A How-To Guide To Hosting A Solidarity Event
Can’t make it to New York City to rally with us? No problem!
Reaching Critical Will (RCW) as part of WILPF international has come up with a handy guide for you to use to organize a rally in your own city.
We have also developed a comprehensive 40-minute webinar explaining everything you need to know about this political movement, the treaty, and how to host your own solidarity event
Contents of this guide:
- About the march in New York
- Reasons to Mobilize
- How to Organize
- About Nuclear Weapons, The Ban Treaty, and The Voice of Women
ABOUT THE MARCH IN NEW YORK
On Saturday, 17 June, people from around the world will take to the streets of New York City to march in support of a world without nuclear weapons.
This is not the first time that such an event has happened. 35 years ago, in June 1982, a million-person march and demonstration opposed to nuclear arms overwhelmed Central Park and midtown Manhattan, filling the streets and groves with echoing songs and hopeful slogans. Other marches followed and as recently as 2015, thousands came out again.
So why is this march different?
First, it will coincide with a historic meeting at the United Nations where over 130 governments are negotiating a ban on nuclear weapons. That’s right: nuclear weapons are technically still not illegal under international law and this treaty will change that! The countries involved in the talks have all chosen to not develop nuclear weapons and to reject them as tools of “security,” and many have suffered as a result of testing in their waters and land. These countries have decided they are done waiting for the nuclear-armed states to decide on their own when they are “ready” to disarm. Instead, they will prohibit these weapons of mass destruction as a means to help facilitate their elimination.
Second, this march is entirely women-led. Women have been at the forefront of the antinuclear resistance since the beginning of the nuclear age but our voices are often marginalised in policy-making, or as survivors of nuclear testing. In many ways, nuclear weapons and the structures that support them represent patriarchy and outmoded approaches to security.
It’s time to change all that.
The march in New York City is led by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), with the close support of women from other organisations that are well-known in the peace, disarmament, and broader social justice communities. Our march in NYC, and all solidarity marches around the world, will seek to build on the moment of resistance including the Women’s March on Washington. It will bring together people of all genders, sexual orientations, ages, races, abilities, nationalities, cultures, faiths, political affiliations, and backgrounds. It will cut across the city from Bryant Park and end with a rally on the steps of the United Nations.
We would love to have you with us in New York, but if you can’t be there, you can organise a solidarity event in your own city. Start by endorsing our Call to Action and get in touch to let us know that you’ll be hosting an event so we can include it on our website, or connect you with others in your city who might be interested.
This guide sets out our reasons to mobilise, key messages, tips on how to organise a successful event, and plenty of information about the nuclear ban treaty negotiations.
Nuclear weapons may seem like a dormant, abstract threat from the Cold War years but in reality, the threat continues to be not only real, but growing! If you’re undecided about giving support to this event, here are some facts to consider:
- Nine countries together possess around 15,000 nuclear weapons.
- The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status—ready to be launched within just minutes of a warning.
- Most of the weapons today are much more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.
- The United States is planning to spend a trillion dollars on modernizing its nuclear weapons programme over the next two decades, which will also dramatically increase the ‘killing power’ of these weapons. The United Kingdom, Russia, India, and other nuclear-armed states are also pouring vast sums of money into their nuclear arsenals, generating a new arms race and taking money away from the well-being of people around the world.
- Nuclear weapons have gendered impacts. Women face unique devastation from the effects of the use or testing of nuclear weapons, such as the effects of radiation on reproduction and maternal health.
- Frightening information has emerged in recent years about ‘close call’ situations where nuclear weapons were nearly used because of technical errors or misunderstandings. The only way to really prevent this from happening is to eliminate them completely.
- A world without nuclear weapons is not only possible, but a necessity to our human survival. Any nuclear detonation—whether accidental or intentional—will create a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions.
- The possession, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons is abhorrent to morality and the principles of humanity.
- Our governments have a duty to serve the best interests of all people, rather than investing in weapons of mass destruction that can only result in death, poverty, and war.
- Colonised and indigenous peoples have largely borne the brunt of nuclear devastation.
- Financial and scientific resources currently being squandered on maintaining nuclear arsenals should be redirected to further social justice, economic equality, and environmental protection.
- A treaty banning nuclear weapons is a positive and necessary step toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.
- The countries that have decided to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons have refused to concede to the power of those states that threaten the world with nuclear extinction.
- There is a link between the stand these countries have taken and the stand for social and economic justice that individuals are taking around the world, including the efforts of communities of color working to raise awareness of the structural violence behind environmental issues—including those related to nuclear weapons, and to broader issues, such as access to clean water.
