Kate Dewes


On 8 July 1996, the International Court of Justice 1 (ICJ) delivered its findings on two questions on the legal status of nuclear weapons requested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN General Assembly (UNGA). In its largest and most controversial case, involving 45 states and the WHO, the Court accepted citizens' evidence for the first time.

In 1993 the World Health Organisation had posed the following question: 'In view of the health and environmental effects, would the use of nuclear weapons by a state in war or other armed conflict be a breach of its obligations under international law including the WHO Constitution?' The following year a more radical question had been posed by the UN General Assembly: 'Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance permitted under international law?' The ICJ did not give an advisory opinion on the WHO question because it judged that it was not within the scope of the WHO's responsibilities. On the UNGA question, it gave a 34 page Opinion advising in its crucial subparagraph that 'a threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of international humanitarian law'. Although it added a caveat that 'the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake', it did not identify any lawful circumstance for the threat, let alone use, of nuclear weapons. Finally, the judges unanimously agreed that 'there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control' (Burroughs, 1997; Fagan Ginger, 1998; and Green, 1996).

Before this, several serious initiatives to outlaw nuclear weapons had been made by a variety of states and citizen groups within the UN, such as calls for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, and inclusion of nuclear weapons in the 1949 Geneva Conventions along with chemical and biological weapons. All were blocked by the nuclear weapon states using their economic and political power, including their Security Council veto. The nuclear weapon states paradoxically now accept the illegality of chemical and biological weapons while insisting on their right to maintain their nuclear arsenals, thereby sustaining the anomalous legal position of nuclear weapons.

Citizen groups in Japan, Germany, USA, UK, Canada, the Netherlands and other countries attempted to challenge the legality of nuclear weapons at a state level through local and national courts; but not until the 1990s was there a serious attempt to seek an opinion from the ICJ (Dewes and Green, 1995, pp. 17-37). The only other ICJ case concerning nuclear weapons was in 1973, when Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia challenged the legality of French atmospheric nuclear testing in the South Pacific (Briefing Paper for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1972; Kos, 1984; Goldblat, 1974; Roberts, 1972; Keith, 1984; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1973; Elkind, 1993). Individual states such as Belau, Vanuatu, Solomons and New Zealand enshrined their nuclear-free status either in their constitutions or by legislation while Latin American and South Pacific states declared their regions nuclear free zones. 2

In the early 1980s the International Peace Bureau (IPB) President Sean MacBride, the US Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP) and others began to promote the idea of using the ICJ to clarify the legal status of nuclear weapons by getting a group of states to request an advisory opinion through the UNGA. However, it was not until late 1986 that retired New Zealand magistrate Harold Evans initiated a concerted effort to convince the Australian, New Zealand and 71 other governments to sponsor a UN resolution to request such an opinion in a campaign which became known as the World Court Project (WCP).

This chapter looks briefly at why New Zealanders had the 'principled audacity' to take a leading role in this political initiative and reflects on the WCP as a prime example of how citizen groups can work successfully together with governments to affect decision-making on nuclear issues. It tells this story by examining the strategies and processes adopted by a sample of the key players from the South Pacific. It also traces the New Zealand government's progression from opposition to positive promotion of the project.

Why Aotearoa/New Zealand?

As a vociferous supporter of the League of Nations and leading participant in the formation of the UN, New Zealand advocated 'that all powers joining the UN would agree to submit any quarrels to the ICJ' and be bound by its decisions. 3 It frequently called on the UNGA to 'avail itself of the advisory function of the ICJ' to help resolve contentious issues and 'sift the chaff from the oats, lay bare the fundamental issues ... and perhaps establish a set of guiding principles ...' 4 As a small state, New Zealand saw international law and agencies such as the UN as an important part of its security policy.

In response to overwhelming public opposition, and calls by citizens to request an advisory opinion to clarify the legality of the French tests, New Zealand worked closely with Australia to pursue a case at the ICJ in 1973. 5 New Zealand also sent a frigate into the nuclear test zone and cabled leaders of 100 other countries seeking support for this action, and acknowledgement of the Court's decision. As a direct result of international public and government pressure, France then tested underground.

