Reflections from Féile Bríde 2019

Caoimhe de Barra at Feile Bride 2019

‘We’ve won campaigns and had successes and we must celebrate and remember these as we take on the challenges that lie ahead’, so said Trócaire Director Caoimhe de Barra, setting the tone for  Afri’s Féile Bríde Conference, 2019.

She recalled East Timor’s long campaign, and the genocide perpetrated against it, and how it eventually gained its independence, with much support from around the world, especially in Ireland. 

Caoimhe also referred to other successful campaigns, like for example creating market access for Fair Trade products, whereby you can now find fair trade tea, coffee and bananas in many supermarkets –something that was unthinkable 25 years ago.  

She recalled the success of the Jubilee campaign, which brought about the cancellation of debt, lifting the burden off the backs of some of the poorest countries in the world. She recalled how significant advances have been made in poverty reduction; in participation by children in Primary education; in gender equality; in access to clean water and in reducing the mortality rate for children. ‘This shows us that progress can be achieved in a generation’. In concluding her talk, she quoted from the founding document of Trócaire which states: ‘Let us never get accustomed to the injustices in this world…and let us never grow weary in the work of setting it right.’ ‘’My wish for everyone here is that we never grow weary; that we see the successes; we see the progress; we see the challenges but that we never grow weary of the work in hand’.

Next up, Richard Moore, spoke about ‘Educating the Heart’ – the cultivation of the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary… for a compassionate citizen’. Richard spoke about ‘educating the heart’ through the prism of his own story.   He said his aim was to acknowledge the things in his life that made it possible for him ‘not only to survive being shot and blinded at the age of ten but to actually see blindness as a positive experience’. ‘When you are blind you meet people in a different way’. You experience kindness and love, at first hand. Having experienced such tremendous love and compassion in his own life, as a result of being blinded he wanted to share that experience with others. ‘What I wanted to do was give back the kindness and compassion that was shown to me. He has done this in many ways, including through the work of Children in Crossfire, which he founded in 1998.

Michael Doorly began by asking us to ‘press pause’ on our fears and frustrations and consider some positive news from recent years. For example, every day, last year, another 305,000 people were able to access clean water for the first time; never has child deaths been less common; never before have so many people been literate or lived such long lives. Quoting the journalist Nicholas Kristoff he said ‘despite all the information out there, never have people been so misinformed. And he went on to say that ‘a failure to acknowledge progress leaves people feeling hopeless and ready to give up, while recognising  gains made will show us what is possible and spur us on to more’.

Looking at ‘education for liberation’, Michael said that the problem with elitist education is that we are teaching ‘more and more to less and less’. The purpose of education should be ’to empower and liberate’ and we should start by listening. We need to recognise the strengths and resources that people already have and work with them to develop more’.

He referred to the funding deficit for education – there is a $39 billion shortfall in the budget to provide good quality primary education for all. Though this might sound substantial, it is less than half the budget for just one weapons system – the stealth bomber, which is $90 billion.

Meghan Carmody represents a new generation of activists with passion and determination to see our world transformed. Meghan said that the energy for action among young people is really growing and she profiled many young activists to emphasise this point.  Under the Schools Climate Action Network, young people are mobilising and striking out for real change in policies and political priorities. Meghan spoke about her work in Friends of the Earth which includes the solar schools project – persuading and supporting schools to place solar panels on their roofs to demonstrate the value of this form of alternative energy. Already schools in every province are involved in a pilot scheme which will be built on in coming years.  Meghan’s role is to build activism and leadership to bring about the political will to implement the solutions that exist.

A highlight of the day was an intervention by 10-year old Ruby Jo, who is part of a climate action group in her school called ’There is no Planet B’, which, appropriately was launched on Feb. 14th, Valentine’s Day.

