Overview and outlook at the DU-Ukraine Webinar in June

29. Juni 2023 Blog posts, Publications and Videos

The webinar (recording available here)which was moderated by Reiner Braun (IPB) started with the four scheduled presentations (Prof. M. Mohr, R. Verjauw/both ICBUW, A. Claussen/IPPNW, K.-H. Peil/IPB). They outlined the risks for the environment and human health connected with the use of DU weaponry, against the overall and complex picture of environmental destruction through war. This, as in earlier wars and conflicts, can be seen right now in the Ukraine war context where both sides are in possession of and may have already been used uranium ammunition.

Decontamination of DU-polluted sites is an extremely costly if not impossible exercise. So the focus should be on non-use of DU weapons for which enough legal arguments exist setting the framework for the UN resolution and discourse, or cases like in Italy. Civil society engagement of ICBUW and others has most probably contributed to a tendency of DU weapons being replaced by alternatives while the Ukraine war has produced opposing trends – like the delivery of (somewhat outdated, no longer modernized) uranium ammunition from the West (UK, US). On the other hand, this terrible, still ongoing war has proved of the DU issue being high on the political (moral, legal) agenda, exaggerations and propaganda (like the confusion with nuclear issues) notwithstanding.

There was a discussion at the webinar on the greatest danger linked to DU weaponry – which is chemical toxicity and not so much radioactivity (though sometimes stress seems to be on this). Next, there was an exchange on how to get information on weapon issues (such as DU ammunition) from governmental, military or other circles. Here, reference was made to the great potentials of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) schemes which exist in many Western countries.

Another question related to a document or appeal that could actually and now be used in connection with the DU/Ukrainian issue. The answer given: this is (still) the Appeal launched by the Citizens’ Network Opposing the Use of DU weapons in Ukraine, which lays the ground for future, updated actions or texts. Both the discussion and presentations further referred to future activities – in particular at the occasion of the 20thanniversary of ICBUW this year, and of the 10th anniversary of the International Uranium Film Festival in Berlin starting next year. This will also set the frame for dealing with the question (again) raised at the webinar: how to better reach out to the young, or next, generation (esp. against the background of the environmental and climate crisis).

Altogether, the very intense and lively webinar was an important, intermediate step in improving and shaping the work of ICBUW, its members and friends…

(Manfred Mohr)