The Aotearoa peace movement persuaded the government to take a leadership role within the UN for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone. In 1984, after massive public education programmes and high-profile protests against visiting nuclear-powered and armed warships, a Labour government promised to outlaw both nuclear propulsion and weapons in New Zealand. Opinion polls indicated 58% against warship visits, and over 66% of the population lived in locally declared nuclear free zones. 6 The Nuclear Free Act was passed in 1987, and included provision for a Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control (PACDAC) to advise the Prime Minister on the implementation of the Act, and on any other matters which it thought fit. This committee played a vital role in developing close relationships between citizen groups and government while providing a degree of accountability and a conduit for new ideas (Boanas-Dewes, 1993).

When US Law Professor Richard Falk visited New Zealand in 1986 at the height of the ANZUS ructions caused by the nuclear free policy, he revived the idea of using the ICJ to clarify the legal status of nuclear weapons. He encouraged the peace movement to study the ingredients of previous social campaigns, such as slavery, royalism, colonialism and infanticide. These at their outset had seemed impractical and unlikely to succeed. He suggested building on the embryonic structures which were already in place for global reform such as the International Peace Bureau and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). He also proposed tapping into the perspectives of the women's movement and indigenous peoples. He gave some reasons why New Zealand had stepped across the line on the nuclear issue:

... the fierce independence and individualism - the Kiwi spirit. And its geographical position gives New Zealand the detachment and perspective that enable a more objective appreciation. There is an exhilaration in exercising your independence which builds up momentum ... the first step does not take you far, but the capacity to move yourself is an enormous potential source of energy and freedom. It also forces the super-power to examine its own place in the world. It starts reflection and dialogue ... 7

Both Harold Evans and the author were deeply impressed by his vision. The peace movement - empowered by its recent successes, backed by strong public opinion and relatively free from the tentacles of nuclearism - sought projects which more closely linked nuclearism and the law. Evans immediately began working to build up national and international support amongst legal, medical and peace groups to lobby governments to ask for an advisory opinion from the UNGA. This citizen network became known in 1991 as the World Court Project, and within three years it succeeded.

Strategies adopted by key campaigners

This section draws on the experiences and different strengths of five advocates at various stages of the WCP: Harold Evans, Alyn Ware, Hilda Lini, Pauline Tangiora, and the author were respectively a retired magistrate, a young male kindergarten teacher, a Pacific Island politician, Maori elder/kuia, and a peace campaigner/mother. Their stories illustrate the broad-based nature of the WCP network. They operated on a variety of levels understanding how group processes work: locally, through grassroots participation; nationally, through lobbying and policy-making positions; and internationally, through their experience at the United Nations and as members of citizen networks. What were the strengths that these individuals brought to the project? How did their very different backgrounds and styles of working complement each other and help to shift the opinions of key decision-makers in New Zealand and overseas?

New Zealand doctors Erich Geiringer, George Salmond, Robin Briant and Ian Prior, working closely with IPPNW International, played critical roles in getting the 1993 WHO resolution passed. However, this account focuses on the United Nations General Assembly because it was Evans' original route to challenging the legality of nuclear weapons, and this was the question eventually answered by the Court. Lessons learned from IPPNW's strategies were central to the subsequent General Assembly success, and are incorporated in the discussion (Salmond, 1993; Geiringer, 1996, pp. 22-29).

Harold Evans came from a conservative family. His father was Solicitor-General during Evans' early career as a lawyer working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of his most formative experiences was as associate to the New Zealand judge at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal from 1946-48. Later, as a Stipendiary Magistrate in Christchurch he became known for his sometimes liberal and controversial opinions. He prided himself on his independence and tried to deliver fair judgements in terms of the law and his own conscience. Following his retirement in 1977, he spoke out when there was an important injustice. Over the next 17 years he published over 20 Open Letters on nuclear issues. These were produced at his own expense, and frequently attracted media attention.

