Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Reaching Critical Will: Challenging Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons

This post was written by Catia Confortini, the US Section Representative to the International Board of WILPF.

Official day 2 of International Congress! We started with a report from Ray Acheson, director of the Reaching Critical Will project. Ray is helped in this by Beatrice Fihn in Geneva, who couldn't be here as she is due in one month and couldn't travel. Ray beautifully summarized the excellent work that RCW is doing, which is unique to WILPF, as we bring gender and economic, social and environmental justice analysis to disarmament and militarization issues. RCW works with other organizations, with academics to produce reports and analysis that supports local branches in their local actions, but also does advocacy at UN treaty bodies and supports the advocacy of local branches. Ray asked that we let her know of any action that any section or branch undertakes and how RCW can support them. They are currently working on a number of specific areas, including work with the Conference on Disarmament, the Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the NonProliferation Treaty and many others. Her email is on the RCW website at http://reachingcriticalwill.org. I would also suggest you visit that website regularly to see the wealth of information the project has assembled. Ray also mentioned the work of our own Carol Urner, of the LA and Portland, OR branches in conjunction with RCW on disarmament. RCW is also trying to lobby for an Arms Trade Treaty that will put obstacles to the trade in arms, rather than facilitate it as some countries would like to, and to add a gender perspective to such treaty. The negotiations for this treaty are going to start in July and that gives us some time to get our voices heard. If anybody is interested in working with RCW on this, they should contact Ray. Finally, Ray talked about WILPF's work against nuclear energy, on which WILPF's position has long been that it cannot be separated from production of nuclear weapons. WILPF has a unique role to play in challenging militarism, saying that there is a two way street between militarism and many of the problems of the world. Violations of women's rights are linked to militarism. Disarmament is human right.

Following Ray we had a moving presentation from Japanese Section delegate Kozue Akibayashi who described the tragic consequences of the recent earthquake, in particular the radioactive spillover from the damage at the Fukushima power plant. There is a government coverup of the real data on contamination and its present and future effects on human health and the environment. With great difficulty and contrition, Kozue moved everyone to tears when she said the following: "My country is greatly responsible for damage to the environment and to future generations. Radiation cannot be seen, so we don't know how this will impact the future generations but we know that nobody will be safe." The Japanese section is asking for sister sections' solidarity and for local work against nuclear energy, especially against the 'Atoms For Peace' campaign, which is in reality, the Spanish section later pointed out, a political masquerade that ends up supporting the production of nuclear weapons. Robin Lloyd of the Vermont branch succinctly explained WILPF's and other civil society organizations' efforts to close down the nuclear plant in their state. These kinds of actions are, it seems to me, an important opportunity to link the work we are doing locally to Reaching Critical Will and the work of WILPF International.

The second part of the morning was occupied by the International Treasurer report. Our own Nancy Ramsden stressed the excellent program fundraising job that RCW and PeaceWomen are doing. They are financially healthy parts of our organization, but the rest of WILPF badly needs to step up our fundraising efforts, not only through grant writing but also through local help and support for international. Madeleine needs an office director in the Geneva office and the NY Office also would need one, but we need people who are qualified and competent professionals, because we have had bad experiences with well meaning help who however was not qualified to do that kind of work. We have now 3-4 months worth of money now left in Geneva for operating budget (which includes Madeleine Rees' salary) and only 2,000 dollars left in the UNO office. We have, however, a number of outstanding grant applications that might help our international office extend our financial sustainability. But programs can be funded through grants, but office work and operating budget is much harder to raise money for. There is a really urgent need to raise money from the sections if we want to save WILPF. Madeleine Rees, WILPF International Secretary General, stressed that we need to be a membership driven organization that doesn't need to raise money for its operating budget.

The fundraising workshop addressed precisely these issues. Petra Totterman Andorff, the secretary general of the Swedish section, showed the very effective tactics that enabled the section to go from 1/2 person employed to 4 people employed and the capacity to support other sections and international as well as well as with a vibrant number of young committed members. Petra stressed that having good, strategic projects to start with that connect the local branches, the national organization and the international is an essential part of fundraising, because it gives visibility to the organization and attracts program money from where we can start building capacity. She mentioned US WILPF in particular, citing the 1325 campaigns (the Whistleblower campaign and others) as good examples of projects that get us started toward creating a stronger organization. we are getting excellent feedback from international and other sections on these plans, so I urge you take engage in them to the best of your capacity! If your branch has not yet replied to Tanya's inquiry about your willingness to participate in our Whistleblower campaign, do so! I also want to stress that a number of other sections are also doing actions both around the Whistleblower and on Security Council Resolution 1325. You will have the opportunity to see how 1325 relates to WILPF's International Program once the Congress approves it. Our US campaign is wonderfully in line with it and I felt very proud that it was mentioned by the Swedish section representative.

This is again it for today. More will come tomorrow!


  • Thank you very much for these reports. For those of us that can't be at the congress, we really appreciate to be kept updated!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:31 PM  

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