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Report from IPPNW Congress in York

The congress of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) congress took place in York this week, and Christian CND was in attendance to hear from leading international campaigners on the prospects for disarmament in light of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, agreed at the United Nations in July.

A session on Campaigning in the UK heard from CND General Secretary Kate Hudson, Rebecca Johnson from the Acronym Institute, George McManus from the Labour Party and Cllr Grace Taylor-Hackwood from Nuclear Free Local Authorities.

Kate Hudson spoke about the need to build a wide coalition in civil society, mentioning the roles that faith communities play in campaigning. While many churches in the UK have made statements in support of nuclear disarmament, there is still more work to be done. Rebecca Johnson spoke about the work going on in Parliament, including a recent parliamentary motion lodged in support of the new Treaty.

George McManus spoke about the prospects for change within the Labour Party, which has been reviewing defence and nuclear weapons policy for some time. While the majority of Labour Party members support a world free of nuclear weapons, party policy has yet to catch up. Cllr Taylor-Hackwood spoke about the work NFLA is doing to build alliances within local government.

There was then a session on campaigning for the Ban Treaty in nuclear-armed states. Speakers from Russia, the United States, France and India spoke about the prospects for change, with all agreeing that a change of government is needed in order to make progress. The intervening time is being used to change the minds of the public through education and campaigning. There was recognition of the role faith communities’ play in all these countries.

Speaking about the UK, Frank Boulton from MEDACT spoke about the impact of the recent General Election and the prospects for change within the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Supported by the Scottish National Party, Green Party and others in Parliament it was felt that the UK represents the best chance of a nuclear-armed state signing the Treaty, despite the fact that the current government have ruled out such a step.