Although an active member of the Christchurch Peace Collective, the Peace Foundation and Lawyers for Nuclear Disarmament (LND), he preferred to work on his own from home preparing documents to support his case. These were meticulously researched and professionally presented, using skills learned as a lawyer and Ministry official. He used his legal connections to gain support from six 'eminent jurists' whose opinions he published in his 1987, 100-page Open Letter to the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand and 71 states. These included Professor Weeramantry (later ICJ Vice President); Professor Falk; the Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists; a former New Zealand Ombudsman; a former Attorney General, and Edward St John (an Australian QC). These opinions carried weight with New Zealand decision-makers - especially fellow lawyer and Prime Minister David Lange, who was sympathetic but cautious.

Despite disappointing responses from most other countries approached, Evans was undeterred. He recognised the importance of building up both national and international support from respectable citizen groups to help mobilise public opinion and force governments to act. His first success was to gain support from PACDAC, IPPNW(NZ), the United Nations Association, LND, Peace Foundation and the Australian and New Zealand branches of the International Commission of Jurists. He briefed sympathetic women politicians in Australia and his local Member of Parliament (MP), and suggested Parliamentary Questions asking both Prime Ministers why they were reluctant to run with the project. He then publicised their responses in the media and kept up correspondence with both governments for many years.

Spurred on by Evans and PACDAC, the New Zealand government began 'seriously considering' the proposal, but indicated it would not risk 'going it alone' in the UN and directly challenging the fundamental defence policies of its Western allies. New Zealand was already under intense pressure from its allies as a result of the nuclear free legislation. The realities of the Cold War mindset meant any initiative such as this was probably doomed from the outset. The earlier foray into the ICJ had confronted only one state on one aspect of the nuclear issue. Government officials and politicians were wary of exacerbating already tense relationships and reluctant to pursue something which might fail, thereby damaging the credibility of the ICJ and the greater cause of nuclear disarmament. At the time, they were pursuing a seat on the Security Council where they would have influence over a wider range of issues.

With support from St John, Evans reached out internationally, initially approaching the LCNP, IPB and sympathetic British groups. They corresponded regularly with their colleagues and attended the 1989 inaugural meeting of International Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) where a supportive Hague Declaration was adopted. Evans also attended IPB's annual conference in Britain which endorsed it. The year before, IPPNW(NZ) had gained endorsement at their International Congress. Both IPB and IPPNW were Nobel Peace Prize winners and well respected by governments, in the UN, and in the worlds' capitals. They had active members in many countries and access to government decision-makers. Their early support, along with IALANA, gave great impetus to the project and in May 1992 they became the three official co-sponsors.

On his way home, Evans met doctors and lawyers in Malaysia during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Not wishing to miss any opportunity to spread the word, he sent letters to the leaders of six sympathetic governments asking them to work together to sponsor a resolution. The Malaysian doctors funded a large newspaper advertisement appealing to all Commonwealth leaders to take immediate action.

The personal relationships developed at these meetings with professional colleagues and peace activists from around the world, gave sustenance to the few individuals who carried the project during the lonely early years when the task seemed insurmountable. It was difficult to keep up the momentum with meagre funding, communicating without email across huge distances and with a disparate and already overcommitted international peace movement. The idea seemed unlikely to succeed without massive support from governments and the public. Nevertheless in the meantime, Evans had stimulated interest amongst other New Zealand peace activists who were also reaching out.

Kate Dewes was a teacher, mother of three young daughters and peace campaigner who worked closely with many groups and co-founded the Christchurch Peace Collective in 1979. As the Peace Foundation's Regional Representative, she organised Falk's 1986 visit to Christchurch. In 1987 she was appointed to PACDAC and became a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) adviser on the government delegation to the 1988 UN Special Session on Disarmament in New York. Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and PACDAC requested her to sound out support among selected governments and citizen groups. She set up meetings between a former Indian UN Ambassador (and IPB Vice President) and New Zealand officials and distributed copies of Evans' Open Letters. He encouraged the government to pursue it with like-minded states, and advised Dewes to prepare a memorandum listing the existing UN resolutions about nuclear weapons and proposing a draft resolution, supported by many international NGOs, which should then be given to all UN members requesting them to seek an advisory opinion. 8

Dewes highlighted the WCP in her address to the UN Committee of the Whole and the NGO International Peace Conference. Moreover, she persuaded New Zealand's Foreign Minister to mention it in his UN presentation.