Finally we had Brigidine sister Kay Mulhall who set up the Tallaght Intercultural Drop-in Centre in 2003, the focus of which is to welcome migrants and refugees who are seeking to make their home here. The Brigidine community supported the setting up of this centre. The Centre aims to be a warm and welcoming place where new communities can meet and get to know one another. Kay started her work by listening to the needs which the migrants expressed.  Kay says she firmly believes that societies are enriched by sharing cultures, language, food, art and music. The aim of the centre is to build bridges…not walls. Language was identified by migrants as an extremely important skill to have.

When there was an attempt to close down the centre, a great cohort of volunteers organised and resisted and managed to reverse the decision. Kay concluded by saying: ‘we are all part of the one web of life and this web includes our Planet.’

Yemi Ojo, said her experience of the Drop in Centre was that the door was always open and people were always made welcome. It was a place where you could relax and be yourself. Finally, Yemi said that ‘welcoming the stranger’ can be a collective or an individual act: but we all must do our part’

 

Reflections from Féile Bríde 2018

 

Afri’s 2018 Féile Bríde took place on Saturday 3rd February in Solas Bhríde in Kildare town.  It was a rich and full day with contributions from Peadar Kirby about caring for our global village, Hanny Van Geel (Via Campesina), Rose Hogan (Trócaire) on ‘food for life’, John Maguire on ‘Peace Meal Change’ and wrongfully imprisoned Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle, as well as music and poetry.  You can get a flavour of the day in a short film made by RoJ.

Here is a report from Sr Patricia Mulhall, who attended the conference:

This is the twenty-sixth year of another well-attended Afri conference hosted at Solas Bhríde Centre, Kildare.  As visiting speaker, Peadar Kirby named it, the Ard fheis of Afri. Some 200 people attended in the beautiful setting of the Centre & Hermitages, a centre of hospitality, brightness radiating a warm welcome. Brigidines – Mary, Phil and Rita – organise and manage the Centre with Cairde Bhríde, faithful friends and staff.

 ‘Light out of Darkness’ was a fitting theme for a day punctuated by music and message of hope. Speakers with academic presentations and personal stories enlightened and entertained the participants. The day began with a presentation from Peadar Kirby, entitled ‘Caring for our Global village.’ Peadar is Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy in the University of Limerick, Ireland. He is associated with the eco-village of Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, a 67-acre site with 50 acres of land for allotments, farming and woodland as well as 50 low- energy homes. (more…)

Reflections from Féile Bríde 2017: Darkness to Light

Speakers U.S. peace activist Kathy Kelly (second from right) and Scottish author and campaigner Alastair McIntosh (right) together with Afri Co-ordinator Joe Murray and Brigidine sister Rita Minehan at the 2017 Féile Bríde conference in Kildare on Saturday 4th February 2017. Photo: Dave Donnellan

When we look at the many problems confronting our world, we can sometimes think that things are worse than ever and that little progress has been made towards creating a more just and compassionate world.  But it is important that we keep in mind the progress made, as well as the challenges that continue to face us.

When we held our first Féile Bríde in 1988, apartheid was still in place in South Africa, the conflict in the North of Ireland was still raging with nightly reports of deaths and injuries and East Timor was under the jack boot of Indonesian occupation.   (more…)

Shamrock Shame

On the 25th May 2016 peace activists and Afri friends, Dave Donnellan and Colm Roddy, entered Shannon airport to inspect illegal U.S. military war planes stationed there. The three security authorities of the Gardaí, Army and airport police all refused to search the planes for weapons in gross dereliction of their duty to protect innocent civilians. Dave and Colm were arrested and charged with criminal damage without lawful excuse. See article about the action here.

Statement from Joe Murray, Coordinator of Afri:  “In light of the courageous faith actions of Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan in exposing Shannon’s bloody role in war, Afri calls on the government to end the use of Shannon as a warport. The consequences of the wars facilitated by Shannon are seen in the chaos in the Middle East region and the tsunami of refugees driven from their homes to which, in turn, Europe and Ireland has ruthlessly closed their borders.”

