Campaigners in Costa Rica co-host Central American Peace Conference
March 29, 2014
Earlier this month, ICAN partner IPPNW Costa Rica teamed up with the Arias Peace Foundation to organize the Central American Peace Conference (CAPC) in San José, Costa Rica. The meeting gathered over 40 participants from more than 30 different peace-related organizations from all Central American countries to discuss conflict mediation, small arms and the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
Nobel Laureate and former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias gave the opening address and called for Central Americans to actively support an initiative to abolish nuclear weapons and spoke about the relevance of this menace for the region, linking it to small arms and violence. IPPNW CR Co-President Carlos Umaña emphasized the union of Central Americans to achieve this goal and asked participants to make the most of this opportunity to establish an effective network of organizations.
An opening banquet was organized by Artists for Peace (AFP) at a lively restaurant-gallery with an exhibition staged by Costa Rican artist and AFP member Cali Rivera called “Prayers for Peace”. The evening also featured three songs by soprano Mercedes Sánchez, also from AFP. “Gratitude flags” made by school children, with written messages and paintings about nuclear disarmament were hung over the dinner tables.
On the second day, IPPNW-CR Co-President Alexandra Arce von Herold introduced the history of the Nobel Prize-Winning global network IPPNW, its trajectory and the actions of its affiliates globally and locally. Carlos then gave lectures introducing the basics of nuclear weapons and the threat their existence poses – the dimensions of their humanitarian consequences, the risk of nuclear famine as well as the landmarks achieved by the humanitarian initiative. Author and expert Ward Wilson gave a brilliant lecture that covered the myths described in his book, 5 Myths about Nuclear Weapons, while also discussing potential scenarios of nuclear disasters, the risks of accidents and the relevance of Central America. ICAN’s Hector Guerra gave a lecture about past disarmament processes, including the processes that led to the banning of landmines and cluster munitions, drawing parallels to the humanitarian arguments to ban nuclear weapons. Participants were also shown short films including a testimony by Nagasaki survivor Yasuaki Yamashita, ICAN’s video statement: “The urgency of banning nuclear weapons”, “Mil grullas por la paz” (A thousand paper cranes for peace), a piece by the ATOM project on victims of nuclear weapons testing and “Nuclear Weapons, a Visual Timeline”.
The proceedings were rounded off by discussion workshops, in which participants were divided into groups to present their views on the relevance of nuclear weapons. The majority of participants were new to the topic and were eager to consider ways to make this menace visible to the general public. Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Gioconda Ubeda gave the closing remarks, focusing on the role of Latin America in nuclear disarmament and the urgency of a treaty banning nuclear weapons.