Every year the International Peace Bureau awards the Sean MacBride prize to a person or organisation that has done outstanding work for peace, disarmament, and/or human rights. MacBride himself was Irish statesman who won the Nobel Peace Prize (1974), and founded the disarmament committee of the UN. In 2018 the prize went to a Canadian, Douglas Roche. For 2019 IPB will present awards to Bruce Kent, the former chair of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and to Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez. The prize is a medal that will be given in London on October 20th.
Bruce Kent, now in his 90th year, remains an active campaigner. He was a Roman Catholic priest in 1960 when he joined CND, serving several terms as both its chair and General Secretary. He also was a founder of the Movement for the Abolition of War, END and a president of IPB.
Elayne Whyte Gómez is Costa Rica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva. She successfully led the negotiations of the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Between 2014 and 2015, she chaired the Convention on Cluster Munitions and now serves on the Implementation Committee on the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention. Her leadership in negotiating the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons led to success, and the treaty, so far, is ratified up to now by 26 countries and signed by 70.
Source: Reiner Braun, International Peace Bureau, Berlin
When the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is ratified by fifty States, it will enter into force. It has already received half the requisite number of signatures, with the ratification in August of Bolivia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. On September 26 a special ceremony is being held at the United Nations when states can sign the Treaty or submit instruments of ratification. That date is also the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, and the president of the General Assembly is convening a one-day high-level plenary meeting.
Source: Reaching Critical Will, WILPF, August 2019
This past August, the people of Puerto Rico took to the streets in protest against a corrupt government. For fourteen days, with no apparent leadership, they participated in horse caravans, sky diving, blockading roads and major highways, a motorized caravan of more than 3,000 participants, pot banging, protest songs, prayer and mass, a 5km run, graffiti, street art, performing art, kite flying, removal of the governor’s portrait from agencies, singing patriotic songs, mass marches, yoga, and coffee. Social media were employed in the mobilization of the protests, with hashtags #rickyrenuncia and #rickydictador trending on Twitter—a reference to Governor Ricardo Rosselló. A leak (called “Ricky Leaks”) had revealed, not only a shocking level of corruption and threats against political opponents, but even jokes exchanged among the officials about the 4,645 deaths from Hurricane Maria. These activities have led to a number of People’s Assemblies, with people demanding participatory democracy.
Such civil resistance is not new to Puerto Rico. In the 1930s, a strike by the sugar workers had paralyzed the country’s economy and reduced the profits of U.S. absentee landowners. In 1998, the telephone workers had protested in the streets against the privatization of the company. In 199 activists had set up camp on the U.S. Navy’s bombing range on Vieques, and the 150,000 people marched in the streets of San Juan. And this summer, an estimated one million people—about 30 percent of the population—participated in the demonstrations against Rosselló’s government. Rosselló resigned in August, though he appointed a former coal utility lobbyist as his replacement.
In the aftermath of these revolts, an upstart political party, Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana, is gaining support. It would raise the minimum wage, restore labor rights and make the environment a major issue. It also demands a referendum on whether to demand either statehood or increased sovereignty in its relations with the United States.
Sources: Sara Vazquez Melendez in “Minds of the Movement,” the blog of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, and Alexander C. Kaufman, “Puerto Rico’s Crises Could Break The Island’s Two-Party Politics.” HuffPost, 9/16/2019.