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Obituary: Jeffrey J Segall, 6 February 1924 - 22 May 2010
Jeffrey Segall was a champion of world peace through a democratically reformed United Nations. Specifically, he was convinced that peace would be possible only when “We, the peoples” have an established place within the UN system alongside our governments.
He came to his passion for peace from a background in medicine and left-wing politics. He was a member of the Communist party in his youth, leaving when disillusioned by the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
He was a family GP from 1954 to 1989, and did significant research in respiratory medicine as well. He combined his concerns for medicine and peace as an executive committee member of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) from 1976 to 1991, and editor of its journal (1980-1984). In 1985, Jeffrey founded the quarterly journal Medicine and War and edited it until 1991. MAPW merged with another medical campaign in 1992 to form MEDACT, and the house journal changed its name to Medicine, Conflict and Survival. MEDACT is the UK affiliate of a global organisation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
Jeffrey’s strong commitment to UN reform followed his visit to New York in 1978 for the UN General Assembly’s (unga) first Special Session on Disarmament. The final document of that conference raised high hopes among campaigners. Specific measures to “mobilise world public opinion on behalf of disarmament” included commitment by governments to give it special publicity, and a call for “closer liaison” between the UN and NGOs concerned with disarmament.
The high hopes were soon followed by frustration and disappointment and for the rest of his active life Jeffrey Segall’s work for peace centred on the challenge of how to achieve “closer liaison” not only between the UN and disarmament NGOs but civil society at large.
He proposed and led a succession of initiatives: International Network for a United Nations Second Assembly was followed by Campaign for a More Democratic United Nations, UNGA-Link UK, the World Civil Society Forum and the WCS Union.
All aimed to give civil society recognised status in relation to the UN general assembly; all hoped to convince others of what was so plain to him. Great progress did not happen in his lifetime, which ended after a long period of illness in May 2010.
UNGA-Link UK survives as a voluntary network of UNA-UK members with a basic website to be upgraded this year. Like Jeffrey himself, the supporters he inspired and informed know we are in the struggle for as long as it takes.