

World Court Declares Nuclear Weapons Threat or Use Illegal

In a landmark decision today, the International Court of Justice declared that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be “contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict” in most circumstances.

The judges were divided on whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be “lawful only in an extreme circumstance of self defence in which the very survival of the state would be at stake”. Seven of the fourteen judges agreed with this statement. Three judges stated that the use of nuclear weapons are illegal under any circumstances, while four thought that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was legal.

The Court unanimously stressed that, in accordance with Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, “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.”

David Matas, of Lawyers for Social Responsibility, co-sponsor of the World Court Project in Canada stated “up to now, the nuclear powers have shown little concern about the solemn promises contained in that Treaty. Continuing the way they have would be a violation of international law according to this judgment.” Matas went on to say, in light of this judgment, “it is important that the nuclear powers re-evaluate their current nuclear strategy. It is my belief that their existing strategy is not in conformity with this judgment. NATO doctrine must therefore be changed.”

The Court was unanimous that nuclear weapons, like any weapons, are subject to the law of armed conflict which is intended to protect civilians, combatants, the environment, neutral nations, and succeeding generations from the effects of warfare. As well, the United Nations Charter prohibits threat or use of force except in self-defense.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also sought an advisory opinion from the Court concerning the legality of the use of nuclear weapons in view of their health and environmental consequences. The Court did not rule on this question, stating that it is “not within the scope of [WHO’s] activities.” However, Mary Wynne Ashford, MD of Physicians for Global Survival (Canada) concurred with Ann Marie Janson, WHO liaison for International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), clarified that WHO and IPPNW “understand that prevention is the only medical response to the threat of nuclear war.”

The Court’s opinion in the General Assembly comes as a blow to the United States, United Kingdom, France and Russia, all of which urged the Court not to consider the case.

The case was initiated by international peace and disarmament groups, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), International Peace Bureau (IPB), and others. Not having direct access to the World Court, they successfully petitioned the World Health Assembly and the United Nations General Assembly to make requests for advisory opinions. Frederik Heffermehl of IPB stated, “ This case is an encouraging example of the ability of people’s organizations to make use of international institutions like the World Court, which are meant to serve the world’s people and not only their governments.”

Working Group Reports

  1. WG on Ethics: Roundtable Discussion, “Implementation and Broader Social Consequences of Ethical Codes”, was held at U of T, June 10,1996. Contact: C C Gotlieb: TEL: 416-……..
    Eric Fawcett: TEL: 416-…….
  2. WG on Prevention of CBW: members of the WG met in annual session on May …. with the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee (BCDRC), which was set up in 1990 to review the DND research, development and training programs in biological and chemical defence. Its mandate is to insure that all programs are defensive in nature and do not threaten public safety or the environment. It also serves a liaison function with the public through meetings like the one we had and through publication of its annual report. The BCDRC panel consists of three Canadian academics in the chemical and biological sciences. They are chaperoned by a retired general once a year to relevant sites in Canada (ranging from Camp Borden to the testing range at Suffield, Alberta).
    Contact: Walter Dorn TEL 416-……. Ellen Larsen TEL 416-……..

Recent E-Mail Notices

We list the titles of recent s4pnot e-mailings, to inform members not on e-mail (and to remind those who are), who should contact the SfP office if they would like a hard-copy.

  • June 20: Resolutions from the VANA Conference, Lake Couchiching, June 12-13
  • July 2: “Why the Fight Over Boutros Boutros-Ghali Matters” 24 June G&M article by Doug Roche, SfP Advisory Council Member
  • July 4: “World Court’s Nuclear Judgement Day” by Commander Robert Green (RN, ret.)
  • July 6: “Ethical Problems for Patents on Life” by Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)

STOP PRESS: Psychologists for Social Responsibility meeting in Toronto

Psychologists for Social Responsibility meeting in Toronto, Friday Aug 9 to Monday Aug 12 Sheraton Centre on Queen’s Street at Nathan Phillips Sq.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9TH

1:00-1:50 Meg Houlihan: Clinical and Applied Practice in Peace Psychology
5:00-5:50 Come by and say hello! See our displays and resources.
6:00-6:50 Lloyd Etheredge: Conflict Resolution on the WWW: Weekly Seminar

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10TH

8:00-8:50 Harvey Langholz: The Psychology of Peacekeeping: Genesis, Ethos and Application.(Continental breakfast available, donation requested)
12:00-12:50 Scholarship for Peace: A Conversation with Ralph White
1:00-1:50 David Boyer: Div. 48 Student Activities Working Group
2:00-3:50 SPECIAL SYPOSIUM honouring Anatol Rapoport, Essex Room
Anatol Rapoport will give a 45 min talk: “Counter-productive Consequences in the Application of Rational Models to the Quest for Peace and Social Justice” followed by four 10 min talks by Marc Piliusk, Ethel Tobach, Deborah Winter and Ralph White, and an open discussion.
4:00-4:50 Steve Handwerker: The Spiritual Dimension of Peacework

SUNDAY,AUGUST 11TH

8:00-8:50 Mike Wessells: The Role of Div. 48 on Advocacy & Work in the Public Arena. (Continental breakfast available. Donation requested)
12:00-12:50 Meg Houlihan & Deborah DuNann Winter: Div. 48 Peace Psychologists as Partners in Sustainable Development
4:00-4:50 Mike Wessells: PsySR Dialogue with Canadian Colleagues from Science for Peace
6:00-9:00 PsySR Party-Everyone invited! Come and relax with your colleagues and friends, and meet new ones.

MONDAY, AUGUST 12TH

8:00-8:50 Anne Anderson: Networking Continental Breakfast (donation requested)
9:00-9:50 Marc Pilisuk: Graduate Opportunities in Peace Psychology
10:00-10:50 Anne Anderson, Dan Christie and Ross Wilcock: Chechnya: Lessons and a Search for New Approaches
1:00-1:50 Linden Nelson: Div. 48 Peace & Education Working Group Meeting
4:00-4:50 Michele Stimac & Judy Van Hoorn: Div. 48 Feminism and Peace Working Group Meeting
6:00-9:00 End of Program Get-Together: Everyone invited!

Science for Peace Bulletin | ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)