Mayors and parliamentarians meet in Basel to discuss disarmament and sustainable security

Christine Muttonen shifting weapons money to SDGs

Basel conference brings legislators, experts and civil society representatives together to discuss the INF Treaty, disarmament and divestment from weapons and fossil fuel industries.

PNND invites legislators and civil society representatives to endorse the Basel Appeal for Disarmament and Sustainable Security.

Legislators (parliamentarians and mayors) can and must take action to preserve the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, prevent nuclear-missiles returning to Europe, reduce the risks of nuclear war and advance nuclear disarmament and sustainable security – according to participants in the Basel Conference on Nuclear Disarmament and Divestment, a European regional conference of PNND, Mayors for Peace (Europe) and leading nuclear disarmament organisations held in Basel, Switzerland on January 14-15, 2019.

‘The issue of nuclear disarmament is again on the European political agenda as nuclear threats have returned, the arms race between Russia and the USA has resumed and nuclear arms control agreements like the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty are eroding,’ says Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator and an organiser of the conference and associated events.

In Basel we paid particular attention to what mayors, city councils and parliamentarians can do to support nuclear-risk reduction policies such as no-first-use and de-alerting, and in reducing nuclear weapons budgets and investments.'

Parliamentarians, mayors, city councillors and representatives of peace and disarmament organisations are invited to endorse the Basel Appeal on Disarmament and Sustainable Security which was adopted at the conference and which will be sent on January 24 to political and parliamentary leaders of Russia, USA and Europe.

Lukas Ott, Basel-Stadt Kanton, opening the European Regional meeting of PNND and Mayors for Peace

The Appeal calls on Russia and USA to maintain the INF Treaty, renew the START Treaty, declare that they would never be the first to use nuclear weapons, replace reliance on nuclear deterrence with common security, and join with other nuclear-armed States to negotiate the phased elimination of nuclear weapons under effective international verification, control and compliance.

It also calls on European leaders and parliaments to re-affirm their opposition to any deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe, and on the US and Russian legislatures to take action to support nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament, including refusing to authorise, or allocate funding for weapons systems which might violate the INF Treaty, such as the Russian 9M729 missile, or which could provide similar capability as INF Treaty-prohibited weapons such as air or sea launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

'The Mayors for Peace network, to which more than 7,000 cities and towns belong, is a worldwide movement for peace that is a powerful voice against war and environmental destruction,’ says Thomas Hermann, Deputy Mayor of Hannover, a Mayors for Peace Executive City.

‘Now more than ever, when peace-making treaties that respond to nuclear armament are being called into question, when we face the threat of new arms escalation in Europe, and when the consequences of climate change are displacing people in increasing numbers, we must speak out more forcefully once again.’

Sean Morris, Convener of Mayors for Peace European Section, presenting the Mayors for Peace action plan

The Basel appeal also highlights nuclear weapons budgets and investments, and calls for reinvesting these into peace, economic development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

'Legislators at national, regional and city levels have key roles to play in adopting policies to prevent war, support disarmament – especially nuclear disarmament – and promote sustainable development,’ says Thore Vestby (Norway), Vice-President of Mayors for Peace.

The Norwegian parliament, for example, moved the government pension fund a decade ago to divest from corporations producing nuclear weapons or operating in other ways in contravention to the UN Global Compact on investments and responsible business practice. Since then a number of other governments and banks have followed suit. With the recent adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, divestment from nuclear weapons should become the norm, not the exception.’

(Click here to endorse the Basel Appeal)

Basel Peace Forum and arms exports

The Basel Conference on Nuclear Disarmament and Divestment was held in conjunction with the Basel Peace Forum, an annual event organized by swisspeace which brings around 200 leaders of business, diplomacy, academia and civil society from around the world to Basel to generate new ideas for peace, conflict prevention and conflict transformation. A key theme for the 2019 Forum was Impact Investing.

Front and back of the €1 million note used to count out the €27 billion of weapons European countries export

The Forum included an interactive activity organised by the Basel Peace Office (and co-sponsored by IPPNW Switzerland, Group for Switzerland without an Army and PNND) to highlight the issue of weapons exports and financing of war.  

 ‘European countries collectively spend €220 billion on the military and export €27 billion of weapons annually, many of these weapons going to regimes with horrific human rights records or which are in armed conflict. In comparison, Europe invests only €140million (0.6% of the military budget) on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which brings Europe, North America and Russia together to manage conflicts, forge peace and build common security,’ says Christine Muttonen (Austria), PNND Co-President and former President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

 ‘The magnitude of this military spending is not understood by the public, nor the amount of good that would occur if just a portion of this money was reallocated to peace and sustainable development,’ says  Prof (em) Andreas Nidecker MD (Switzerland), President of the Basel Peace Office. ‘As such, on January 14 we counted out €27 billion – the amount of annual European arms exports – in 27,000 notes each of €1 million value, and ‘reallocated’ this to climate protection and the other sustainable development goals.’

Kristýna Chyňavová (Czech Republic) and Ronja Jansen (Switzerland) count European weapons exports money and reallocate this to Sustainable Development Goals

Public forum - Investing in peace and sustainability

Basel Peace Office and PNND also organised a public forum on Investing in peace and sustainability: Political and financial policies to protect future generations from climate change and nuclear weapons.

The forum discussed, in particular, ending investments of public and private funds in the fossil fuel and nuclear weapons industries, and shifting investments towards enterprises which help protect the climate and acheive the sustainable development goals.

'Europeans need to invest more in climate protection and sustainable development in order to ensure we have a peaceful and habitable planet for future generations,’ says Molly Scott Cato (UK), Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar.

We are headed towards a climate catastrophe – and additional climate-induced conflicts - unless we shift financial incentives from fossil fuels and militarism, to sustainable investment. Governments, cities, pension funds, universities, banks and other investors should move away from voluntary divestment to well and truly end their investments in fossil fuels and the arms industry. Instead they should join the growing trend towards investments in renewable energies, green industries, healthy ecosystems and other sectors which support sustainable development.'

‘Swiss pension funds are asking all stock listed companies for a planned reduction of carbon emissions,’ says Rudolf Rechsteiner (Switzerland), president of Ethos Foundation, speaking at the meeting of mayors and parliamentarians on January 15. ‘Wind and solar cover 6 percent of world power demand now, following an exponential growth path due to their low cost.  ‘A 100% renewable energy future is within reach and the change is disruptive. Investors should promote these policies in cooperation with governments; divestment from coal, oil, gas and nuclear perfectly makes sense: the energy sector was at the bottom of the S&P 500 in 2018, and close to last place in 2017.’

‘Young people across Europe are rising. We are getting increasingly active in socially responsible and sustainable investment campaigns, and especially in ending investments in fossil fuels and war,’ says Luisa Neubauer (Germany), Youth Climate activist from Fossil Free Germany. ‘The growing number of universities committing to divestment adds a strong normative aspect to the campaign that will hopefully also influence governments and other investors.’

Investment and trade can be a positive force for peace between nations if undertaken according to socially responsible principles’, concluded Dr Nidecker. ‘I am proud that Basel Kanton is working to implement such policies here, and to promote such policies in Europe and globally.’