Film about the action by RoJ

Just A Second in Moville

Graphic Harvest produced as part of the Just A Second Schools project in 2015. Drawing by Eimear McNally

Graphic Harvest produced as part of the Just A Second Schools project in 2015. Drawing by Eimear McNally

At the end of April,  Afri’s Co-ordinator Joe Murray and Choctaw Gary White Deer travelled to Moville for a ‘Just a Second’ event, as part of our WorldWise Global Schools Project.  The ‘Just a Second’ educational programme focuses on the absurdity of  in excess of €40,000 being spent every second on war and weapons while a billion people suffer from hunger, lack of clean water and adequate housing.  We began by walking from Moville Community College to the Quays. This was the departure point for many people from Donegal and surrounding areas who  emigrated down through the years, often because of poverty or famine.  We were joined there by Rose Kelly and students from Scoil Eoghain. We had music, poetry and readings focussed on those who are being forced from their their homelands today as a result of poverty, war and climate change. Following this moving event, participants walked back to Moville Community College where we planted a mountain ash together with students and teachers and then had a short seminar touching on issues to do with climate change, militarisation, famine and forced migration. (more…)

Just A Second! Afri’s Schools Project

The theme of our education programme is ‘Just a Second’ and it focuses on the absurdity of the choices that we make – or that are made on our behalf by governments and corporations. For example, it is a fact that in excess of €40,000 is spent every second on war and weapons while a billion people suffer from hunger, lack of clean water and adequate housing.  Recently the Afri team visited Galway as part of the ‘Just A Second!’ schools project, holding a number of events including a Famine Walk to the Celia Griffin Memorial in Salthill, a book launch and a development education seminar.  This short film (above) produced by Dave Donnellan gives a flavour of that visit.

A second film (below – also by Dave Donnellan) focuses on the launch of an educational resource (Just A Second! Exploring Global Issues Through Drama and Theatre written by Pete Mullineaux in the course of the project) which offers teachers, school groups and facilitators an accessible guide to exploring global issues through drama and theatre.  This book is available to buy from Afri – please contact Afri (admin@afri.ie or 01 8827563) to find out more.

The third film in the Just A Second! series is made by RoJ Whelan and this takes a look at an event held at the Celia Griffin memorial in Salthill as well as a development education workshop, which was the finale of the project.  It includes contributions from Mark Kennedy (who championed the idea of the Celia Griffin memorial),  Choctaw artist Gary White Deer, Sakhile Heron (South Africa), music, graphic harvesting, the words of Malala Yousafzai, as well as reflections from teachers and students involved in the project.

Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools

The Wave

Detail from Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Detail from Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Wave

(after Hardy)

They gathered up the guns and tanks,
divided the soldiers into ranks,
turned to face the enemy –
make a new date for history.

Prepare to fight – the order came
as the foe came into sight –
horizon-filled: a mighty wave
sent them all into their grave.

All the bullets, guns and bombs,
nuclear missiles impotent.
What use these weapons made by Man
with humanity an also-ran.

What use now the hunger and greed,
the makers of superfluous need.
What use those forgotten goals
for climate change and ozone holes?

What use the trillions spent on arms –
while dust and drought sucked up the farms,
as consequences grew in turn
enough to wither, drown and burn.

All the bullets ever made, every gun
every grenade, every cluster or barrel bomb,
laser rays, loud battleships, whispering drone –
secret weapons until then unknown,
gathered up in proud array –
for once all pointing the same way –
(although no silver saucer spun
beneath the unforgiving sun)
singing from the same hymn sheet, as they say.
recording the Earth’s sad lament –
a planet came a planet went.

~Pete Mullineaux, October 2014

Pete Mullineaux’s latest book Just a Second!  Exploring Global Issues through Drama & Theatre has just been published and is available to buy from the Afri office.

