October 2, 2009
The event featured speeches by the Hon. Matt Robson, former New Zealand Minister for Disarmament; Victoria Manno, an actress, director and explorer from Argentina; Tamsin Falconer from the New Zeland Antarctic Society; Alyn Ware Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau and Kate Smith from Operation Peace Through Unity. The event was also supported by Greenpeace. “The Antarctic could be an area of intense territorial and resource conflicts,” said Alyn Ware. “However, the interested countries negotiated the 1959 Antarctic Treaty which made the region a demilitarized and nuclear-free zone, managed by a cooperative regime. This is a very positive example to the rest of the world. We need a similar regime in the Arctic region where conflicts are heating up, nuclear-armed submarines are on the prowl, and environmental damage is escalating.”
“The Arctic peoples have asked us to help protect the North Pole,” says Matt Robson who has just returned from a conference in Denmark on Arctic security issues organized by the Danish Section of Pugwash, the Danish Institute for International Studies and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament. “They have seen the positive start that we have made with Antarctic Treaty and they want a similar demilitarized and nuclear free zone up north. Alyn Ware and I thus worked with parliamentarians, scientists, indigenous peoples, academics and civil society leaders in Copenhagen last month to draft a declaration to promote the proposal for an Arctic demilitarized and nuclear-free zone.”
Tamsin Falconer heralded the role that New Zealand scientists, explorers and academics have played in creating a peaceful Antarctic regime. “The NZ Antarctic Society was formed in 1933 to share knowledge in the fields of all sciences, exploration, discovery and mapping of Antarctica and to seek protection of the Antarctic environment within a peaceful cooperative regime.”
However, the Antarctic is still under threat from human activity there. “Having been to Antarctica I know what beautiful but fragile environments exist at the poles,” said Mr Robson. “They both must be protected for future generations and for our global ecosystem.” “We are calling for the Antarctic and Arctic to be declared Peace Parks in order to provide absolute protection in this fragile environment,” said Kate Smith. “We invite people to support the Antarctic Peace Park declaration, and to initiate a similar one for the Arctic.” (Contact Kate Smith for a copy.) See also support for the proposal by Mikhael Gorbachev and Green Cross International. “We also encourage people to declare their homes, work places and cities as Peace Parks.”
Victoria Manno, who visited Antarctica in 2005 and has climbed a number of mountains to promote peace and the rights of women and children, announced that she would be taking the message of Peace and Nonviolence from the start of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence in New Zealand to the finish in the Andean mountains in January 2010.
“I proclaim my message of faith, of hope, of peace for all human beings. I plead for the equality of mankind, without discrimination of race, ethnicity, age, religion, language, sex, physical or mental incapacity, social condition, political opinion or any other discriminative type of condition.”
“Protection of the poles is important for the whole world,” says Bunny McDiarmid Director of Greenpeace Aotearoa-New Zealand. “The melting of the polar ice-caps from climate-change – and the damage to polar ecosystems by over-fishing, whaling or pollution – impact on the environment everywhere.” says Ms McDiarmid. “The shattering of the bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to Antarctica earlier this year, and the rapid reduction of Arctic sea-ice come in stark contrast to the glacial pace of the international climate negotiations taking place in the capitals. New Zealand has to reduce its excessive carbon emissions by at least 40% and ensure other governments commit to the same at the forthcoming Copenhagen conference.”
As it travels around the globe, the World Peace March will be promoting its appeal in public forums, to key governments and to international organizations including the United Nations, Arctic Council, Nordic Council and the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings.