Beyond the UN Conception of Disarmament

By Rachel Small, World BEYOND War, July 14, 2021

On June 21st 2021, Rachel Small, World BEYOND War’s Canada Organizer, spoke at “Why Canada Needs An Agenda for Disarmament”, a Civil Society Meeting hosted by Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Watch the video recording above, and the transcript is below.

Thanks to VOW for organizing this event and bringing us together. I think that these spaces where movements, organizers, and civil society can come together don’t happen often enough.

My name is Rachel Small, I’m the Canada Organizer with World BEYOND War, a global grassroots network advocating for the abolition of war (and the institution of war) and its replacement with a just and sustainable peace. Our mission is fundamentally about disarmament, with a type of disarmament that includes the whole war machine, the whole institution of war, really the whole military industrial complex. We have members in 192 countries worldwide working to debunk the myths of war and advocating for—and taking concrete steps to build—an alternative global security system. One based on demilitarizing security, managing conflict nonviolently, and creating a culture of peace.

As we’ve heard tonight, Canada currently has a strong armament agenda.

To reverse that, to take meaningful steps towards disarmament we have to reverse the course Canada is on, which, by the way, is in no way evidence-based. There is no evidence to show that our militarism decreases violence or promotes peace. We have to deconstruct reigning common sense. Which is a narrative that has been built and can be unbuilt.

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.” –Ursula K. LeGuin

At a practical and immediate level, any plan for disarmament requires us to cancel current plans to stock up on war ships, buy 88 new bomber planes, and purchase Canada’s first ever armed drones for the Canadian military.

A disarmament agenda also needs to start front and centre with Canada’s growing role as a major arms dealer and producer. Canada is becoming one of the world’s top arms dealers, and the second-biggest weapons supplier to the Middle East region.

It also needs to address Canada’s investment in and subsidizing of weapons companies, of the arms industry. As does our work witht he labour movement, alongside these workers. How can we support their transition to industries that we know they’d much rather work in.

A new disarmament movement needs to look quite different from past decades. It needs be foundationally intersectional. It needs to centre right from the start who is impacted first and worst by arms. From the very initial point where the mining of materials is happening, where the devastating extraction of materials for war machines starts. That includes the communities around those mine sites, the workers, right up to who is being harmed at the other end, where the bombs fall.

A disarmament agenda needs to accompany movements to disarm police, who are increasingly receiving militarized weaponry and training. As we discuss disarmament it should be rooted in the experiences of and solidarity with Indigenous people across Turtle Island who are increasingly recruited by the military and RCMP even as its militarized violence and surveillance continues colonization across so-called Canada. And this recruitment often happens under lovely-sounding federal budget lines like “First Nations Youth”. And then you find out it’s RCMP and military recruitment summer camps and programs that are being funded.

How do we build a disarmament campaign alongside those around the world who have been attacked, bombed, sanctioned because of Canada and Canadian militarism and our NATO partners?

In our opinion, we need to take this further than the UN conception of disarmament. We need to understand that disarmament is a confrontational and radical demand. And our tactics need to be too.

I imagine our varied tactics can range from campaigning the federal government to study disarmament, to direct actions, and community initiatives. From blocking weapons sales, transports, and development to divesting our communities, institutions, cities, and pension funds from weapons and militarism. A lot of this expertise is in our movements, is in the room already here today as we start this important conversation. Thank you.

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