The Courage of Their Convictions: Conference Organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War

MAWReport by Joe Murray

I recently attended a peace conference in the unlikely venue of the ‘Imperial War Museum’ in London. Organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) in a venue, containing, as MAW President Bruce Kent said, three of the most unattractive words in the English language, the event was interesting and timely, looking critically, as it did, at the way in which World War 1 is being commemorated. Many contributions noted the attempt to ‘redeem’ World War 1, and to portray it as a ‘good war’ by those who continue to benefit from the business of war and who want to ensure its continuance as a means of ‘settling’ international disputes.

A disturbing feature was the announcement that since the Museum re-opened after refurbishment in July 2014, it has been visited by over half a million people. And while the peace event attracted around one hundred people largely in the over-50 age bracket, the war museum was visited by thousands of people in the course of the day. Among the visitors were families including children of all ages, many of whom were being photographed proudly standing alongside or caressing some of the most grotesque weapons ever manufactured. (more…)

Iraq calls for global ban as study confirms depleted uranium cancer risks

img_457Iraq has called for an international treaty banning depleted uranium (DU) weapons in a report to the United Nations as evidence continues to mount of their risks to civilians. Iraq’s report, published ahead of this autumn’s UN General Assembly where DU weapons will be debated, also urges member states and UN agencies to adopt a proactive approach to the issue and condemn the use of the weapons. Iraq is the country most affected by wartime DU contamination, with at least 400,000kg used by the US and UK in 1991 and 2003’s conflicts.

The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) has also called for DU weapons to be banned, just as anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs have been. ICBUW argues that the weapons are inherently indiscriminate and that their legacy persists long after the end of conflict.

“ICBUW warmly welcomes Iraq’s intervention,” said ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir. “We hope that it will act as a reminder that the legacy of these weapons lasts well beyond the end of conflicts and disproportionately affects the civilian population. The complete lack of obligations on the users of DU weapons to clean up their mess leaves civilians at risk of exposure as clearance is expensive, technically challenging and often beyond the ability of countries recovering from war.” (more…)

Irish Government should promote health, education and overseas aid – not useless weapons of war

The justice and peace group Afri have expressed dismay at the revelation that the Irish army plans to spend over €4m on upgrading its air defence missile system. The Army stated that the purpose of the missile system is to “take out enemy aircraft” and elaborated on this unlikely scenario by stating that the missiles in question would “deter hostile actions”.

Extraordinarily, this monumental waste of resources is occurring at the same time as health, education, social welfare and overseas development aid budgets continue to be cut causing intense suffering to some of the most vulnerable people in our society and on our planet.

Afri raises the question as to where the ‘hostile action’ is likely to come from that would require such weapons, suggesting that the real agenda is being set by NATO (towards which Ireland is moving ever closer) with its push towards ‘interoperability’ and aggressive military actions. Where does this fit with Ireland’s traditional neutrality, which has been shown to be strongly supported by Irish people in successive opinion polls? For example, a Red C poll carried out for the Peace and Neutrality Alliance in 2013 showed 78% of people support Irish neutrality, an essential element of which is non-participation in aggressive military alliances and minimal military spending.

Afri calls on the Labour Party in particular to clarify where its priorities lie in terms of such spending. Afri believes that this bizarre decision is representative of why the Labour Party is being wiped out in Government. Labour is clearly not listening to its voters by subscribing to and supporting such obscene choices as spending on missile systems while cutting health, education and overseas development aid.

Just A Second Schools Project Film

While many are aware of Afri’s work through our annual Famine Walk, Féile Bríde and Hedge School as well as our solidarity work with the Kenya Pastoralists Journalist Network and the community under siege in Erris County Mayo among many other activities, perhaps less are aware of Afri’s ongoing ‘education for liberation’ work with secondary schools. This work is supported by the WorldWise Global Schools and is carried out mainly by our development education manager Rose Kelly and dramatist Pete Mullineaux.

