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29.11.2011: INES 20th Anniversary

May 5, 2010

Report on IPB-INES Session at NPT: Misuse of brainpower: the conversion of science and technology for human and environmental needs

This seminar, arranged by the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and International Network of Engineers and Scientists (INES), was chaired by Reiner Braun (INES) and brought attention to the military industrial complex.

In the first presentation, Subrata Ghoshroy (MIT USA) clarified the strong economic relationship between the Pentagon and universities in the United States. According to him, the link between the Department of Defense and the academia makes universities dependent on military research, and leads to biased science. In order to overcome this, Mr. Ghoshroy encouraged students and faculties to unite in opposing militarism, urged the anti-war movement to prioritize the opposition of military research at universities, and stressed the need for scientists and engineers worldwide to support the adoption of the uniform civil clause.

Jacqueline Cabasso (US) criticized the recent increased funding for nuclear laboratories presented by the Obama administration. According to her, this increase both strengthens the nuclear infrastructure, and enhances nuclear capabilities for the next president who might not want to see a nuclear weapon free world in his/her lifetime or in the lifetime of anyone. Furthermore, Ms. Cabasso questioned the right of scientists to answer ethical, political, and societal questions with technical answers, and stressed that the role of scientists is not to make policy.

Andy Lichterman (US) confirmed the political and economic power of the institutions within the military industrial complex. In recognition of the fact that the military is such a significant part of the economy, Mr. Lichterman asked for a conversion of financial resources. However, because of the false assumption that these institutions are politically and economically neutral, change is not likely to come from within. That is why Mr. Lichterman asked for a strong social movement working for the development of alternative institutions devoted to healthcare, education, and social needs.

Dave Webb (UK) emphasized the ethical dimension of research. He noted that research projects in the UK have to be ethical, meaning that the way they are conducted is ethical. However, the ethical standards do not include any consideration of the product. That means that scientists can build nuclear weapons and still be considered ethical. Mr. Webb also highlighted that local industries are becoming increasingly involved in the military industry due to a long chain of manufacturing. In times of economic difficulties, local industries are more willing to sign contracts without ethical considerations in order to survive, something that the government is taking advantage of.

Owen Greene (UK) stressed the importance of political will and the urgency of ensuring that investments in science and production are embedded in a proper transparent system. He also encouraged civil society movements to include the challenges of scientists in countries like India, Pakistan, and Brazil in discussions, in order to overcome the disproportionate focus on western countries within these movements.
The Q&A session covered issues such as the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the challenges caused by the military industrial complex, the connection between the ratification of the CTBT and funding for nuclear laboratories, and the barriers related to gendered assumptions about masculinity and strength in security politics.

Article by Emma Rosengren, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Sweden

See the daily NGO newsletter from the 2010 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference here