14 Years of
the International Week Of Science and Peace

Alan Cottey (UK IWOSP Coordinator)

School of Physics, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ

IWOSP is a worldwide week of action which focuses attention on Science and Peace. The Week occurs each November, and is the Monday to Sunday which includes Armistice Day, 11 November. The 1997 Week, 10 -16 November, is the 12th IWOSP.

IWOSP was started in response to the dangers of the cold war and the nuclear arms race, especially the modernisation of missile systems which occurred in the 1980's. It achieved a major success in 1988 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution on 'Science and Peace'. This resolution notes that science and technology have profound links with international peace and security, economic and social development, respect for human rights and many other aspects of civilization and culture. It affirms the need to "promote greater awareness among scientists world wide of the usefulness of science to increase international peace, security and co-operation, the social and economic development of mankind, the promotion of human rights and protection of the environment".

It notes "with appreciation the joint efforts made by scientists and members of other professional groups" who promoted the first two IWOSPs. The resolution proclaims the IWOSP as taking place each year during the week in which 11 November falls; and it "urges Member States and intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations to encourage universities and other institutions of advanced studies, scientific academies and institutes, and professional associations and individuals in the scientific community to hold, during that week, lectures, seminars, special debates and other activities conducive to the study and dissemination of information on the links between progress in science and technology and the maintenance of peace and security".

Although the UN thereby gives IWOSP moral support, the work and such resources as are needed come from the grassroots. With the thawing and then the end of the bipolar cold war, the scale of IWOSP declined for a few years. Now it is increasing again, as people see that the post cold war world is as dangerous as before. Although the dangers now are different, the UN Resolution remains valid. This is not by chance. Much thought was given to the formulation of the resolution, so that it would address fundamental problems and not just symptoms. Further, because it was a resolution of the General Assembly, and the big players just let the little ones get on with it, the problems are addressed from an egalitarian and global perspective.

In 1995, 45 events were reported to the International Coordinator. The countries represented were Argentina, Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, UK and USA.. The events were wideranging in form; types included courses, conferences, seminars, lectures, discussion meetings, exhibitions and vigils. Topics discussed also spanned a wide range. Although an official theme for the year was not defined, it was obvious that a major focus, in the 50th anniversary year, would be the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The French nuclear weapons test series and the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Joseph Rotblat reinforced the profile of nuclear weapons problems in IWOSP95. The other events were wide-ranging and reflected the deepening, in recent years, of understanding of the interconnectedness of many issues involving science, peace, justice and the environment.

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