Nations still divided on nuclear disarmament issue
By Lyndon Burford
The fight to get rid of nuclear weapons goes on, but international dynamics make it hard, writes Lyndon Burford.
After a month of negotiations, the world’s largest intergovernmental nuclear conference has failed to reach consensus on measures to advance nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation (stopping the spread of nuclear weapons).
Meanwhile, nuclear risks are increasing as new nuclear rivalries emerge, terrorist and cyber threats multiply existing risks, and the nuclear-armed states refuse to disarm. 70 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, over 16,000 nuclear weapons still exist—many on Cold War-era alert, ready to launch in minutes.
In the eyes of most non-nuclear states, the nuclear weapon states have failed to fulfil their nuclear disarmament obligations. Incredibly, these nuclear-armed countries will spend $1 trillion maintaining and modernising their nuclear arsenals in the coming decade.
(Article abstract from NZ Herald)
REACT empowers youth on worldwide conflicts
By Lisa Gellert
Youth have the power to be changemakers for peace – peacemakers for change. The Peace Foundation aims at engaging students from secondary schools in current conflict topics through REACT – REsponding to Armed ConflicT.
The presentations cover a variety of areas – from nuclear disarmament to terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East and Sub Saharan Africa. While the REACT team provides a historical overview and draws attention to connecting and contributing factors the discussion and possible response options are guided by the students’ questions and ideas.
The most recent REACT presentation at Kelston Girls College, Auckland was led by Héloïse Faure and Chris Siver focusing on the Ebola crisis and its connection to civil war and by Lisa Gellert presenting on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The discussion around IS focused on several points such as the New Zealand military involvement, the motivation of young people to join IS as well as how to address this conflict and the claims of IS in general. The complex question of the effectiveness and long-term consequences of a military intervention was raised by the students. Should one respond to armed conflict with arms?
Raising awareness and encouraging students to speak up and stay informed – REACT empowers youth to address, challenge and respond to conflicts worldwide.
Racism - Don't be a bystander
By Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner
I’d like to share a story with you.
A pre-school boy walking home from kindy with his mother is confronted by angry adults who abuse him because he is a Jew. They rip the yarmulke off his small head and scream hate at him and his mum.
Did this attack take place 75 years ago? Was that little boy from Berlin or Warsaw?
I’m ashamed to say that no, this didn’t happen long ago and neither did it happen far away. This small Kiwi boy lives in Mt Eden and he faced race hate only a few months ago, on the streets of our biggest city.
Sadly, Muslim Kiwis have reported similar attacks on their children and mums on the way home from school. When our kids are scared to wear a yarmulke or a head scarf because some adult may abuse or attack them, what kind of New Zealand are we living in?
Less than one month after I stood alongside some incredible New Zealanders – our own Holocaust survivors – at Holocaust Remembrance Services, Jewish graves were desecrated down in Dunedin. We must ask ourselves, have we learnt anything at all? Are we honouring the legacy of Kiwis who went to war to fight for our fundamental human rights?
Some may argue we shouldn’t be too worried because we don’t have the same rate of attacks as other countries. But this argument is flawed. Because as our holocaust survivors will tell you, hate starts small. Hate is born when a small child and his mother are abused as they walk home. Hate grows when their neighbours and friends stand by and do nothing.Hate triumphs when intolerance and prejudice becomes engrained across an entire society, from the pages of newspapers to the halls of Government, from schoolrooms to boardrooms.
If there is any lesson everyday New Zealanders can learn from the holocaust – it’s ‘don’t be a bystander’. Don’t stand by and do nothing when you see people spreading hate and prejudice in your community, or your neighbourhood. I can’t help but wonder whether anyone supported that small boy and his mum. Did someone let them know they weren’t alone? Did someone challenge the cowards who abused them?