In New Zealand, a small country with an active democracy, access to decision-makers is relatively easy. The flow of information is facilitated by free postage to politicians, free local phone calls and the possibility of regular meetings with local MPs. In 1988 Dewes co-chaired the Labour Party Policy Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and ensured that remits were passed binding Labour to co-sponsor a UN resolution if they retained power after the 1990 election. Between 1987-90 she had direct access to politicians, diplomats and advisers, enabling her and others to brief both the Labour Caucus and Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committees. This helped build relationships based on trust and mutual respect.

Although, for a wide variety of reasons, the Labour Government did not adopt the World Court proposal while in office, the issue was put firmly on the Ministry's agenda. Officials watched the growing public support, aware that an active peace movement would continue to pursue it. However, with the election of a conservative National Party government in 1990, hopes of New Zealand leadership of the WCP were dashed. Further support was sought from influential organisations such as Parliamentarians for Global Action, the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement, Greenpeace International and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Endorsement from prominent individuals such as Gorbachev, Archbishop Tutu and Helen Caldicott helped promote the campaign. Briefing other government representatives at UN missions in New York and Geneva then became a priority. Another New Zealander was to play a significant part in this sustained international work.

Alyn Ware was a kindergarten teacher, peace educator and activist trained in conflict resolution and mediation. For most of the 1980s he travelled around Aotearoa in the Mobile Peace Van teaching peace studies in schools. He embodied the Kiwi characteristic that 'if something is broken then you go and try and fix it yourself'. 9 In 1988 and 1989 he visited USA and USSR to learn about peace initiatives and worked in New York with the World Federalist Movement. In 1991, he became the UN Peace Team Representative with the responsibility to meet diplomats and encourage them to explore non-violent solutions to the Gulf war. While at the United Nations, he also briefed diplomats on the WCP and secured considerable interest from six missions. He returned home keen to help promote the campaign.

This success buoyed others including IPPNW(NZ), who began exploring the WHO route and gingering colleagues around the world to lobby their governments in capitals. Dewes visited seven UN missions in Geneva gaining access to high-level diplomats via a letter of introduction from David Lange. She found support amongst key Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) states including Pakistan, India, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Nigeria and Indonesia. These were likely to attract support from other Asian, African and Latin American states.

IPB proposed a joint WCP launch in Geneva in May 1992 to coincide with IPB's centenary and hand over to the UN 11,000 signatures for the MacBride Lawyers' Appeal Against Nuclear Weapons to the UN. IALANA prepared a Memorandum for diplomats and governments outlining the arguments for illegality, and IPB published a guide for activists. These became vital tools for the movement and lobbyists (Grief, 1993; Mothersson, 1992). At the same time, British groups began collecting Declarations of Public Conscience to present to the UN and the ICJ as 'citizen's evidence' (Mothersson, 1992, pp. 65-86 and 143-148). Eventually nearly 4 million declarations in 40 different languages were accepted by the Court. LCNP persuaded Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister to announce its public support at the launch. As Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the instigator of the UN Decade of International Law, its early endorsement was a breakthrough.

Following the appointment of Ware and Dewes to the six-member WCP International Steering Committee, Ware worked voluntarily for LCNP, building support among UN missions and US peace groups. Within months, despite no legal training, he was appointed LCNP Director with responsibility for coordinating lobbying. It was his working relationships with diplomats which endeared him to the lawyers. They were impressed by his ability to learn the law and present complicated arguments in simple terms and his capacity to 'see the positive aspect of whatever view was being expressed and try to state it in its best form even when he disagreed with it.' 10 On the other hand, seasoned activists were surprised that Ware did not compromise his personal beliefs to fit into the highly bureaucratic, hierarchical, sterile UN environment. While he was forced to wear his second-hand suit as part of the UN 'uniform', he kept his ponytail and brought his 'heart and spirit to the centre of the debate.' 11 Veteran Mexican diplomat Marin-Bosch affectionately described him as '.... a pain in the arse in a good way ... he doesn't take no for an answer ... persistent ... never gives up ... it's the goody-goody-ness ... and, to be effective you have to be informed.' 12

