Peace Action: Past,
Present, and Future
by Larry Wittner and
Glen Harold Stassen.
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Ban Ki-Moon's Speech at Riverside Church NPT Conference
May 1, 2010>

I know how much energy it takes to speak out, to protest, to carry the banner of this most noble human aspiration - world peace. Let me begin by saying how humbling it is to speak to you in this famous place, Riverside Church.

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A New Ground Zero

by Ban Ki-Moon
International Herald Tribune (France) [Op-Ed], April 28, 2010

A few weeks ago, traveling in Kazakhstan, I had the sobering experience of standing at Ground Zero. This was the notorious test site at Semipalatinsk, where the Soviet Union detonated 456 nuclear weapons between 1947 and 1989.

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Reaching Zero

by Jonathan Schell
The Nation, April 9, 2010

What is the purpose, if any, of the nuclear bomb, that brooding presence that has shadowed all human life for sixty-five years? The question has haunted the nuclear age. It may be that no satisfactory answer has ever been given.

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U.S. Envoy Urges Caution on Forces for Afghanistan
by Elisabeth Bumiller and Mark Landler
The New York Times, November 11, 2009

" WASHINGTON The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, who once served as the top American military commander there, has expressed in writing his reservations about deploying additional troops to the country, three senior American officials said Wednesday."

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In engaging adversaries, the President sometimes unsettles allies

By Scott Wilson
The Washington Post, Monday, November 2, 2009

"... President Obama is applying the same tools to international diplomacy that he once used as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side, constructing appeals to shared interests and attempting to bring the government's conduct in line with its ideals.

Obama's approach to the world as a community of nations, more alike than different in outlook and interest, has elevated America's standing abroad and won him the Nobel Peace Prize. But on the farthest-reaching U.S. foreign policy challenges, he is struggling to translate his own popularity into American influence, even with allies that have celebrated his break from the Bush administration's emphasis on military strength, unilateral action and personal chemistry ..."

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United Nations Headquarters, New York, September 24, 2009

"... Today, the Security Council endorsed a global effort to lock down all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. The United States will host a summit next April to advance this goal and help all nations achieve it. This resolution will also help strengthen the institutions and initiatives that combat the smuggling, financing, and theft of proliferation-related materials. It calls on all states to freeze any financial assets that are being used for proliferation. And it calls for stronger safeguards to reduce the likelihood that peaceful nuclear weapons programs can be diverted to a weapons program ..."

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By William J. Broad and Davide E. Sanger
The New York Times, July 5, 2009

In the depths of the cold war, in 1983, a senior at Columbia University wrote in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about the vision of "a nuclear free world." He railed against discussions of "first- versus second-strike capabilities" that "suit the military-industrial interests" with their "billion-dollar erector sets," and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.

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By Jonathan Weisman
Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. and Russia are expected to launch new talks aimed at reducing the number of and other nuclear weapons on both sides, a senior Obama administration official said Tuesday, in an ambitious effort that could help ease bilateral tensions over other issues as well.
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Grassroots Actions for Peace
Members of Schenectady Neighbors for Peace, a branch of Upper Hudson Peace Action, and their allies at Women Against War recently hosted their own "I Miss America" pageant. "Miss Led" "Miss Appropriation" and "Miss Take" all competed for the crown while drawing attention to what they missed about America, like fair play and honesty. Supporters handed out materials about how they missed good ol' American values like functioning democracy and responsible spending.
Contact Congress
New York State has four new representatives – all of whom are tepidly to adamantly against the war. This brings New York State’s total up to 18 congress people mostly against the war, 3 who are on the fence and 8 who support it. Peace Action of New York State is organizing a huge campaign to coordinate visits in all of New York’s 29 districts to turn election time anti-war rhetoric into results. We also need to monitor work on nuclear proliferation, Iran, and cooperation with the world community to eliminate torture and small arms sales to human rights abusing countries.
Contact the 111th Congress

4 things you can do to help end the war in Iraq
1. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper about the war and an exit strategy.
2. Gather signatures for our People's Petition for an Iraq Peace Process. Download here
3. Call, e-mail or write your Senators and Congress people.
4. Volunteer with Peace Action New York State to go on legislative visits, help with protest campaigns, distribute literature and sponsor movie nights about the Iraq war.

Act Now!
Limit US Military Assistance to Governments Using Child Soldiers

Today, an estimated 250,000 children are serving in armed conflict in 20 countries around the world. These "child soldiers" include boys and girls, sometimes as young as eight years old, serving in government armies, government-linked militias, and armed opposition groups. They serve in all aspects of contemporary warfare-as spies, messengers, guards, cooks, porters, security officers, and too often, as front-line combatants. Many female child soldiers are forced to serve as sex slaves or "wives" of military commanders.

Although many child soldiers are found in non-governmental armed opposition groups, the State Department reports that governments in ten countries are implicated in child soldier use. The US government provides military assistance to nine of them.
Some of these governments recruit children into their own armed forces, while others are directly linked to militias that use children in warfare. They include: Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Uganda. US military assistance to these countries ranges from small amounts of funding for military training to hundreds of millions in weapons, training, and military financing. US tax dollars should not be used to support the exploitation of children as soldiers. Moreover, US weapons should not end up in the hands of children.

The Child Soldier Prevention Act (S1175) is bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS). The bill would restrict five categories of US military assistance (International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Foreign Military Sales, Direct Commercial Sales, and Excess Defense Articles) to governments described above until they end any involvement in the recruitment or use of child soldiers. The bill would not automatically cut off these military assistance programs; governments taking concrete steps to end child recruitment and demobilize child soldiers would remain eligible for assistance directed solely towards the professionalization of their forces for up to two years before any prohibition on assistance would be imposed.