The theme of our education programme is ‘Just a Second’ and it focuses on the absurdity of the choices that we make or that are made on our behalf by governments and corporations. For example, the fact that in excess of €40,000 is spent every second on war and weapons while a billion people suffer from hunger, lack of clean water and adequate housing.

The film below, made by Dave Donnellan, is a snapshot of the development education work that went on in the ‘Just A Second’ project.

Nobel Peace Laureates Call for Preemptive Ban on Autonomous Weapons

Statement by Nobel Peace Laureates

In April 2013 in London, a group of nongovernmental organizations – most associated with the successful efforts to ban landmines and cluster munitions – publicly launched the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.” Their efforts have helped bring the issue of fully autonomous weapons to a broader audience and spur governments to begin discussions on these weapons this May in Geneva.

We, the undersigned Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, applaud this new global effort and whole-heartedly embrace its goal of a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons that would be able to select and attack targets on their own. It is unconscionable that human beings are expanding research and development of lethal machines that would be able to kill people without human intervention.

Not all that long ago such weapons were considered the subject of science fiction, Hollywood and video games. But some machines are already taking the place of soldiers on the battlefield. Some experts in the field predict that fully autonomous weapons could be developed within 20 to 30 years; others contend it could even be sooner. With the rapid development of drones and the expansion of their use in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and beyond, billions of dollars are already being spent to research new systems for the air, land, and sea that one day would make drones seem as quaint as the Model T Ford does today. (more…)

Launch of the Irish campaign to Stop Killer Robots

At the Irish Launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots: (From left to right): Fiona Crowley (Amnesty Ireland), Tony D'Costa (Pax Christi), Iain Atack (ISE), Professor Noel Sharkey, Joe Murray, Lisa Patten (Afri).  Photo: Dave Donnellan

At the Irish Launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots: (From left to right): Fiona Crowley (Amnesty Ireland), Tony D’Costa (Pax Christi), Iain Atack (ISE), Professor Noel Sharkey, Joe Murray, Lisa Patten (Afri). Photo: Dave Donnellan

On 10 April, the Irish launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots took place at Trinity College Dublin with a keynote address by Professor Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, a founder of the global Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Afri—a peace and human rights organisation that opposes war and militarization—held the launch in association with the International Peace Studies Programme of the Irish School of Ecumenics. Other organisations participating in the Irish Campaign to Stop Killer Robots include Amnesty International Ireland and Pax Christi Ireland.

Born in Belfast, Sharkey is a well-known robotics and artificial intelligence expert at the University of Sheffield in the UK. At the event, he called on the Irish government to show leadership on the crucial issue of ensuring human control over targeting and attack decisions by banning fully autonomous weapons.

In a press release, Afri described the launch as timely given the context of moves by some countries towards the use of lethal autonomous robotic weapons. It expressed strong support for call for a comprehensive ban and said it was “delighted” to have Professor Sharkey at the launch of campaign in Ireland.

Afri co-ordinator Joe Murray called for an urgent ban of autonomous weapons, noting “Should we allow the monumentally insane policy of developing fully autonomous weapons to be pursued then even the element of human intervention will be sidelined and we will have war and violence of epic proportions. It is time to wake up and shout stop.” (more…)

Stop the automation of warfare and killer robots

On Thursday 10th April Afri, in association with the International Peace Studies Programme, Irish School of Ecumenics, will host the Irish launch of the campaign to Stop Killer Robots in Trinity College Dublin (see details below). The keynote speaker will be Professor Noel Sharkey, a well known robotics and artificial intelligence expert from the University of Sheffield, UK and Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

Professor Noel Sharkey is calling on the Irish Government to show leadership on the crucial issue of fully autonomous weapons as he visits Dublin for the launch of the Irish campaign to Stop Killer Robots. During his visit to Dublin Professor Sharkey will meet with Afri, Amnesty International Ireland, Pax Christi Ireland as well as with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish Defence Forces.

