New Internationalist

Depleted Uranium developments

The ball of activism against DU weapons has been rolling ever onward after our current magazine on the subject.

Readers may be aware that Belgium has become the first country to ban these DU armaments altogether and that the European parliament has been calling for a ban as well. Now, after intense lobbying by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), wheels at the UN are beginning to creak. The UN First Committee in New York has just passed a resolution by a landslide majority urging UN member states to re-examine the health consequences of DU weapons. The resolution requests that states and international bodies submit a report on DU to the UN General Assembly during next year’s session. DU will also be on the Assembly’s agenda. A second vote will be needed to confirm this resolution and will take place early next year.

Campaigners are hoping that the bald claim that DU weapons are safe by those who have used them with impunity will finally be exposed by continuing scientific research on the health hazards posed by the material. Whether the reporting will be uncompromised by vested interests remains to be seen of course.

The resolution went through with 122 votes to six; with 35 abstentions. The six countries who voted against were: Czech Republic, France, Israel, Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States. The last two should surprise nobody as they have insisted on the importance of DU weaponry in their arsenals and have been less than keen to investigate claims made by their own armed forces personnel of ill health caused by exposure to DU.
Among the 35 abstentions there is a surprise: Belgium. Why would a country that has legislated to ban the armaments nationally, abstain from this vote? Could there be a link between the two year time line when it’s own law comes into force and this abstention? No doubt the Belgian Coalition to Stop Uranium Weapons will continue to snap at their politicians’ heels.

Activism has also proceeded apace with the completion of research on banks’ involvement in financing the major companies producing uranium weapons. The report Too Risky for Business (co-authored by ICBUW, Netwerk Vlaanderen and BankTrack) gives you a handy check list of the banks involved in lending money to these arms companies and is a great tool for a disinvestment campaign. You can read it here (pdf).

Talking the findings of the report a step further, campaigners turned up at the Brussels branch of the Bank of New York Mellon on 7 November to host a ‘radioactive buffet’ for staff at the bank. Handing out garishly coloured snacks and drinks, opposition to the bank’s activities was expressed in a satirical manner. Here are som pictures of the event.

Time to check out one’s own bank and see whether they need to be given the heave-ho.

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  1. #1 llvfwv 15 Dec 07

    Depleted Uranium

    I would really like to know where Australia stands on the DU subject - I have written to ministers etc, to this date no reply - so perhaps you may be able to tell me.
    Many thanks
    Vaughan Family.

  2. #2 Jeff 28 Dec 07


    Oh no. Scary. Uranium. Eek. It is not really clear that we'd be better off with fields full of lead as lead will seep into the groundwater and result in lead poisoning.

    Of course the people fighting against depleted uranium will be perfectly happy to ban lead next and want us to shoot
    cotton balls soaked in pixie dust instead.

    Yes. We all wish there were not bad people in the world. There are bad people in the world and no amount of wishing will change it. Having said that, if we work really hard and disarm the US there will be peace in the world -- granted women will be stoned for getting raped and beheaded for learning but at least there won't be some vague risk of a field of depleted Uranium.

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About the author

Dinyar Godrej a New Internationalist contributor

Dinyar Godrej has been associated with New Internationalist since 1989, but joined as an editor in 2000. His interest in human rights has led him to focus on subjects like world hunger, torture, landmines, present day slavery and healthcare. His belief in listening to people who seldom get a chance to represent themselves led to unorthodox editions on (and by) street children and people with disabilities from the Majority World. He grew up in India and remains engaged with South Asian affairs.

Dinyar wrote the original No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change (2001) and edited Fire In The Soul (2009).

An early fascination with human creative endeavour endures. He has recently taken to throwing pots in his free time.

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