In the run up to the first UNGA resolution attempt in 1993, Ware gained the confidence of many NAM diplomats by sharing New Zealand's experience of Western heavy-handedness over the anti-nuclear stance and making links between nuclearism, colonialism and the abuse of the lands and cultures of indigenous peoples. He held many meetings with them, updating them, writing background papers and building close personal relationships. He also travelled to key Latin American capitals to meet ministers, and attended the South Pacific Forum in Nauru where he gained high-level support. In typical Kiwi style, he once jumped off a bus when he saw a delegate walking along the street, and briefed another in the back of a taxi.

Ware's task at the UN was facilitated by the success of the 1993 WHO resolution which was sponsored by 22 countries. IPPNW used their extensive high-level contacts within Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health to secure support in capitals, and fielded a team of experts to monitor the WHO proceedings. New Zealand's former Director General of Health, George Salmond, had intimate knowledge of WHO procedures and knew many of the delegates personally, thereby gaining access to diplomatic cocktail parties and the WHO Secretariat. Sympathetic delegates shared inside information which helped IPPNW counter NATO-led misinformation. IPPNW produced briefing papers for delegates on previous WHO debates, legal arguments, and the medical effects of nuclear weapons. They helped bolster wavering diplomats who came under intense pressure to change their vote, abstain or simply not turn up.

Hilda Lini was Vanuatu's only woman MP, and Minister of Health, a WHO Vice President and a mother. She had extensive links with peace, justice, church and women's groups throughout the South Pacific. During the Assembly she gained support from regional governments. She shared powerful stories about the health effects of testing on South Pacific populations combining fact, reason and passion with a sense of urgency. According to an IPPNW colleague, her intervention came at a critical moment:

... everything fell silent when she spoke. Her speech was a defining moment when the whole psychological tide turned in our favour and there was a palpable energy and feeling that we were going to win at that point. She stepped out of the traditional governmental role and spoke from her heart. She was not speaking just for herself, you could feel many people speaking through her - she had that power of conviction. 13

Following the WCP launch, Zimbabwe presented a motion to the September 1992 NAM Foreign Ministers' Meeting requesting that their 111 member states co-sponsor a UN resolution. This was introduced during the 1993 UN General Assembly, following intense deliberations and pressure on many states to stymie the process. There were many reports of threats to their aid and trade by NATO states if they supported the resolution. It broadened and strengthened the WHO question by directly challenging nuclear deterrence.

The WCP deployed a small lobbying team led by Ware including Lini, Dewes, Robert Green (Chair of WCP UK), St John and Pauline Tangiora. As members of the WCP International Steering Committee, Green and Dewes, working in concert with local activists, lobbied politicians in Wellington, Canberra, Dublin and Ottawa in an attempt to convince some of the 'middle' Western states to co-sponsor the General Assembly question for the International Court of Justice along with the NAM. The Irish Foreign Affairs Committee gave unanimous support, recommending that their government vote in favour and publicised it in The Irish Times. Prior to this, New Zealand's Disarmament Minister publicly announced, when handed 23,000 Declarations at a ceremony at Parliament, that New Zealand would support the resolution if it went to a vote. In Canada, the Opposition parties also indicated their support and became the government during the session. Australian peace groups maintained the pressure on Canberra, while the Antipodeans met with their UN Ambassadors showing them evidence of the growing Western support. In Italy, an IALANA member and MP convinced the Foreign Affairs Committee to adopt a resolution binding the government to vote in support. There were strong indications that Sweden and Australia would join the others in voting for the resolution. 14

Experienced Western diplomats described the behaviour of the NATO nuclear states as hysterical - they had never seen such coercion. Zimbabwe reported that five delegations, including a delegation from Australia, had visited Harare applying strong pressure. Canada's Disarmament Ambassador, Peggy Mason, described NATO's psychological intimidation tactics: 'There were demarches [diplomatic manoeuvres] going fast and furious, not just in NAM countries but in Barton [Western] group countries including Canada...' 15 Vanuatu was under intense pressure from the French. It looked as if NAM solidarity would crumble. Supporting the key diplomats became the primary role of the South Pacific members of the team.