Professor Sharkey stated that “There is great concern that several nations are developing weapons that once activated could select their own target and attack them with violent force without human intervention. These weapons are variously known as Fully Autonomous Weapon (FAWs), Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARS), Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and Killer Robots.

But do we really want to delegate the decision to kill humans to a machine? Is this not crossing a fundamental moral line in the ultimate violation of our human rights and indignity? If we do not act, our silence will let it happen.” Governments must act to ensure that human control over targeting and attack decisions is never relinquished to machines in the future. (more…)

Irish Launch of Stop Killer Robots Campaign

Irish Launch of the

 

Irish School of Ecumenics – Loyola Institute building (facing rubgy pitch)

Trinity College Dublin

April 10th 2014, 7pm

Speaker:

Noel Sharkey

Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement in the University of Sheffield and Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control

All welcome

About the Stop Killer Robots Campaign:

Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now rapid advances in technology are resulting in efforts to develop fully autonomous weapons. These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention, raising numerous ethical, legal, moral, policy, technical, and other concerns with fully autonomous weapons. Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield is an unacceptable application of technology. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an international coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to ban fully autonomous weapons.

Organised by Afri in association with the International Peace Studies Programme, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin

Membership

Membership

Afri are members of the following organisations/campaigns:-

Act Now on 2015.  A campaign led by 61 anti-poverty organisations to call on Government to deliver on its promise to reach the UN target of spending 0.7% of national income on overseas aid by 2015. www.actnowon2015.ie

 

DDCI logoDebt and Development Coalition Ireland. The Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (DDCI) is composed of organisations and individuals who share a deep concern about debt injustice and the injustice of the global financial system and seeks to raise awareness about global financial injustice, while campaigning for change. wwww.debtireland.org

 

Dóchas. Dóchas is the association of Irish Non-Governmental Development Organisations. Dóchas provides a forum for consultation and co-operation between its members and helps them speak with a single voice on development issues. www.dochas.ie

 

IDEA. The Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) is a national platform for organisations and individuals engaged in the provision, promotion and advancement of development education throughout the island of Ireland. www.ideaonline.ie

 

International Peace Bureau. The International Peace Bureau is dedicated to the vision of a World Without War. The IPB believes that by reducing funding for the military sector, significant amounts of money would be available for social projects domestically or abroad and lead to the fulfilling of real human needs and general development. www.ipb.org

 

Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. Stop Climate Chaos is a coalition of civil society organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland plays its part in preventing runaway climate change: www.stopclimatechaos.ie

 

Stop Killer Robots Campaign. Launched in April 2013, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an international coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to ban fully autonomous weapons. www.stopkillerrobots.org

Putting an End to Militarism

Resistance is GrowingStatement from the Triennial Conference of the International Peace Bureau

September 13th – 15th 2013, Stockholm , Sweden

“The World is Over-armed and Peace is Under-funded”

– Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

There was a new hope expressed at the IPB Triennial Conference, welcoming the agreement between Russia and the USA on chemical weapons in Syria. Hopefully this will lead to negotiations to put an end to the terrible civil war.

The forming of international coalitions for military intervention is now much more difficult as public opinion against war has become so strong. People are weary of war and the deceit and rhetoric that go with it. They are suspicious of double speak and are tired of ‘humanitarian’ statements which end with actions that simply generate more human suffering. (more…)

Iraqi doctor petitions WHO for open-access review of birth defect data

Dr Samira Alani, who has worked at Fallujah General Hospital since 1997, has been documenting cases of congenital birth defects at the hospital since 2006, when a sharp increase in rates led her to begin recording data on the developing health crisis. Credit: Donna Mulhearn.

International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons

Fallujah paediatrician Dr Samira Alaani has launched a Change.org petition calling for official data on rates of congenital birth defects in Iraq to be submitted for peer review in the open-access journal PLoS One after repeated publication delays by the World Health Organisation and Iraqi government (Petition is available here: www.change.org/act4iraq).

