Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
We, French peace activists are also very concerned, like you, about the current international situation and the consequences of the war conducted by the U.S. and Great Britain against Iraq.
The French Peace Movement, immediately after September 2001, began working to bring together a hundred French organizations around the theme "No to War, Yes to a World of Justice, Peace and Democracy".
The acute sense of the importance of the issue and the clearly defined objective (neither Bush nor Saddam) allowed the anti-war movement to unfold on an unprecedented scale and to reverse the feeling of fatalism in regard to war.
Preparations for the European Social Forum in Florence in autumn 2002 made it possible to start the coordinating antiwar actions to be staged both at European and international levels. The coordinating body proposed February 15th as Manifestation Day in each capital city. This initiative mobilized thousands of people around the world, in particular in the countries whose governments were in favour of aggression against Iraq (London, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome etc.).
In France, initiatives were decided every week at each department level by the local coordinating bodies made up of different organizations, including political parties and trade unions. These actions (rallies, meetings, demonstrations, distribution of flyers, signature collection, vigils, conferences, debates with foreign personalities including American and British peace activists) helped to raise the consciousness of our citizens in an international strategic field where it has been difficult to mobilize people since the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Thus, French public opinion, by an overwhelming majority (80%), was opposed to the war and remained so after the bombings had began and the government was obliged to take this into consideration.
At the international level, the peoples of the world massively rejected the U.S.'s aggressive policy. A majority of countries refused to support that policy. U.S. isolation, already obvious at the international meeting in Durban on racism as well as in the international conferences for environment protection in Kyoto and Johannesburg, became even more pronounced.
Anti-war actions, even if they have lost their intensity during the last months, are going to regain strength, because the international coordination that met in Geneva during the counter-summit to the G8 summit decided to make this coming September "an Anti-War Action Month": September 21st is the Second World Peace Day decided by the U.N. and September 27th is the 3rd anniversary of the second Intifada and is proposed by hundreds of organizations to be declared as the "International Day against Occupation", combining the demand for the end of the occupation of Iraq with that of Palestine.
Finally, new promising convergences have been taking place, in particular with the social movement as well as with the anti-globalisation movement. Thus, the next European Social Forum to be held in Paris next November will be a great moment of action for peace. Already in Florence, peace was a very important topic.
We are proud that one of the focal themes of this Forum will be about the construction of a peaceful Europe, the opposition to militarization projects and a breakthrough with respect to NATO's logic of war and a change in the concept of security.
One of our campaigns in this summer is to demand that the European Constitution now being drafted begin with Article 1 "Europe rejects war as an instrument for international conflict resolution and recognizes the right to peace as a fundamental right. Europe promotes the creation of a peaceful and democratic world order and supports the enhancement and democratisation of the United-Nations and the development of international cooperation".
However, the French Peace Movement is very anxious about the marked increases in military budgets of European states as a result of pressure from the U.S. For France, the law on the 2003/2009 military programs was passed in end 2002, as scheduled, without any public debate. It contains all the projects for the modernization of nuclear arsenals: a fourth missile launching nuclear submarine, a second aircraft-carrier, new missiles (M51), new nuclear warheads, laboratory research at Barp (CEA) near Bordeaux etc.
This is why, at its national Congress 8 months ago, the French Peace Movement decided to commit itself entirely to the struggle against weapons of mass destruction WMD; we must denounce more strongly France and other nuclear powers for not keeping their unequivocal undertaking for a total nuclear disarmament; we must convince our politicians, the media and citizens that nuclear disarmament is possible.
This will be realized through the following actions:
- participation of peace activists in the preparatory committee meetings leading up to the NPT Review Conference in 2005, such as the one held in Geneva last April, in particular the prepcom meeting in New York next year to which we hope to send a strong delegation of young people;
- carrying out the project of French and British associations members of the Abolition 2000 network to organize a French-British joint initiative that will re-launch and promote the process of nuclear disarmament currently in a deadlock;
- organizing the second Nuclear Disarmament Day in Lyon next October in partnership with other French associations members of the Abolition 2000 network;
- launching a debate on WMD in the European Social Forum in Paris, as well as in the World Social Forum in Bombay;
- participating in the activities of different associations such as:
* France-Vietnam Friendship Association, which will organize a symposium on the consequences of the agent orange in November 2004;
* French nuclear test veterans associations
* Associations working for a ban on the use of depleted uranium.
Finally, we have a fabulous plan to send to Hiroshima a delegation made up of young people from across France for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing in 2005. We believe it is not too early to start thinking about it together and wish to meet with Japanese youth organizations.
I cannot end my speech without telling you how delighted we are to meet you again. For my husband and I, to come back here this year upon the invitation of Japan Gensuikyo, to continue to work and think with you for a world free of war and of nuclear weapons, to listen again to the testimonies of Hibakusha, to take part in commemorations that bring together thousands of men and women, to visit again the A-bomb museums and other memorial sites, to rejoice in the irreplaceable role that Japanese women play in the struggle for a peaceful world: these are unforgettable experiences. They are even more moving than last year as we share the sense that the actions which we must carry out are our individual responsibility for "banning nuclear weapons in 2005".
" Let us ban nuclear weapons in 2005 ". These were the last words of the speech made by Mr. Tadatoshi Akiba, mayor of Hiroshima City, before the ambassadors representing the States participating in the Conference in Geneva. I very much appreciated that he spoke of (I quote) "a miraculous feat of psychological transformation performed by most survivors of the atomic bombing. They channelled their pair, grief and rage away from any thought of revenge and toward creating a world in which no people anywhere need suffer their fate".
For those of us committed to the transformation of the culture of war that humanity has lived in for thousands years into a culture of peace, non-violence and tolerance, these words are a message of hope.
I thank you very much.