New Zealand

“Peace isn’t ‘Kumbaya’ or a dove and a rainbow,” as Jody Williams illustrates so clearly in her new book on life as “a grassroots activist to the core.”

It’s hard to believe that Jody has not published her auto-biography until now, 15 years after receiving the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Yet it’s not surprising given the intense pace at which she continues to advocate for peace and justice, both in the US and around the world. It can be hard for activists to find time to reflect and write about their own lives when there is so much to do, but recording how we work is just as necessary as doing it. (more…)

Lately I’ve been spending some time exploring and explaining the concept of humanitarian disarmament, including what it means in practice. This was spurred in part by a December 2011 decision by the New Zealand government to disband the longstanding position of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control and provide the portfolio responsibility to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Murray McCully. It also follows concerns over the lack of effective resourcing for disarmament work by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. But this work has not been restricted to New Zealand – I’m also working to bring together a ’summit’ later in the year for campaigners working internationally in humanitarian disarmament to discuss at our work and future collaboration. Hence this logo and variations on it, which you may be seeing more of…

At an event tonight I asked New Zealand’s foreign minister Hon. Murray McCully when his ministry is going to embrace social media technology, when’s he going to get on Twitter? The US, UK, Australia and other countries are on board but New Zealand is conspicuously absent. (more…)

A new documentary film by Mary Wareham screened for the first time on August 1st, 2010. The 21-minute film entitled Cluster Bombs: Banned in New Zealand looks at the role of government and civil society in the process to create the convention. Made by Next Step Productions in cooperation with the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition, the film screened at an event held in Civic Square, Wellington to celebrate entry into force of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. (more…)

marae_rekohuAt the end of September, I had the great privilege to visit the Chatham Islands as a guest of the Moriori people and part of a 50-strong delegation of officials and peace activists from New Zealand and overseas. We went to renew the Moriori code of non-violence and passive resistance and, in that special way, “bless” the World March for Peace and Nonviolence that began in Wellington on 2 October 2009 and will end in Argentina three months later. (more…)

dsc_0110My friend bought me a gift back from her mid-winter vacation in Fiji, a bottle of “Freedom Water” that promises the consumer the “power or right to act, speak, of think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” I guess the thought is carefree, but hardly applicable to Fiji right now.

According to my friend, Kiwis holidaymakers should no longer expect a warm welcome in Fiji (no matter what you pay). Locals expressed support for the interim government put in place by the military regime two and a half years ago, while local media reported fluff and nothing of substance.

Fiji was the subject of collective hand-wringing at the Pacific Forum leaders meeting in Cairns last week. Human Rights Watch called for stronger action to tackle Fiji’s ongoing abuses. Australia and New Zealand secured “agreement” for a free trade deal with Pacific nations barring Fiji, while they weakened the climate change goal in the final communique.

“Freedom Water” is bottled of Fijian company Aqua Pacific, which has been criticised by pro-military bloggers. We should probably all be wary of bottled water – it might taste good, but it ain’t helping the planet…

dsc_0184After spending time in Turkey this northern summer I’m pretty sympathetic to calls for the return of artifacts stolen by colonial powers and others.  So it has been exciting to read about the parliamentary debate in the France over the return of Maori remains to Aotearoa New Zealand. The upper house/Senate voted unanimously on 29 June in favour of a bill calling for France’s museums to return all Maori heads still in their possession to New Zealand. The bill now heads to the National Assembly for approval. France’s newly appointed ministry of culture, Frederic Mitterrand, has supported the legislation and said, “these mummified heads led to a particularly barbaric trade, fuelled by the sinister curiosity of travellers and European collectors.”  France has about 15 Maori heads, including eight at Paris’ Quai Branly museum of tribal arts, which opened in 2006.

Next Step Productions’ website is now back in action thanks to the talented Mr Jason Conny, who has helped us transition to a new server and system.  It had also become tricky to update several websites (from the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition to Disarm) and simultaneously maintain a social networking presence on Facebook and elsewhere…

The extent to which online advocacy has become such a core aspect of our organising never ceases to amaze me. From Skype calls to urgent email alerts to the ever-sophisticated process of putting the annual Landmine Monitor report to print it seems like more than half my life is spent on my computer online. Not great when it’s summer outside!

mw08-016On 18 October 2008, I gave a joint presentation at a seminar in Wellington on the topic of ‘Eliminating Nuclear Weapons: Exploring the Next Steps.’ The presentation considered lessons from the Ottawa Process that resulted in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the Oslo Process that has produced the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. The presentation considered how these unconventional, but successful diplomatic endeavors could prove instructive in looking at how to move forward nuclear disarmament. (more…)

Today ICBL’s Landmine Monitor Report 2007 was released with events around the world. I provided the Pacific updates for this year’s report after the death of long-time landmine campaigner John Head. I handed the report over to David Hodge, principal of Auckland’s Rangitoto College (the largest high school in Australasia), at the conclusion of a day of activities on landmines and cluster bombs. The school’s media director Peter Harwood set up the launch to mark the conclusion of a school semester that had seen all 640 of the school’s Year 10 (Form 4) students learn about landmines as part of a national curriculum piece on social action. My film documentary film Disarm featured among the teaching resources. Landmine Monitor received some media attention here because, according to the South Korea update, New Zealand imported 1,000 Claymore mines in 2006. This mines are permitted under the Mine Ban Treaty if operated in command-detonated mode only. TV 3 also ran a piece on the launch event, but not until 8 December?

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