A whirlwind tour of 4 Italian cities to announce the new stage of our campaign called “Italia, Ripensaci”, which means literally “Italy, reconsider your decision!” This is an idiomatic expression which we first used in October 2016 when Italy voted against the convening of a conference in 2017 to negotiate a binding legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, in the UN First Committee. The campaign was launched by the Italian Disarmament Network (with all its 30-odd member organizations) in partnership with Senzatomica, the Soka-Gakkai affiliated association that is the creator of a comprehensive exhibition on nuclear weapons and the need to eliminate them. Since then the Campaign has developed, following the December 2016 vote in the General Assembly, the Conference of Parties in 2017 that adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapon, and of course then celebrated the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN in December 2017!
The International Peace Bureau is one of ICAN’s international partners and I, as the Co-President of IPB, have been among the active promoters of the ICAN-related activities in Italy.
We know that Italy cannot simply sign on, much less ratify the Ban Treaty, without addressing the issue of the presence of US nuclear weapons on our territory. So we are more realistically asking for the Italian Government to undertake those actions necessary to join the Ban Treaty process. And, of course, our request also includes the removal of US nuclear weapons from the two bases in Italy – Ghedi, near Brescia and Aviano, near Pordenone. Our organizations and local groups have been campaigning for this for many years!
At present we have no government in Italy (just a caretaker government), since there will be general elections on 4 March. Our slogan in this new phase is “whoever is in government, whoever is sitting in Parliament, our demands are still the same: Italy, change your mind!” This way we feel we can forestall accusations of being partisan. Some of our local groups are also asking candidates to commit to working towards the Ban Treaty if they are elected to Parliament,
For Mayors and local government institutions, the main tool of our campaign is to ask them to adopt Council resolutions, and we offer them a draft. For individual supporters we have chosen not to have a simple petition or signature drive: rather we are asking people to sign a pre-printed postcard addressed to the Government of Italy. At the end of this stage of the campaign, we shall collect all the signed postcards (we have printed 50,000 for the time being), count them and pack them up in cartons and deliver them to the Prime Minister’s office in Rome, on 7 July 2018, the first anniversary of the Ban Treaty.
We used a tour to several Italian cities by Daniel Högsta (ICAN network coordinator) to relaunch the campaign. Over 3 days, this tour hit four cities: Rome, Turin, Brescia and Pordenone.
1 February: Press conference in Italian Parliament, to illustrate the new edition of Mil€x report on Italian military spending (by Francesco Vignarca and Enrico Piovesana) that includes a section on the cost of hosting US nuclear weapons. We used the occasion to offer parliamentarians and journalists updates from ICAN (especially on divestments) and from our Italian campaign.
That same evening, Daniel was guest of honour at a special guided tour of the exhibition Senzatomica and then guest speaker at a round table in Turin. Senzatomica (partners in the Italian campaign) have created this excellent exhibition: it has been on show in dozens of Italian cities and has been seen by 330,000 people over the last few years. It has now been updated to include the adoption of the Ban Treaty and the Nobel Prize awarded to ICAN.
We spent the next day, 2 February, in Brescia. A press conference in the late morning, to announce Daniel’s presence, and the fact that Brescia had just joined Mayors for Peace. In the afternoon, the City Council’s offices had invited all the mayors from the province of Brescia and over 40 of them came to the meeting. It was a great opportunity to talk about ICAN, the Ban Treaty and the role that cities can play. Brescia itself, and another three cities joined those that were already members of MfP (22) and committed to working together to adopt resolutions in favour of the Ban Treaty to send to the national government. This is an important part of our “Italia, Ripensaci” campaign. Brescia is the capital city of the province where the Italian air force base of Ghedi is located (hosting US nuclear weapons in a nuclear sharing arrangement).
That evening, the city’s civil society groups, committees and NGOs had organized a public event, hosted by the City of Brescia: a conference to discuss the actions that can be undertaken, at all levels, to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. A full conference hall (a former church) eagerly listening to many proposals for action, at the local, national and international level.
On the third and final day of Daniel’s Italian tour, we went to Pordenone, the capital of the province where the USAF base of Aviano is located. One of the locally elected MPs, Giorgio Zanin, had joined forces with local committees and NGOs and had invited secondary schools with their teachers. A big audience of about 350 people! Some faith-based organizations in the area traditionally organize a Lent procession, walking from Pordenone to Aviano, to demand removal of those weapons from the base. This year it is planned for 18 March and will be part of our “Italia, Ripensaci” campaign.
All in all, an excellent three-day tour that tired Daniel but laid sturdy foundations for us, in Italy, preparing the ground for the next stage of our “Italia, Ripensaci” campaign.
To be continued….