In June of this year I attended the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio. As the SfP representative to UNCED I worked with other NG0s to raise the issue of militarism, which was not on the agenda. I was involved with three organizations, including the Canadian Participatory Committee for UNCED (CPCU), the NGO Forum, and the Working Group for Militarism and Disarmament.
The CPCU consisted of most, if not all, Canadian NGO’s attending the official conference. It was set up by the Canadian government in order to better coordinate the actions of NGOs, without interfering with them. Through this group daily meetings were held with the Minister of the Environment. These meetings provided information to NGOs about Canadian actions and an opportunity for NGOs to express their views to the government.
The NGO Forum was a subset of the Global Forum, the parallel conefernce for NGOs at Flamengo Park in Rio. In addition to providing a means of coordinating the actions of NGOs in general, a specific action of the NGO Forum was the creation of NGO Treaties which covered the main subject areas of the UN discussions and some areas, such as militarism, that were not being discussed. These treaties were envisioned to be a common set of principles and actions that the global NGO community could unite around. I was specifically involved with the Treaty on Militarism as one of its several authors.
The Working Group on Militarism and Disarmament was a much: smaller group of NGOs. Our goal was to raise the issue of militarism and disarmament through public discussion.
We sponsored two events: a morning seesien with addresses by Wangari Maathal of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, Lopetti Senitulu of Tonga, and Jerry Brown, former Govenor of the state of California. The other event was a press conference held in conjunction, with the release of the NGO Treaty on Militarism. This press conference included Maj-Britt Theorin, MP from Sweden, who led a UN inquiry into economic conversion of the military and myself who presented Science for Peace’s report, Taking Stock: The Impact of Militarism on the Environment.
While, I hope, the actions I participated in had some success in raising public awareness on the issue of militarism and its many aspects I believe the more important accomplishment was in meeting NGOs from around the world: people who share similar interests with Science for Peace. By working together we have access to more information and a sharing of ideas. I hope to strengthen some of the connections when I return to the UN in September.
Congratulations to Rigoberta Menchu on winning the Nobel Prize for Peace! We wish her every success in her continued struggle for peace and justice in Guatemala and the world.