Launch of Australian Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons
The meeting attracted people from as far as Newcastle and the Blue Mountains who want to actively support the international campaign and ensure the Australian government supports any future UN resolutions relating to a ban on DU weapons.
The group heard a message from renowned anti-nuclear campaigner, Dr Helen Caldicott, who has agreed to be a patron of the Australian campaign.
Dr Caldicott highlighted Australia’s key role in the issue saying a large part of the world’s DU ordinance could be derived from Australian uranium.
“Considering Australia’s role in exporting uranium around the world, the Australian government is obliged to support any UN resolution that will ban uranium weapons, de-contaminate affected sites and provide medical care to victims,” she said. (See Dr Caldicott’s full message below)
The meeting also heard a first-hand account of the personal impact of DU on children in Iraq through the experiences of peace activist Donna Mulhearn.
“Seeing the faces and hearing the names and stories of children and families affected by DU weapons brings home the true, devastating impact of these weapons on ordinary, innocent people,” she said.
“We want to raise awareness about the plight of victims, mostly women and children, and ensure their suffering never happens again.”
Donna noted that in the past several Australian peace and environment groups had explored the issue of DU weapons along with other issues.
“This new campaign is very important because achieving a ban on DU weapons is its sole and specific focus,” she said.
Following the successful launch, a campaign strategy meeting will be held on Saturday December 10 to make plans for next year. For further information see, acbuw.org
Firstly I want to offer my apology for being unable to attend today’s launch of the Australian Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons. I was thrilled to hear of this new Australian campaign, very happy to be the founding patron and I offer my full support to its mission to see a total ban on the use and sale of uranium weapons.
The impact of Uranium weapons on the health of civilians, soldiers, children and the environment has been one of the urgent issues of my research and campaigning in the last 20 years since the first use of uranium munitions by the US military in the Gulf War of 1991.
It is crucial that Policy-makers and the public have clear scientific data from which to base decisions about the use of depleted uranium weapons, data which has largely been absent from the pronouncements of the Pentagon in defending depleted uranium as a weapon.
This need for well-considered scientific data prompted the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, which I founded in 2001, to endeavour to offer a fresh, comprehensive account of the health effects of depleted uranium. So in 2003, the Institute conducted a study called Depleted Uranium: Scientific Basis for Assessing Risk, the findings of which you can find on my website.
While most media and government attention regarding the use of depleted uranium has centred on soldiers, with this report, the Nuclear Policy Research Institute cautions that the most vulnerable population is children.
In conflict areas such as Iraq, where residential areas have been ravaged by tanks and munitions, the DU-contaminated debris has become the children’s new playground. A World Health Organisation coordinator said that “young children could receive greater exposure when playing within a conflict zone because of hand-to-mouth activity that could result in high depleted uranium ingestion from contaminated soil.” Not only are they more likely to ingest DU, but they are 10 to 20 times more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects then adults.
There is also the extraordinary sensitivity of foetuses as evidenced by the unprecedented increase in newborn congenital abnormalities in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Fallujah
Children suffer the greatest risk from depleted uranium exposure, yet they have no voice in the DU debate.
Those children, as well as the broader civilian and military population exposed to DU, deserve the utmost consideration when determining the scientific basis for assessing risk. Clearly more research is needed. Therefore the users of DU weapons should support independent, unhindered research on affected communities and environments.
Our research found that the health risks of depleted uranium are significant and tend to be substantially understated by government bodies, which in some cases have made public statements which directly contradict the results of their own research.
I hope the campaign being launched today can play an important role in providing accurate information about uranium weapons, and raise the awareness of Australian members of Parliament and the general public about their impact on human health and the environment.
Almost certainly much of the DU ordinance is derived from Australian uranium. Considering Australia’s role in exporting uranium around the world, the Australian government is obliged to support any UN resolution that will ban uranium weapons, de-contaminate affected sites and provide medical care to victims. So be sure to hold those politicians to account!
The UN sub commission on human rights has condemned uranium munitions as weapons of indiscriminate destruction. They fail the test of several UN weapons conventions and international law, which we why we need urgent action.
So I thank you all for attending today’s launch, and wish you all the best in your mission to raise awareness on the impact of uranium weapons, I look forward to working with you and other groups around the world to campaign for an end to their use - together we will one day achieve a total ban on the use and sale of uranium weapons. Today’s launch is another step towards that goal, Congratulations - you are doing noble work.