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Report on ICBUW's Activities in Helsinki, Finland

From IPPNW World Congress. Drafted by ICBUW board members Ria Verjauw and Katsumi Furitsu
30 November 2006 - Ria Verjauw and Katsumi Furitsu

IPPNW World Congress/workshop on DU

ICBUW, together with IPPNW-Germany, organised a workshop on DU weapons during the IPPNW world congress in Helsinki. Dr Angelika Claussen from IPPNW Germany facilitated the workshop.

Inside the IPPNW congress.

Iraqi cancer specialist Dr Al-Ali presented the latest epidemiological data from Basra while US physician Dr Fasy presented evidence on the radiological and chemical toxicology of DU. He introduced experimental data as well as information on research carried out during the Manhattan project from studies on uranium miners and went on to link this data with the neurological symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome. Katsumi Furitsu then introduced the mission and activities of ICBUW, its grounds for a ban on uranium weapons and concrete proposals for IPPNW.

IPPNW's ‘principal program areas beyond the core mission of nuclear abolition include projects to end the threats posed by small arms and light weapons, landmines, chemical and biological weapons, and the burden of debt on developing nations.’ Assessing the health impact of DU weapons and working for a total ban on these weapons is also one of the IPPNW's critical issues from this program

IPPNW-Germany and some other affiliates organised a workshop on DU at the 16th world congress of IPPNW in Beijing in 2004. Mr Kazashi and Ms Moritaki from the NO DU Hiroshima Project were among the speakers at the workshop.
They presented a resolution to support the ban of uranium weapons at the congress.

IPPNW adopted part of the text of the resolution on DU. It says:
"IPPNW supports a general and comprehensive prohibition of the development, production, transport, storage, possession, transfer and use of uranium ammunition, uranium armor-plate and of any other military use of uranium, as proposed by the International Coalition for Ban on Uranium Weapons (ICBUW)."

Activities organised by ICBUW’s Finnish friends

Women for Peace Finland, No More Nuclear Power Movement and the Finnish Peace Committee have been actively involved in the domestic anti-DU campaign for several years in Finland. They have been collecting signatures for the international petition at various public occasions and lobbying the Finnish government.

These peace groups took the initiative to lobby at their Parliament and Ministries during the lobby week and co-organised the Seminar in the Parliament building in Helsinki.

Meeting Jyrki Livonen at the Finnish MoD.

Lobbying activities to the Finnish government and parliamentary members

A meeting at the Ministry of Defense with Jyrki Livonen (Director for Public Policy, Docent, Information Unit) took place. He said: “Finland does not posses uranium weapons. In the past we had missiles with DU from Russia, but they are now dismantled. Finland will use its influence on EU level not to buy or use uranium weapons.” During this meeting the Finnish government decided to send 250 soldiers on a peace mission to Lebanon.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Markus Lyra Under Secretary of State.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we met with Mr Markus Lyra (Under-Secretary of State, responsible for foreign and security policy, press and culture) and had a short discussion.

We requested that he ask the Minister to put the issue of DU on the UN agenda next year. Mr Lyra was then asked about the possibility of financial support from the Finnish government and/or UNEP for research on the contamination and health impact of DU, specifically the Iraqi Children’s Tooth Project and the Basra Epidemiological Survey.

Ms Anna-Liisa Mattsoff, Ms Marika Lohi and a delegation of ICBUW together with Dr Al Ali met with delegations from the different Finnish parliamentary groups. Five political groups out of eight in the Finnish parliament came to the meeting.

Some of them openly spoke out in support of actions toward their government and parliament for a ban on uranium weapons. They had already worked cooperatively with our Finnish friends to organise the seminar in the Parliament.

After our meeting with the parliamentary groups, Mr Pentti Tiusanen from the Left Alliance, handed in a written question to the Chairman of Parliament about Finland's actions in the UN towards a ban on the use of depleted uranium in weapons. All of the five parliamentary groups, whom we met, signed in support of the questions.

Attending the 'EU Our Future' event.

ICBUW demands to the Ministries and political parties:

During Finland’s EU Presidency, ICBUW hopes that Finland will play a more active role in helping to ban uranium weapons on a national and international level and will be willing to play a leading role in this important campaign.

It would be a positive move forward if the resolution could be introduced and passed by the UN General Assembly. Therefore ICBUW asks if Finland is prepared to submit and support this Resolution for the UN General Assembly in September 2007.

Other items that were discussed:

The possible use of uranium weapons in Lebanon.
The information given to Finnish peace-keeping members on the danger of uranium weapons.
UNEP investigation.
A parliamentary decision in the Finnish Parliament to ban uranium weapons and bring the issue to the council of EU ministers.

The Seminar: Cancer trends in Basrah, Iraq, Depleted Uranium: A 4.5 billion year health risk.

Mr Pentti Tiusanen (a Parliamentary member for the Left Alliance, and Chair of the Parliamentary Environmental Committee) welcomed us and chaired the seminar.

Presentations were made by:

Dr Al-Ali: Environmental contamination with depleted uranium in southern Iraq. Epidemiological study showing an increase in cancer in Basra region;

Katsumi: Introduction to ICBUW and grounds for a total ban on uranium weapons;

Ria Verjauw: The European political landscape regarding a ban on uranium weapons - with focus on Belgium;

Dr Baverstock: The potential toxicity of depleted uranium in the post-war civilian environment;

Dr Fasy: the Iraqi Children’s Tooth Project.

Ms Heidi Hautala (Chair of the Green parliamentary group) commented on the issue and expressed her support for the convention to ban uranium weapons, as well as the UN resolution. She said that Finland should act positively during its EP presidency for the actual implementation of the moratorium resolution on DU weapons. She also mentioned about the possible use of DU weapons in Lebanon and that the Finnish government should take some measures to protect their soldiers from the risk of possible DU contamination.

Mr Kauko Pippuri (UN peace-keeping veteran from Finland) also made a short presentation about his concerns of the health risks associated with their activities in Kosovo.

Many questions were raised relating to the health and social situation in Iraq. There were also good discussions on the following issues: possible countries to support the UN resolution, the difference between nuclear weapons and DU weapons, toxicity of uranium with relation to the natural high background, funding for the tooth project and so on.

Press conference

Dr Al-Ali, Dr Fasy, Ria, Katsumi, Marila and Teemu attended. The reporters from a newspaper and a local radio station came to interview us. We also prepared a press release. An article on the health impact of DU - focusing on the situation in Iraq – appeared on the front of a popular free newspaper the next morning. The radio station was planning to make two 20-minute radio programs afterwards, which planned to cover the DU issue more thoroughly.

Informal meeting and discussion with Drs Al-Ali, Baverstock, Fasy and Furitsu

Dr Al-Ali, Dr Keith Baverstock, Dr Thomas Fasy and Dr Katsumi met to work on a scientific contribution and to plan scientific review papers on the toxicology of DU. This work will be a powerful tool for the campaign.