International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons

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2007 Campaign Review

It is fair to say that ICBUW has had an extraordinary year. From the world’s first domestic DU ban in Belgium, to a General Assembly resolution, and all in the space of 12 busy months.
21 December 2007 - Doug Weir

With the help of Network Flanders and Banktrack we have identified the financiers of uranium weapons, and with the help of the members of the Greens/European Free Alliance grouping in the European Parliament, we have brought the horrors of uranium weapons to a whole new audience.

We have held personal meetings with more than twenty states, and our member organisations have held dozens more in their own countries. We have held a successful conference in New York and we have rekindled old alliances with NGOs and activists. Just as importantly, we have welcomed new members into the coalition, swelling our membership to 92 groups in 25 countries.

Our work at the UN has brought us recognition from major humanitarian groups such as Pax Christi and Amnesty International and a chance encounter by a member delivered us the blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile a study on civilian contamination suggests that aerosolized DU particles can cause autoimmune problems, chronic fatigue and cancers, while in Italy public pressure has resulted in a EUR170 million compensation package for veterans suffering from post-conflict illnesses.

There is now an unmistakable momentum towards a ban on uranium in all conventional weapon systems. But let us be very clear, there are some huge challenges ahead. This year, we have been lucky enough to witness the Cluster Munition Coalition’s remarkable rise to power and the launch of a treaty process that will, by next year, outlaw cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The treaty will also unlock financial support for clearance and survivor assistance. The Oslo Process is a stark reminder that it is possible, given the political will, to ban once and for all, an indiscriminate weapon system.

The Oslo Process has offered up some very clear lessons and highlighted some of the pitfalls that await us. First and foremost is accuracy of data. It is imperative that we base our campaigning on the best peer-reviewed science possible. To move the policy makers and establishment scientists we must speak their language.

Second, we must work closely with the military. We have shown through our work with EUROMIL that European militaries have little interest in endangering themselves or civilians. The move towards asymmetrical warfare and the ‘air-strike mentality’ reinforces this. It is becoming very obvious that the contamination of civilian areas does not win ‘hearts and minds’.

Finally, we must not underestimate the importance of domestic campaigning. We can hold all the meetings we like with state delegations, but unless there is the political will at home to drive the campaign forward, our lobbying will fall on deaf ears. Campaigns in Belgium and Finland have shown that domestic coalition building can be a very successful model and we would urge all our member groups to consider it.

The next 12 months will be just as crucial for the campaign. ICBUW intends to begin building a ‘coalition of the willing’ to boost our influence on an international level. We also hope to draw more large NGOs into the Coalition. But perhaps the most important process will be the submitting of scientific reports to the UN Secretary General. This was one of the key parts of the recent UN Resolution and we have already made a start on contacting expert witnesses and collating research.

On behalf of the ICBUW Steering Committee, I would like to wish all our supporters a merry festive season and a peaceful New Year.