Results from the nationwide study, undertaken by the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2012, are now long overdue. Iraqi researchers interviewed by the BBC earlier this year claimed it will link increased incidence rates of birth defects with areas subject to heavy fighting in the 2003 war – a hugely significant and politically sensitive conclusion.

Dr Alaani is calling for the data to be submitted to the leading open-access journal PloS One after persistent delays from the WHO and MoH in the analysis of the data. Publication in PLoS One would allow independent scrutiny of the data and reduce fears that the WHO’s internal process had been subject to politicisation because of the controversial nature of the study. The research was prompted by concerns from maternity hospitals across Iraq that rates of congenital birth defects were unusually high. This is the first time that rates have been recorded and analysed nationwide.

“We began logging these cases in 2006 and we have determined that 144 babies are born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. We believe it has to be related to contamination caused by the fighting in our city, even now, nearly 10 years later,” said Dr Samira Alaani, a paediatrician at Fallujah General Hospital. “It is not unique to Fallujah; hospitals throughout the Anbar Governorate and many other regions of Iraq are recording spiralling increases. Every day I see the strain this fear puts on expectant mothers and their families.” (more…)

EU military spending is ‘hidden elephant’ in Brussels and key factor in EU debt crisis, reveals new report

Guns, Debt and Corruption ReportHigh levels of European military spending played a key role in the unfolding EU debt crisis and continues to undermine efforts to resolve the debt crisis, alleges a new report by Transnational Institute and the Dutch Campaign against the Arms Trade.

The report, Guns, Debt and Corruption: Military spending and the EU crisis, demonstrates how military budgets across Europe have been largely protected, at a time of severe social cuts. EU’s military expenditure totalled 194 billion euro in 2010, enough to pay off Italy, Greece and Spain’s annual deficit. The latest data released today by the Stockholm International Peace Institute suggests little change in these overall trends.

The report unveils how high levels of military spending in countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Spain at the epicentre of the euro crisis played a significant role in their debt crises. Much of the military spending was tied to arms sales by creditor countries like Germany and France.

In Portugal and Greece, several major arms deals are being investigated for serious irregularities. Yet creditor countries continue to hawk new arms deals to debtor countries whilst demanding ever more stringent cuts in social services.

The report argues that resolving the debt crisis will require cancellation of the debt tied to corrupt arms deals and a redirection of military spending towards social needs. It highlights research that spending on education and mass transit creates double the number of jobs as investments in defence.

Report author Frank Slijper said: “Global military spending was still at a record €1.3 trillion in 2011 despite the global economic crisis. Even in Europe most countries still spend more than ten years ago. The only austerity that Europe really needs is one imposed on the military and the arms industry.”

“It is time for Brussels and EU member states to publicly acknowledge the elephant in the current EU debt crisis and that is the role of military spending. At a time of harsh cuts in social services, it is morally unjustifiable to spend money on weapons that should be invested in creating jobs and tackling poverty.”

The report Guns, Debt and Corruption has been released in the EU as campaigners in around 30 countries held over 100 events worldwide to protest record levels of military spending and to call for resources to be reallocated to anti-poverty and environmental sustainability programmes. For details of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, see: http://www.gdams.org

A Decade On and Depleted Uranium Contamination Still Blights Iraq

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To mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 invasion, a new report has highlighted continuing uncertainties over the impact and legacy of the use of 400 tonnes of depleted uranium (DU) weapons in Iraq. The report reveals the extent of DU’s use in civilian areas for the first time.

In a State of Uncertainty published by Dutch peace organisation IKV Pax Christi, has sought to do what the US has so far refused to do – reveal how widely the weapons were used in Iraq, and in what circumstances. It also analyses the costs and technical burdens associated with DU use, arguing that a decade on, many contamination problems remain unresolved – leaving civilians at risk of chronic DU exposure.

(more…)