International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons

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ICBUW appeal from the Latin American Conference on Uranium Weapons, San Jose, Costa Rica.

The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons calls on governments, civil society and international agencies to take urgent action on uranium weapons.
7 March 2009 - ICBUW

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The last 12 months have been proof that, through determination and cooperation, civil society can limit the use of indiscriminate and inhumane weapons. We watched in Dublin in May as more than 100 states agreed to a treaty banning the use of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. In doing so, they have saved lives and released money and energy for victim assistance and the removal of the millions of cluster bombs that continue to bring misery to communities, years after the end of the conflicts they were used in.

Months later we witnessed and condemned the use of indiscriminate and inhumane weapons in Gaza that caused such suffering among its civilian population. But of the cluster bombs that were used so casually by Israel in Lebanon just two years previously, and would, in all likelihood have been used in Gaza, there was no sign.

These two events signified the urgency with which we pursue our campaign for a uranium weapons treaty, for two very different reasons. Dublin showed us that our goal is achievable, while Gaza showed us that a treaty can stigmatise the use of the weapons it proscribes, even among states who may not be signatories to the treaty. Through international partnership, and a great deal of hard work, we can confirm for good, the illegality of the use of uranium in conventional weapons.

In Costa Rica, we have drawn much inspiration from the peoples’ support for conflict resolution through dialogue, not warfare, and we have seen that protection of the environment, not militarisation, is the keystone for genuine human security.

We call on Latin American citizens and governments to join us in the pursuit of a uranium weapons treaty that will protect the ecosystem from long-term contamination and safeguard the health of civilians living in post-conflict environments. As a first step towards achieving this goal, we urge states to introduce domestic bans on uranium weapons to create a Uranium Weapon Free Zone across the region.

The use of uranium weapons leaves a chemically toxic and radioactive legacy for future generations. This runs counter to the principles of environmental and civilian protection that are enshrined in humanitarian and environmental law. As our knowledge of the varied means through which uranium may damage human health has grown, so it has become clear that the only justifiable approach to these weapons is a precautionary one.

We call on governments worldwide to acknowledge the Precautionary Principle and introduce, as the first step towards a uranium weapons convention, an immediate moratorium on the use of uranium weapons, before more states suffer from the results of their use and testing.

The path ahead for the campaign may be long and challenging, but we now have considerable momentum behind us. In 2007, a unanimous vote by Belgian politicians banned uranium weapons in their country. In 2008, 94% of Members of the European Parliament voted for an immediate moratorium and the launch of international efforts for a global ban. In Italy, millions of Euros are being paid out as compensation to sick veterans and their families. Elsewhere, banks are ceasing investment in the producers of these weapons.

We sought the support of the United Nations General Assembly and they answered us, in 2007 136 states supported a resolution highlighting serious health concerns, in 2008, 141 supported a resolution calling for a swift reassessment of the hazards uranium weapons pose, requesting that the UN’s agencies focus their attention on the neglected civilian populations in contaminated post-conflict environments.

We call on the World Health Organisation, International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Programme to honestly assess the wealth of new data on uranium’s health hazards, and support rapid international action, based on the Precautionary Principle, to control the use of uranium in conventional weapons.

Most importantly, we have learnt that through working together, we can create a movement that is far stronger than the sum of its constituent parts. Through sharing our expertise and energy across nations and regions, we can amplify our message and broadcast it across the globe. In five years, our Coalition has grown to more than one hundred organisations in nearly thirty countries. In September 2010, the UN will again consider the hazards of uranium weapons, making the next 18 months crucial to our campaign. Governments worldwide must feel the force of our combined voices if they are to take the necessary steps towards a ban.

We call on civil society organisations from across Latin America and the world, to join our Coalition and to help forge new links between peace, religious, environmental, and arms control organisations; between trades unions and politicians; between scientists and lawyers; between soldiers and peacemakers and between those fighting military bases and testing grounds.

Through a Uranium Weapon Convention forged in solidarity with the victims, together we can create a new and lasting precedent for the protection of civilians and the environment from toxic and radioactive contamination.