Who said there is no need for the peace movement now that the Cold War is over? On the contrary-we have lots more to do. Help to resolve conflicts before they lead to violence. Get rid of all nuclear weapons. Stop the sale of weapons. And build a more peaceful, environmentally sound and just world.
Just back from some days in Estonia and Russia, I am still shocked. There is a "bomb," or rather many "bombs," ready to explode in that area. The harsh conflict between native Estonians and the half-million Russians, who are now denied the possibility of self determination, can only increase their problems. There is definitely a need for conflict resolution before this leads to a direct violent confrontation. The lessons from Yugoslavia must be learned and the peace movement has a very important role to play in order to help solve conflicts instead of fighting them.
Another "bomb" lies in the atomic sea in Sillanma, at the Baltic Sea. With only a dike against the Baltic Sea they have deposited chemical and radioactive waste in unbelievable quantities. The earth and water have, in fact, an unnatural blue color. One scientist estimated the waste as equal to 1,200 nuclear bombs! No-one knows how to take care of it, or if it will leak into the Baltic sea. This environmental bomb and all the radioactivity dumped into the Barents Sea show the urgency of a total commitment to control the entire nuclear process and to eliminate all nuclear weapons. At the very least, the mess from the nuclear period must be cleaned up.
Aprogram to that end must include a complete ban on all testing of nuclear weapons, a prolonged Non-proliferation Treaty and U.N. control over all the plutonium and material used for nuclear weapons in the world. It must also include a registering, tagging, and control of all nuclear weapons, a declaration of illegality for nuclear weapons, and eventually a nuclear weapon-free world treaty. That will not come about without an active international peace movement.
The next "bomb" is the rising unemployment due to disarmament. In St. Petersburg, 80% of the employment was within the military and related sectors. What will happen to all those people without a job or a functioning welfare system? Demands for an increased export of weapons, and perhaps a wish to have the communist system back again can be expected.
But unemployment must not be solved by the export of weapons. Without weapons there is no war! In Somalia weapons are still flooding in. You can buy a Kalashnikov assault rifle for $10 or a fully-equipped tank for $2000, a UNHCR representative told me. The arms trade has to be stopped and to that end there is a need for an active peace movement.
The traditional work of the peace movement is still there-getting rid of weapons, both nuclear and conventional, and stopping the arms trade. But there are also new tasks: preventing and solving conflicts, creating peace through peaceful means and using military resources to preserve the environment. As Albert Einstein once said "Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding."
Maj-Britt Theorin is president of the International Peace Bureau.