Pauline Tangiora is a Maori Kuia (elder) who represents her people (Rongomaiwahine Tribe) on the Earth Council, the World Council for Indigenous Peoples, at UN conferences on human rights, small island states, the environment and disarmament. In 1991, as President of WILPF Aotearoa, she gained WILPF International's support; and as a life member of the Maori Women's Welfare League she gathered signatures from leading Maori academics, bishops and other groups. Close associate, Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu-Tum, signed as a prominent supporter. At Earth Council meetings she briefed various world leaders, including the President of the Philippines, and gained their support.

The two South Pacific matriarchs were treated with great respect by the diplomats of small island states who viewed them as tribal chiefs. At an ambassadorial luncheon held in Lini's honour, Vanuatu's UN Ambassador Van Lierop prepared the ground for last minute support from key NAM states. Lini reported on the WHA success and again moved the delegates with her articulate and inspiring presentation. Tangiora and Dewes were invited, gaining rare access to the ambassadors the day before a crucial NAM meeting. That evening as Van Lierop reported his fears that NAM would crumble, the three women quietly wept. He was so moved that he was determined to go beyond his government's instructions, knowing it would probably cost him his job. Lini 'eyeballed' her colleagues during the critical closed session, acting as their conscience, while Tangiora and the others shook hands with delegates as they entered, keeping vigil outside.

The presence of women had a profound impact on the process. Lini described how '... sometimes in a very difficult situation, just the fact that a woman is there makes a difference. Certain men become more sympathetic to the cause because a woman is bringing the issue up and relating it to the family and community level ... they are emotional and down-to-earth in their reasoning and arguments'. Tangiora saw Lini prick many consciences when she spoke during the luncheon: '... all those guys were sitting there in their suits fighting within themselves for honesty. It is a good excuse to hide behind a government position, but deep down there were many, many people for a long time after trying to rack their consciences and atone for what they did.' 16

Aotearoa/New Zealand gives support

Although the NAM finally succumbed to pressure and deferred the resolution after introducing it, they reserved the right to reintroduce it the following year, which they did. It was adopted in 1994 by 77 votes to 33, with 21 abstentions and 53 not voting. Amazingly, New Zealand broke ranks with the Western coalition and, along with San Marino, voted with the majority of the NAM. Solidarity within the NAM was bolstered by a major fax and letter-writing campaign to the Prime Ministers and Ambassadors of wavering states. In one instance a supportive reply from a South Pacific leader to a woman in Scotland was given by Ware to that state's UN Ambassador. This was then used to justify a positive vote, thereby overturning an earlier instruction not to vote. Ware's constant vigilance within the UN almost certainly held New Zealand officials accountable to strong public opinion at home.

Throughout the four years following the Labour government's 1990 defeat, the peace movement had built on the strategies they had adopted to secure the nuclear-free legislation. They collected over 30,000 Declarations, and endorsements from over 90 groups and 360 prominent supporters. These included 3 former Prime Ministers, a Governor General, 37 parliamentarians, 6 QCs, 18 Knights and Dames, 13 Bishops, 14 Mayors, and many City Councillors, academics, leaders of national organisations, doctors, media and sports personalities who were asked to write letters to the government. Friendly MPs asked their colleagues from various parties to sign. Some Labour MPs secured David Lange's signature and then handed the paper around a caucus meeting: peer pressure ensured near unanimous support.

