The City Council of New York, on December 9, 2021, adopted several resolutions which advance the cause of nuclear disarmament.
This laudable work was led by the efforts of NYCAN, and we urge your attention to its and other extraordinarily substantive, passionate, and ultimately effective testimony of numerous organizations and individuals presented to the City Council on January 28, 2020. In addition to written testimony, Jonathan Granoff took the opportunity to rebut the testimony of Ms. Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, who had argued against the then draft of the Resolutions asserting that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the resources nor the mandate to implement the measures if they were adopted.
She said that her department was responsible for building good working relations between NYC and the United Nations, educating youth about the United Nations, and reporting on NYC’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but that it did not engage in national security policy or international disarmament which is the mandate of the Federal government and foreign governments. She highlighted the educational efforts of her office in matters dealing with climate change, gender equity, and the plastic in the oceans but argued that nuclear disarmament was not within the scope of her office to address.
GSI President Jonathan Granoff responded in his oral testimony that the obligations arising from these resolutions was not that the City engage in advocacy at the United Nations but rather to implement obligations arising from the UN that apply to cities. This is precisely what her department is doing regarding SDGs and what it should do regarding nuclear disarmament. He pointed out that ‘The very first resolution of the United Nations, which was adopted by consensus, affirmed a universal commitment to abolish atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and this is further affirmed as an obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
We urge your attention to the two Resolutions:
• Resolution 976. states in relevant part:
Resolved, The Council of the City of New York calls upon the New York City Comptroller to instruct the pension funds of public employees in New York City to divest from and avoid any financial exposure to companies involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons, reaffirms New York City as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and joins the ICAN Cities Appeal, which welcomes the adoption of and calls on the United States to support and join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
It calls upon the NYC Comptroller to instruct the $266 billion pension funds of public employees to divest from companies involved in producing and maintaining nuclear weapons. This stands to impact approximately USD 475 million of public investments.
• Introduction 1621 establishes an advisory committee to educate the public and recommend policy on issues relating to nuclear disarmament. • The resolution also reaffirms NYC as a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone, supporting earlier City Council resolutions that prohibited the production, transport, storage, placement, and deployment of nuclear weapons within NYC.
In July 2019, Council Member Dromm introduced the legislation. Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Kallos quickly joined as co-sponsors, and then the legislation soon garnered a super-majority of Council Member co-sponsors.
In January 2020, at a joint hearing for both pieces of legislation, 137 members of the public testified in person and submitted more than 400 pages of written testimony, reaffirming deep support for nuclear disarmament and highlighting the voices of NYC pension holders, experts, lawyers, activists, indigenous leaders, religious leaders, artists, and hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings).
Particular mention of several simply outstanding presentations should be noted: Seth Sheldon of NYCAN and ICAN; Ret’d Commander Robert Green of the Disarmament Security Center on Aotearoa, New Zealand; Harvard Professor Elaine Scarry; Dr. Rebecca Johnson of Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy; Susi Snyder, PAX Don’t Bank on the Bomb; Jacqueline Cabasso, Mayors for Peace; John Burroughs, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; and several presenters for two Nobel Peace Laureate organizations International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; and, Move the Nuclear Money.