By Cesar Jaramillo
Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 41 Issue 2 Summer 2020
We at Project Ploughshares are not frontline workers. To each of them, we offer our deepest respect and appreciation. The consequential work they continue to do to keep essential services going as we wait and hope for the COVID-19 pandemic to subside humbles us.
We thank health professionals, firefighters, government officials, staff in grocery stores and pharmacies and hardware stores. And so many others whose work puts them at increased risk of physical ailment and psychological trauma. We benefit in so many ways from their commitment and dedication.
Thank you to our supporters
No, we at Ploughshares are not on the front lines of the pandemic. But we are more convinced than ever that the work we do is important, even vital.
Like so many other sectors of society during this pandemic, we face financial and logistical challenges. But we remain deeply committed to our work and to our mandate as a premier peace research organization in Canada.
And we do not do it alone.
So, we want to thank our valued supporters for their meaningful contributions—through the years and at this critical moment. Because of this support, Project Ploughshares is able, so far, to sustain our decades-long effort to fulfill our vision of a secure world without war, and a just world at peace.
What we are doing differently
Even during a health crisis, the need to make headway on security threats relating to nuclear weapons, autonomous robots, and other concerns remains. Project Ploughshares is still conducting rigorous research, providing fact-based analysis and commentary, engaging stakeholders in and out of government, proposing policy alternatives, and communicating our findings to our constituencies and the general public. But now, like so many workers, all Ploughshares staff are working almost totally from home, seeing each other only via video.
The temporary loss of the usual international arenas for some of these issues—including UN bodies such as the General Assembly and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space—is encouraging Ploughshares staff to think creatively about how to advance our objectives—often using digital tech.
We are prioritizing disarmament education and public engagement. A series of webinars have been conducted, and others are in the works.
We are sustaining and nurturing key partnerships with likeminded organizations around the world—again, largely through digital means. We remain active participants in international coalitions, including the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the International Network on Explosive Weapons, Control Arms, and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
Our focus on the pandemic
Beyond our traditional focus areas, we are exploring the implications of COVID-19 for domestic and international security. We even created a new tab on our website under which can be found relevant research and analysis.
We are monitoring measures and policies implemented by various governments to tackle the pandemic, and analyzing their risks to human rights and real security. We are calling for transparency, oversight, and accountability—not just of government agencies, but also the private sector that is involved in the development and implementation of these tech-based responses.
We show how some technological solutions might be misused, now and in the future. One good example can be found in this issue of The Monitor—check out Branka’s piece on security theatre.
We are assessing the impact of the pandemic on the various multilateral security processes that we normally follow, drawing attention to areas that require prompt responses from various stakeholders in Canada and abroad.
Why our work matters, now and in the future
The 2020 international security calendar has been upended by the pandemic. And even though multilateral arms control and disarmament efforts are of critical importance every year, the international security landscape was at a particularly troubling juncture before the pandemic.
For example, the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will not take place this year. However, the dangers of nuclear weapons are greater than ever and must not be forgotten. More detail can be found in my article in this issue.
Urgent attention is needed on crucial aspects of arms control, disarmament, and international security. Priorities include the universalization and entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; the adoption of a political declaration to address the human suffering resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA); the effective implementation of the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); the strengthening of the global normative framework for outer space security; and the negotiation of a preemptive multilateral ban on fully autonomous weapons systems.
And we cannot forget Canada’s role on the international stage. Ploughshares researchers continue to monitor and analyze relevant Canadian policies and actions. In this issue of The Monitor can be found Kelsey’s piece on the activities of the Canadian Armed Forces in Iraq under Operation IMPACT and Jessica’s article on the Artemis Accords, a series of agreements between NASA and its international partners—including Canada—that are intended to lead to a permanent human presence on the Moon and to begin the journey to Mars.
The pandemic has prompted global conversations about the need for a new world order in which the individual is protected and resources are allocated to meet the needs of all. As the crisis unfolds, traditional understandings of “security” and “preparedness” are being challenged and redefined, especially as the shortcomings of oversized militaries wielding vast armaments to tackle the multifaceted challenges posed by COVID-19 have become apparent.
We have been commenting on some of these concerns for decades. And we intend to be heard in future conversations. The capable and committed program and administrative staff at Ploughshares will continue to work with governments, churches, and civil society, in Canada and abroad, to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence and build peace.
But we can’t do this work without help. The inescapable reality is that it takes resources to carry out our mission and to sustain our operations. And so we hope that readers of The Monitor and Ploughshares supporters, new and old, will think of us when they consider their charitable budget for this year.
And to those who have given, we say, once again, thank you very much for your support of our work. It is what keeps us going, and we welcome it with profound gratitude. Let us continue to work together in the pursuit of a more just, peaceful, and secure world.