Parliamentarians for Global Action (New Zealand) also endorsed the project, encouraging similar action in the Australian branch. A group of eight National MPs broke ranks calling on the government to make a submission to the ICJ on the WHO question. Labour MPs forced two snap debates in Parliament using information gained from New York: thereby countering misinformation being promulgated by certain Ministers opposed to the WCP.

Copies of the government's confidential WHO submission were leaked and printed in the media, and sensitive Ministerial briefing papers were released under the Official Information Act. Advertisements were placed in local newspapers, groups met with Ministers and government officials, and Ware and others were frequently interviewed by the media. At the time of the crucial 1994 UNGA vote, opinion polls reflected 76% WCP support (Levine, Spoonley and Aimer, 1995, pp. 89-92 and 143-155). IALANA and IPPNW provided officials with draft submissions and suggested that a non-partisan group of citizens, politicians and officials prepare the New Zealand submission on the UNGA question. Although the government declined, material from citizen groups was incorporated into both the oral and written submissions presented in 1995. The government was eventually forced to withstand the pressure of the Western alliance, reflect strong public opinion and submit a strong case for illegality at the ICJ. Other critical factors were the end of the Cold War, the resumption of French nuclear testing and New Zealand's re-opening of the 1973 ICJ case just six weeks before the Oral Proceedings.

On the day of New Zealand's oral statement in November 1995, WCP supporters displayed a huge rainbow banner proclaiming 'Nuclear Free New Zealand/Aotearoa' outside the Court as the New Zealand delegation arrived. They shook hands with the Kiwis, and the Attorney-General acknowledged the role of New Zealand citizens in his opening words. It was the culmination of a decade of often intense, and at time acrimonious, debate between government and citizen groups. Despite this, a strong partnership was forged, working together on an issue threatening humanity.

Three days before the hearings, the Court Registrar was to receive an international delegation to hand over the last of the 4 million Declarations. These were to be added to a sample of the 100 million signatures from the Appeal from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the MacBride Appeal, and material surveying fifty years of citizens' opposition to nuclear weapons. News arrived at the WCP headquarters that one of the 15 judges had died, and the meeting was postponed. On hearing the news, Tangiora requested that a delegation go and pay respects to the judge who was lying in state in the Peace Palace. She would not move until that was negotiated.

Before entering, Tangiora shared the Maori belief that before an historic event happens 'a Chief passes on'. After the delegation paid their respects to the judges, she walked to the UN flag-draped coffin and called out to the departed spirit in Maori. As at the WHO when Lini spoke, the energy was palpable. Those few moments provided a deep connection between the citizen representatives and those with responsibility for making one of the most important decisions of the century.

In the days that followed, the judges faced the citizen delegates as twenty-two states and the WHO presented their cases. At times the complicated and often abstract legal arguments were powerfully linked to the horrific realities of the victims of nuclear weapons. In response to intense Japanese public demand, the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were allowed by their government to testify. They illustrated their moving testimonies with huge photographs of the bombings of their cities accompanied by the muted sobs of the hibakusha (victims) present. Later a Marshallese woman wept as she told of women giving birth to jelly-fish babies, 'bunches of purple grapes', and deformed children, clearly illustrating the intergenerational effects of nuclear weapons.


The WCP provided the international peace movement with a unique opportunity to work together for a focused goal with deadlines, using existing networks with access to key decision-makers. It built on earlier campaigns, drawing together many strands of activity from a wide range of countries, which included the perspectives of women and indigenous peoples.

The activists from the South Pacific were all firmly grounded in local citizen groups. They were experienced in the machinations of both international and national decision-making, and built on existing structures providing cooperation between decision-makers and citizen groups in New Zealand. They were empowered by recent successes in their region, and all believed strongly in the rule of law. Their determined stance against nuclear weapons meant that they could not be disregarded by the governments, diplomats and officials. Their ways of working and different networks were complementary, providing a vital balance between 'heart and head'. Together they were able to activate international networks of citizen groups, diplomats and politicians to work across national boundaries to promote democratic procedures within the UN.