HOW TO ORGANISE
Okay so you’re on board, what next? Following on the Women’ March and Washington Next Step Guide, we have pulled together these tips to make organising your own event a little bit easier.
Step #1: Host a planning meeting, aka ‘a huddle’
Huddle (noun) – a small group of people holding an informal conversation
You don’t need to have done anything like this before to host a huddle. All you need is a small group of friends, family, neighbours, and fellow marchers, this guide, and a space to meet.
The purpose of this meeting is to not only start to plan your solidarity event, but also to build a team and community of support, as well as share information and learning about nuclear issues, including the ban treaty and the role of women in creating change.
1. Pull together a group of 10-15 people for your huddle. Invite people who know things about nuclear issues and those who know nothing. The point is to get the conversation started. Larger groups are fine so long as you have a few different facilitators to make sure everyone feels included.
2. Choose one person to be a meeting facilitator. It could be you, but it doesn’t have to be. The facilitator isn’t in charge of bringing a new action plan to the group, just of making sure that the logistics are in place, the meeting runs smoothly, and that everybody feels included and informed.
3. Get yourself educated and ready to share in order to inspire others about the amazing opportunity to ban nuclear weapons. Here is a plethora of helpful resources for you to use:
3.2. Ban nuclear weapons 2017, ICAN 2017
3.3. Pocket Guide: Humanitarian impact and risks, ICAN 2015
3.4. “Don’t Bank on the Bomb”, PAX 2016.
3.5. “Why Should I Care About Nukes” by Minutephysics
3.6. “Setsuko Thurlow, survivor of nuclear bombing of Hiroshima” by ICAN
Set out allocation of tasks among your group for hosting your solidarity march and rally. Some areas of work to consider are: logistics, permitting, communications and signage, social media, media, and volunteer coordination.
Step #2: Pre-planning
1. Once you have determined where the event should take place, look into permitting and demonstration and rally regulations in your city. Most cities require previous approval for the use or closure of sidewalks and/or streets closure and the use of sound. It’s also important to look into the types of signs and marching regulations in place in your city and to make sure to inform your larger group beforehand.
2.Engage with your local political leadership. Several mayors around the world have already spoken out in support of nuclear disarmament and specifically, the nuclear ban treaty. Visit the website of an organization called Mayors for Peace to learn more.
3.Create a Facebook page for your event and send us the link! Identify and use the communications platforms that will help get the word out about this event. This could include email, getting your event on the events calendars of relevant organisations, all social media outlets, and of course, word of mouth.
4.If your event will have a rally, start to liaise with identified speakers about their availability and what they will speak to. Even if the event is a march, it’s good to have people kick it off with a motivational speech and embed others along the march route who can keep energy high, lead chants, etc.
5.Develop signs and determine key messages or slogans. These should be based on the messages set out in this guide, but can also be tailored to your local context and concerns of your team. There are graphics available in multiple languages on our website to download and reproduce for your event. Common tags to use on the day of the event on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other channels are #nuclearban and #womenbanthebomb.
6.If possible, ask people to commit or register to attend. This could be via an event registration mechanism or Facebook event RSVPs. While this can never be an exact science, an awareness of the size of your event will help to liaise with police and to determine how many volunteers you need and how long the event may go on for.
7.Continue to meet with your core planning team (the people who came to the huddle). Allocate roles for the day of the event. Designate or hire photographers.
8. Send an email the day before the event to all who have confirmed that includes time, location, route, and any other key information.
Step #3: The event!
Get out there with your friends and rally!
- Make sure to follow all procedural regulations required by your host city’s police department.
2. On site, a facilitator(s) should kick off the event by rallying everyone who has shown up to thank them for coming and get mobilised. This could also include other speakers or short talks on the following points:
A. Highlight your specific country’s political position in regards to the nuclear weapon ban treaty.
B. Talk about the current negotiations going on in NYC, and the significance of the ban, as well as the importance of women’s engagement in antinuclear organising.
C. Remind everyone to look out for each other and to follow the regulations for marching/rallying.
3.Use social media as a tool to connect with media as the event is in progress and share your message.
For example, use Twitter to get the attention of journalists: “.@reporter: I was at San Francisco’s #womenbanthebomb march today. Many local constituents here supporting #nuclearban negotiations. Have video & happy to chat.”
You can also use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook to post pictures, videos, and your own thoughts about the event as it unfolds. The sheer power of so many people using a single hashtag at one time, on one day, is incredible and will generate the buzz and attention that this issue needs.
