Cities Are Not Targets!
This slogan has served us well since it was introduced in summer 2006. From the beginning it has meant more than nuclear attack – or weapons of mass destruction attack – but cities being the victims of the scourge of war more generally. Thus when Israel and Lebanon clashed in 2006 Mayors for Peace issued a statement condemning the attacks on cities on both sides of the border. Then again in 2008-9, when the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel broke down, we condemned both sides for indiscriminately firing upon populated areas, but in this instance Israel came in for special criticism for the massively disproportionate nature of its aerial assault. Most recently, Mayors for Peace condemned the destruction of cities and civilian casualties in the Syrian conflict.
The possibility of having a more sustained campaign to protect cities from the scourge of war was briefly considered in 2009. Volgograd expressed interest in taking a leading role in the effort, but various personnel changes prevented follow-through. The questions now are: Are we ready to try again? And how should we proceed to ensure real progress?
It is suggested herein that we should start by laying a firm historical basis for the work. The full picture of how cities have suffered from the scourge of war (since, say, the introduction of long-range artillery in the mid 1880’s) has yet to be painted. Mayors for Peace is in a strong position to pull together all of this information. Between now and April 2015, we will gather information systematically, worldwide. We will rely on direct input from cities and on the input of experts, many of whom cities will put us in contact with. We will organize it and then come up with attractive and easily accessible formats for print and web-based publication. The results will be presented at a “Cities Are Not Targets!” conference on the 100th anniversary of the first use of a weapon of mass destruction, the 22 April 1914 poison gas attack on Ypres. The conference will aim to attract many of the cities which have experienced the scourge of war.
While the research is underway, it will already provide valuable information for other elements of the Campaign. The 2020 Vision Campaign Secretariat will take responsibility for ensuring that war-scourged cities have a chance to include the anniversary of their attack in the Cities Peace Calendar. Some of these cities may be particularly keen to host the “I was her age” Hibakusha tour. And, we expect to discover – based on predominance of war-scourged cities in the leadership of the 2020 Vision Campaign – that many war-scourged cities have come to see themselves as ‘peace cities’, allocating money for a peace commissioner and/or office. These are cities that could help immensely with the Mayors for Peace decentralization process.
It is also suggested herein that a team be tasked with designing a new mandate for the Ypres Secretariat based of the CANT theme. The 2020 Vision Campaign would be subsumed as a project within a broader campaign to protect cities from the scourge of war. The new mandate would be presented to the 2015 Executive Conference (held in Ypres?). The Executive Conference would be empowered by the 2013 General Conference to decide whether there was a basis for transforming the campaign.
It would be wrong to presume the outcome of the team’s deliberations, but certain areas are likely to be featured. One area where there is already civil society work underway is challenging the use of explosive force in populated areas. (One might add incendiary weapons.) Mayors for Peace could bring considerable weight to bear on this issue, counter-balancing the influence the military currently has on government decision-making. Another area is responding in near real time to attacks on cities. Our statements on the plight of cities in the Middle East took weeks – even months – to process. If a clear set of criteria were developed for rapidly triggering condemnation by the Mayors for Peace leadership, our credibility in the field and with the media would be greatly enhanced. Finally, once the organization’s capacity is greater, the possibility of organizing relief aid to attacked cities could be considered.
While it is expected that cities which have experienced the scourge of war will provide important leadership to this new campaign, this should not be to the exclusion of cities which have not. Sister cities of war-scourged cities are already demonstrating empathy, as are all cities which have expressed their solidarity with Hiroshima and Nagasaki by affiliating with Mayors for Peace. Indeed, no city would escape the impact of nuclear war. So, together with the continuing work of the 2020 Vision ‘Project’ all cities could contribute to the success of the ‘CANT’ Campaign.