Vigilant citizen groups based at the key nodes of the WHO, UNGA and ICJ helped to ensure that decision-makers were accountable. The collection of Declarations, endorsement by over 700 citizen groups worldwide, and an impressive list of prominent supporters helped sympathetic politicians and diplomats withstand pressure from the nuclear states and their allies, and reminded the ICJ judges that the eyes of the world were on them. Draft submissions, books and papers prepared by lawyers and doctors were important tools for diplomats in countries where expertise in international law and the medical effects of nuclear weapons was lacking.

Grassroots activists also had a role in the collection of declarations, writing to MPs and newspapers, and faxing ambassadors. They frequently elicited responses from decision-makers which were used to apply pressure even in the highly formalised proceedings of the UN. The WCP gave hope to ordinary citizens that an ICJ Opinion could succeed in breaking the logjam and inertia surrounding nuclear disarmament, and achieve real change. It also became a conduit for creating a more democratic United Nations, bringing nearer the realisation of the original vision expressed in the opening words of its Charter: 'We the peoples ... determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war...'.

The World Court Opinion has underpinned many recent initiatives by both citizen groups and states calling for nuclear abolition. There have been a succession of authoritative reports including the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and statements by 61 former Generals and Admirals and 117 civilian leaders. Public opinion polls in the United States and Britain show 87% support for negotiating a Nuclear Weapons Convention and 92% of Canadians want their government to lead on this. Both the UN General Assembly and European Parliament have passed resolutions calling for negotiations to begin, and over 1000 citizen groups support a Convention being signed by the year 2000. Citizen groups throughout NATO states are taking non-violent direct action at nuclear 'sites of crime', and citing international law in their defence. For the first time in decades a growing number of governments are reviewing their policies in light of the World Court Opinion and seriously considering total elimination. There is a sense of urgency amongst citizens and governments as they work together to achieve a new millennium free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

1 The International Court of Justice is also referred to as 'The World Court'.
2 Belau in 1979, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands in 1983; Treaty for Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (1967) and South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (1985).
3 Statement by Peter Fraser to the House of Representatives, 24 July 1945, reprinted in New Zealand Statements and Documents, 1943-1957, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wellington, 1972, pp. 104-105.
4 Ibid. p. 302, Extracts from Speech by Hon. T.C. Webb at 7th Session UN General Assembly, 16 October 1952.
5 See The Press, 'Legal move urged against France', Wellington, 8 October 1970, p. 2. Both governments finally opted for a contentious case rather than an advisory opinion.
6 New Zealand Herald, 'N-armed warships strongly opposed', reprinted in The Press, 6 October 1984.
7 Reported in The Press, 20 June 1986.
8 Kate Boanas (Dewes), 'Report of Meetings to PACDAC', 21 July 1988; Ian Warden, 'New Zealand struggles to illegalise nuclear arms', Canberra Times, 8 June 1988; Letters from Dewes to Jaipal, 2 September 1990 and 14 October 1990 and Jaipal to Dewes, 13 September 1990, 18 May 1991.
9 Interview by Dewes with Ware, Christchurch, 9 January 1996.
10 Interview by Dewes with Saul Mendlovitz, Melbourne, 11 July 1996.
11 Interview by Dewes with David Krieger, New York, April 1995.
12 Interview by Dewes with Miguel Marin-Bosch, New York, May 1995.
13 Interview with IPPNW's WCP Director, Michael Christ, New York, May 1995.
14 Colin Boland (1993) 'Move to Outlaw Use of Nuclear Weapons', Irish Times, 21 October; Brendon Burns (1993) 'Government supports Christchurch Man's Nuclear Move', The Press, 29 September; Letter from Chretien to Beverly Delong, 1 September 1993, Letter from Lloyd Axworthy to Henrietta Langran, Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 10 June 1993; Letter from Dr Joachim Lau to IALANA, 1 September 1993, 'Mai piu guerre con armi atomiche?', Giovedi, 5 Agosto 1993, p. 17.
15Taped interview by Robert Green with Ambassador Peggy Mason, Melbourne, July 1995.
16Interviews with Hilda Lini, New York, April 1995 and Pauline Tangiora, 5 April 1995.


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