This bill will provide clear incentives for governments currently implicated in the recruitment and use of child soldiers to end this practice and demobilize children from their forces. It also encourages the United States to expand funding to rehabilitate former child soldiers and work with the international community to bring to justice rebel armed groups that kidnap children for use as soldiers.

Help Stop the Use of Child Soldiers:
Write a letter to your Members of Congress urging them to co-sponsor the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007.
Click here to send a letter now!
Watch a short 4-minute video for more information

—Encourage organizations you are involved with to endorse the legislation
—Urge your local newspaper and radio/television news programs to do a story about child soldiers
—Share information about the bill with your friends, classmates and colleagues

Learn more, click on the links below:
About the Child Soldier Prevention Act
About child soldiers
Tips for Successful Legislative Meetings
Meeting in person with elected officials and/or legislative staff is the most effective means of political advocacy. Here are some important "do's" and "don'ts" to ensure that your lobbying meeting is successful and effective.
Make an appointment in advance. Time is always at a premium in legislative offices. Contact the legislator's scheduler in advance to arrange a meeting. Call the office or check the legislator's website to find out how the meeting request should be made - by fax, e-mail or in writing. Follow up with a phone call or two, requests sometimes get lost. Be clear about who will be attending the meeting and the specific reason for the meeting. Legislative schedules are unpredictable so don't be put off if your meeting is rescheduled or if you have to meet with staff in lieu of the elected official.

Your homework. Prepare carefully and thoroughly for your meeting. Take the time to "know" your legislator by reviewing past votes or statements on the issue, his/her party's position, and committee assignments. Develop an agenda that all your participants clearly understand. Know your talking points in advance and be prepared to make your case. Research the opposition's arguments against your position and, if possible, acknowledge and rebut those arguments in your presentation.

Dress Well. What you wear can convey how seriously you take the meeting. It is important to wear clean, and neat clothing. Slacks, skirts, button down shirts and blazers are appropriate. Teeshirts with text, jeans, flipflops, tank tops and other casual clothing should be left at home. Stay "on message." Effective legislative meetings should be narrow in scope. Stick to a single issue, state only a few key points in support of your position and make a definite request for action. Many meetings are ineffective because a participant brings up other issues or strays from the key arguments supporting your position. Have a message and stick to it.

Go local. Your effectiveness is based on geography. Legislators want to hear your thoughts and opinions because you are a constituent. One of your most useful strategies is to relate the issue and your position to your community. Legislators have many other avenues to get national or state analysis, reports and statistics. Local statistics and stories are important and you can be the only source for such rich information. Don't be afraid to humanize the issue by relating it to your local community or personal experience.

Make a clear, actionable request. Many people are afraid that it's impolite to make a direct request. But, don't forget that the purpose of your meeting is to secure support for your issue. It is appropriate and expected that you will make a request at your meeting. The key is to make sure that your request is clearly articulated and actionable by the legislator. Keep in mind that your request should be timely and consistent with the legislative process. It is usually not enough to ask for generic support for an issue or cause, rather make a direct and specific request that is tied to pending legislative activity (if possible). For example, ask that a legislator co-sponsor a bill. You should make reference to bill numbers and be knowledgeable about the status of the bill. Making a specific request gives you the opportunity to evaluate the legislator's response.

Cultivate a relationship with staff. Many grassroots advocates underestimate the important role of legislative staff. A supportive staff person can often make the difference between success and failure. Staff play an invaluable role in shaping a legislator's agenda and position on issues. It is important that you make every effort to cultivate a positive working relationship with staff. Over time, staff may even come to regard you as a helpful resource for information on your issue.

Follow up. What happens after a meeting is almost as important as the meeting itself. Send a 'thank you' letter after the meeting that not only expresses appreciation but reinforces your message and any verbal commitment of support made by the legislator or staff. If you promise during the meeting to get back in touch with additional information, be sure that you do so. Failure to follow up on your promise will call your credibility into question. Also, don't forget to report the results of your meeting back to PANYS. This information is vital to coordinating overall legislative strategy and evaluating the impact of advocacy efforts. Follow-up is important even if the legislator does not agree to support your request because you are building a long-term relationship.

Go "off-message" or discuss unrelated issues. You must deliver a unified message during your meeting. Sending different messages or discussing unrelated subjects will only undermine your ability to secure support. Limit your advocacy to a single issue. Legislators meet with many groups and constituents so it is important that your message and request be clear and uniform.

Engage in partisan critiques. It is best to keep the discussion based on the merits of the policy or issue. Avoid characterizing your position in strictly partisan terms. Worse, do not make snide or disparaging partisan comments. You are working on behalf of an issue, not a party. So, you want legislators of both parties to support your position. Be careful not to alienate legislators or staff based on partisanship.

Use threats. While it may be tempting to tell a legislator who has rebuffed your request that "you'll never vote for him/her again" or that "you pay his/her salary," such discourtesy only ensures that your arguments will be discounted-now and in the future.

Be late. Time is a valuable and scare commodity for legislators. Punctuality conveys professionalism and demonstrates your commitment to your issue, which is after all the reason for the meeting. Arrive early and if you are meeting as a group allow time to calm nerves and make a final review of the talking points and message.

Get too comfortable. Advocates are sometimes surprised by the courteous reception they receive, even from lawmakers who disagree with their position. As a constituent you will be accorded respect by the legislator and staff. Don't mistake this respect for agreement. Don't let the comfortable nature of the exchange deter you from making your request. And, don't mistake "concern" for your issue with support for your position.

Forget to follow up. Immediately send a thank you letter. Stay informed on your issue and track how your legislator responds. Did the legislator follow through on his/her promise? If not, request an explanation. If so, express your appreciation.