International gathering at Friends House

Nobel Peace Prize winners and peace activists gathered at Friends House

An international gathering of Nobel Peace Prize winners and peace activists took place in the first week of January at Friends House in London to consider a challenge: how to get nuclear states to sign up to a global treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

Those taking part spoke about building movements to bring about political change and declared that there are ‘no safe hands for unsafe weapons’.

In a historic vote last summer in New York an overwhelming majority of UN member states signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

However, alongside the French and US governments, the UK government refused to sign the Treaty, saying it is committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – a coalition of nongovernmental organisations in 100 countries – for their contribution to the Treaty.

Rebecca Johnson, co-founder of ICAN, said: ‘The Nobel Peace Award gives us an amazing opportunity… it gives us a profile, a platform, an opportunity for fundraising and awareness raising and we have set as the centrepiece for that 1,000 days to bring the Treaty into force.’

She emphasised working with parliament and mobilising civil society, as well as working to get rid Trident, and seeking to prevent the replacement of Trident within the multilateral context of the Nuclear Ban Treaty that the UK is going to sign.

She said: ‘The question is when not whether.’

Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND, said: ‘We have to build the movement about the Ban Treaty and against nukes and I believe that it is inseparable here in the UK from the question of Trident.’

Janet Fenton, of CND Scotland and the Northern Friends Peace Board, said the vast majority of Scottish parliamentarians had signed up to the parliamentary pledge.

Timmon Wallis, of the Treaty Compliance Campaign in the US, and formerly of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, described a tired and seemingly defeated peace movement in America.

But he also spoke about challenging where the power lies, in US corporations, referring to the ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ campaign.

Russell Whiting, of Christian CND, said: ‘Jesus tells us to be seekers of peace and he tells us to look after each other and be stewards of God’s creation and there is no better way of seeking peace and being peacemakers than to get rid of a weapon which poses an existential threat to God’s creation.’

The discussion in Friends House was organised by Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW), Christian CND, Religions for Peace UK,  the Fellowship of Reconciliation and London Region CND, and was chaired by Bruce Kent, the longtime peace campaigner and CND vice president.

Friends were encouraged to write to Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and to their MPs asking them to urge the UK government to sign the Treaty.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.