Step #4: Following up
Send out thank you messages to your coalition and event participants via e-mail as well as Facebook.
Post follow up messages on the social media channels and send us photos!
Follow the ban treaty negotiations at the UN. They conclude on 7 July, and WILPF will be providing daily coverage through its Nuclear Ban Daily, as well as live Tweeting. Sign up for the daily report here or follow us @_RCW.
The first nuclear weapons were used on Japan in World War Two in 1945, causing catastrophic human suffering and damage to the two cities that the bombs were dropped on. There has since been a growing movement, especially at the height of the Cold War, to ban nuclear weapons and save humanity from the threat of their use. This has prompted the signing of agreements and treaties between countries to either not acquire the weapons or destroy existing ones. Some of these efforts have been more successful than others, but the fact remains that nuclear weapons have still not been eliminated and are being updated and modernised at a huge cost.
Nuclear-armed states include the United States of America, the Russian Federation, France, the United Kingdom, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea. Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey host US nuclear weapons on their territory. Traditionally, these countries have dominated the approach of the international community to disarmament and non-proliferation, often in a way that has benefitted them.
However, the times are changing
In one of its final acts of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted with overwhelming support a landmark resolution to begin negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts. Did you know that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented impacts? Biological weapons and chemical weapons, as well as landmines and cluster munitions, have all been explicitly and completely banned under international law. Usually, prohibiting weapons leads to their elimination. This is why a nuclear ban treaty is needed: to fill the legal gap. It is also meant to complement and work alongside existing treaties, like the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The decision to chart this course was prompted by a push led by civil society through the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to re-focus the debate about nuclear weapons on their humanitarian impact. While this might sound obvious, language about this aspect of their impact has been largely suppressed by those who try to argue that nuclear weapons provide security and stability in international relations. Three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway in 2013 and Mexico and Austria in 2014 shed new light on the perils of living in a world armed to the brink with nuclear weapons. They clarified the urgent need to prohibit these weapons under international law.
At present, nuclear armed-states and many of their allies have chosen to boycott the negotiations, even going so far as to pressure other governments to do the same. But over 130 countries, including regional leaders such as Brazil and South Africa, are united in their belief that enough is enough and are moving forward regardless.
A first round of discussions took place on 27–31 March. The second round will be from 15 June–7 July. We stand at the doorstep of a monumental opportunity to make our voices heard and give support to policy makers who are trying to make the world a safer place by banning nuclear weapons once and for all.
Women have been at the forefront of the antinuclear resistance since the beginning of the nuclear age. WILPF was one of the first civil society groups to condemn the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Women were leaders in the campaign to ban nuclear weapon testing in the United States, including by collecting baby teeth to show evidence of radioactive contamination. Women led the Nuclear Freeze movement in the 1980s, calling on the Soviet Union and the United States to end the arms race. Now women are at the leading edge of the movement to ban nuclear weapons. In both governments and NGOs, women have been the most present and vocal in campaigning for a total prohibition of the bomb.
There are many reasons for this:
- Nuclear weapons have gendered impacts. Women face unique devastation from the effects of the use of nuclear weapons, such as the effects of radiation on reproduction and maternal health. Women who have survived nuclear weapon tests or use also face unique social challenges related to how they are treated in societies and communities.
- There is a gendered discourse around nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are loaded with symbolism—of potency, protection, and the power to “deter” through material “strength”. For many, such symbolism obscures the real point of the existence of these arms—to destroy—and their horrendous effects.
The nuclear weapon discourse is also mired in dichotomies such as hard versus soft security, strong versus weak, active versus passive, and national security versus human security. With remarkable consistency, the masculine-identified sides of these pairs are tacitly attributed more value than the other. Those talking about humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and calling for their prohibition are accused of being divisive, polarising, ignorant, and even emotional. Opponents say they support “reasonable,” “realistic,” “practical,” or “pragmatic” steps and that anything else is irrational and irresponsible.
- It’s imperative that women’s voices are heard. Yet there is an acute lack of gender diversity in disarmament. There is a stark disparity in the level and volume of participation of women, men, and others in disarmament and arms control discussions, negotiations, and processes. Recent research has shown that at any given intergovernmental meeting on disarmament, only about one-quarter of participants are likely to be women and almost half of all delegations are likely to be composed entirely of men.
You now have all the tools and information needed for a successful Women Ban the Bomb event. In case you have any further questions or need support, don’t hesitate to contact us. In fact, contact us with your pictures, ideas, and event information.
A smart woman once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead, 1901 – 1978).
So get out there, and change the world!