Those who spread hate and prejudice in our communities need to know their hatred is not welcome, and it’s everyday New Zealanders who need to give them that message. Everyday New Zealanders need to challenge prejudice and hate wherever, whenever we see it. We have an excellent international human rights record but it is not worth the paper it is written on if New Zealanders are under attack because they’re Jewish, Muslim, Chinese or Maori.
Human rights aren’t just found in a declaration at the United Nations. They need to be found in the communities we live in because human rights begin at home.
This year’s Race Relations Day theme – ‘Big Change Starts Small’ – was created by a Vietnamese Kiwi teenager who had lived in Auckland for less than a year when he won last year’s national Race Unity Speech Award. The theme’s te reo Maori theme is the proverb ‘Itiiti Rearea, Kahika Teitei, Ka Taea’ – the smallest bellbird is able to climb to the heights of the tallest Kahika tree.
A a secondary student at Auckland International College, Thai An Vo’s winning speech captures the spirit of positive race relations and human rights: Big change starts small. Positive race relations don’t just live in a document at the United Nations – they must live in our communities, suburbs and lives.
Young Maori and Pacific Kiwis are a growing demographic, with Auckland home to the biggest Polynesian population on the planet. Today one in ten Kiwis are Asian Kiwis, in Auckland one in four of us are Asian.
New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and yet we are also one of the most peaceful nations on the planet. This is something I’m grateful for and proud of but it’s also something we can’t take for granted.
While we’ve come a long way when it comes to treating each other with respect, it’s still a work in progress. The Human Rights Commission receives thousands of complaints every year and a third of them are related to racial discrimination, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Shinagawa visits Auckland as Sister City
Eleven representatives from Shinagawa City Assembly headed by Mr Hideo Ishida were hosted by Auckland Council and The Peace Foundation on 24-26 November 2014. The purpose of the visit was to exchange information about peace initiatives that are part of the wider ‘Cities for Peace’ movement, of which Auckland became a part of in 2011.
On 24 November, the delegates were officially welcomed by Cnr Cathey Casey and local boards. A presentation on Auckland was delivered by Kathryn Nemec of Auckland Council Global Partnerships and Strategy and Jan Ziegler-Peri of Auckland Council of Community Development and Safety.
Caroline Ongleo-Calub of The Peace Foundation presented on the highlights of the Auckland City for Peace initiatives. On the same day, the delegates had a meeting with The Peace Foundation Council and staff that presented more information about the Foundation and their work on City for Peace. Members of the delegation also presented on the milestones on their being a City for Peace.
On 26 March 2015, the Shinagawa Declaration as a Nuclear-Free Peaceful City will be marking its 30th anniversary. The friendship city agreement between Shinagawa, a ward of Tokyo, and Auckland was signed in 1993. The relationship dates back to 1989 when Mt Roskill Borough School and Shinagawa established a friendship communique. The local connection remains strong with ongoing student exchange between Shinagawa and Lynfield College that the delegates visited on 25 November.
Peace Walk at the Domain
The Peace Foundation, in partnership with Auckland Council, held its first Peace Walk at the Auckland Domain on 26 November 2014. The event fostered greater ties between Auckland and Shinagawa (in Japan) as sister cities. About 40 people attended the event with 11 delegates from Shinagawa City Assembly, Consul Office of Japan in Auckland, Soka Gakkai International New Zealand, Sri Chimnoy, Sister Cities, Global Future Charitable Trust, and peace activists.
The event featured 12 peace sites and sculptures, which was created as part of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence, as a United Nations Association of New Zealand Peace Day event in September 2009. The walk is one of the ways in which Auckland City for Peace can be celebrated. The Peace Walk included the: Camphor tree, Olive trees, Spine sculpture, Kaitiaki (peace bird) sculpture, Pohutukawa for Peac, Pukekawa (volcano), site of the Pukekaroa Pa; Sri Chimnoy Peace Mile; Wintergardens; Millennium Tree; Rotary Friendship Grove, and the Band Rotunda. The brochure of the full Auckland City for Peace Heritage Walk is available at The Peace Foundation.