We Must Disarm

[name]
Vol. XLVI No. 1 & 2 2009

This special double issue looks at the major issues surrounding disarmament, and includes essays on landmines; war-affected children; small arms; girls in war; and the future of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

I remember trying to write a book report when I heard the first gunshots of my life; sounds that no child, anywhere in the world, should ever hear. I tried hard to concentrate on my homework assignment, worried what the teacher might say the next day. That was the last book report I did for almost two years of my life during the conflict in Bosnia.

As we think about how to reduce and eliminate new victims of landmines, we are reminded of the remarkable advances during the evolution of mine action work which began with the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan in 1989. Our determination to live in a world free from the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war is fortified, as we remember those lost and those affected. It is my fervent hope that a world with zero new victims of landmines will become a reality in my lifetime.

A thousand people die each day from gunshot wounds, and three times as many are left with severe injuries. If the death, injury and disability resulting from small arms were categorized as a disease, it would qualify as an epidemic. Yet the media and popular perception tend to suggest that gun violence is simply an unavoidable consequence of human cruelty or deprivation, rather than a public health problem which can be prevented or at least reduced.

It is almost 65 years since the development of the first nuclear bomb, and yet we have had only two cases of use of nuclear weapons in war, namely Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So we have been spared the horror of a large nuclear war during this period when more than 130,000 nuclear weapons were built. This is a very unusual event in the history of mankind: so many weapons built, never to be used. Why has this happened? First, the leadership of the two nuclear superpowers and of the smaller nuclear States behaved as rational decision makers, as far as the control of nuclear weapons and the decision not to initiate their use were concerned.

In politics, timing is everything. The same might be said for book publishing. The appearance of Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World at this new moment of rich potential for nuclear disarmament is a stroke of fortune.

Women today lead very different lives from their ancestors and are very influenced by the prevailing culture when it comes to breastfeeding. For many, breastfeeding seems to be a matter of opinion rather than a necessity for their child. Success or failure at breastfeeding will vary based on their preconceived notions.
As a Maternal-Child health nurse, and a full-time lactation consultant for over two decades, Máire Clements embraces an holistic and objective understanding of the process of breastfeeding. She calls it Conscious Breastfeeding. She shares this simple, but powerful approach to breastfeeding success in a new multi-media ebook "The New Motherly Art of Conscious Breastfeeding".

The phrase "human rights" may be used in an abstract and philosophical sense, either as denoting a special category of moral claim that all humans may invoke or, more pragmatically, as the manifestation of these claims in positive law, for example, as constitutional guarantees to hold Governments accountable under national legal processes.

The world's first nuclear test, "Trinity", took place on 16 July 1945, in a torrid desert in New Mexico which the Spanish Conquistadores had named Jornada del Muerto (Journey of the Dead Man). In the decades that followed, over 2,000 such tests occurred in eight countries, some in the atmosphere, some underground and others underwater. Today, the world is poised to turn a new page in the history of nuclear testing.

With only six years to go before the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, some countries have made encouraging progress, while many have stagnated, or worse, slipped backwards since the Millennium Declaration was adopted in 2000.

After the worst of times, we are perhaps entering the best of times for proponents of nuclear disarmament. At long last, advocates of the elimination of nuclear weapons have reason for some guarded optimism. The road to a nuclear-weapons-free world will be long and bumpy, but those expected to take the initiative seem to have finally decided to lead. That is encouraging.

Many of us wonder what exactly literacy is and the role it plays in improving the lives of people on a daily basis. Literacy is a human right and can be considered a tool of personal empowerment: a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy. Thus, literacy is essential for eradicating poverty, improving the socio-economic status of communities, reducing child and maternal mortality rates, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and promoting sustainable development at the local, regional and national levels.

In the aftermath of the recent global food crisis and economic downturn, the world's poor face unparalleled challenges to their food and nutrition security. While increased volatility in food prices will likely continue, wages for unskilled labour are failing to keep pace. Meanwhile, the financial crisis has pushed up unemployment and further reduced the purchasing power of poor people, who in a globalized economy now feel the effects of economic shocks more acutely.

We have reached a tipping point. In less than a century, breastfeeding has become the exception rather than the rule -- a devastating trend to the health and well-being of large segments of the world population. Increasing the rates and duration of breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.4 million babies. It could also help national and local governments, in both developing and developed countries, to achieve the health-related United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

In 2006, I gave some lectures at Harvard during which I called for a month, a week -- a day even -- of collective mourning for the millions whose souls still cry for proper burial and mourning rites. These lectures have now been published under the title: Something Torn and New. I did not know then that others were thinking along the same lines. I am glad that this day is being commemorated at the United Nations, but it should be actively observed in the whole world, as slave trade and plantation slavery were of prime importance in the making of the modern world.

"The attackers tied me up and raped me because I was fighting. About five of them did the same thing to me until one of the commanders who knew my father came and stopped them, but also took me to his house to make me his wife. I just accepted him because of fear and didn't want to say no because he might do the same thing to me too." This is the testimony of a young girl of 14 from Liberia as told to the Machel Review in a focus group conducted jointly by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG/CAAC).

Women's Global Health and Human Rights, Murthy et al. fills a deep void in scholarship and provides practical insight on the challenges facing women's health advocates worldwide. Readers will be taken by the work's encyclopedic breadth and conceptual depth. Divided into seven sections and 42 chapters, major themes include the impact of globalization, economics and development, chronic diseases, human rights, and cultural practices. Together, the work is at once inspiring and sobering -- informative in describing current trends and identifying avenues to remedy existent problems, yet daunting in its appraisal of pervasive social impediments that cause innumerous harms and preclude women from realizing their human right to health. Women's health advocates will find in its pages a clarion call to redouble their efforts.