News in brief

Western Sahara

British insurance companies are involved in the illegal exploitation of phosphate from Western Sahara, according to P for Plunder, a new report from Western Sahara Resource Watch.

Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975. One resource that Morocco illegally exports from occupied Sahrawi territory is phosphate, used in artificial fertilisers.

Western Sahara has been one of the world’s largest suppliers of high-quality phosphate rock.

Eight British ‘protection and indemnity insurance’ companies insured the vast majority of Sahrawi phosphate shipments in 2020.

According to Western Sahara Resource Watch, these mostly London-based P&I companies insured 19 Moroccan shipments carrying around $150 million-worth of conflict phosphate.

For example, the West of England Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association insured the shipment of 55,000 tonnes of Sahrawi phosphate rock to New Zealand in mid-2020.

This was one of two conflict shipments insured by West of England, whose head office is: One Creechurch Place, Creechurch Lane, London EC3A 5AF.

In the past, Western Sahara Resource Watch has successfully lobbied shipping companies to withdraw from Sahrawi phosphate transportation.

The full P for Plunder report can be downloaded from:


170 civil society organisations from over 30 different countries came together on 27 April as part of the Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).

They urged governments to drastically reduce their military expenditure and make human security-oriented sectors, such as health and the environment, the priority of public policies and budgets.

Press action took place in, among other places: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Sydney (Australia), Berlin (Germany), Seoul (South Korea), Barcelona (Spain), Washington DC (US) and Montevideo (Uruguay).

GDAMS ran from 10 April – 9 May. There was a Twitterstorm online on 26 April.

In the UK, GDAMS is marked by the Global Campaign on Military Spending – UK, which has 36 supporting organisations. Events in the UK included the Stop the War Coalition ‘Threats of War: Britain’s New Global Role’ conference, and a May Day vigil in Keighley held by Keighley Peace Justice and the Environment Network.


On 30 April, there was a protest outside the Menwith Hill NSA spy base in Yorkshire marking the International Day of Action Against Foreign Military Bases.

The 30-strong demo was called by Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign and Yorkshire CND.

The deputy chair of Shipley town council told the crowd that the council had passed a resolution supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

CO Day

This year International Conscientious Objectors’ Day commemoration was again online on 15 May, writes Claire Poyner.

That is, apart from a ‘live from Tavistock Square’ section. Actor Michael Mears gave an in-between-showers speech. He spoke of his family, parents and grandparents who went to war, and how he came to oppose war himself.

Online, Israeli conscientious objector Atalya Ben-Abba spoke movingly of how she refused to kill and was imprisoned for her beliefs.

Natalia García Cortés from War Resisters’ International in Colombia gave an update of the situation there. Singers Penny Stone and Sue Gilmurray performed specially-written songs.

We also ‘visited’ CO Day ceremonies around the country, including Edinburgh and Brighton.

As in previous years, a list of COs past and present, was read out and a minute’s silence from Tavistock Square was observed.

The event was introduced by John Cooper of Fellowship of Reconciliation, and was put together by volunteers from many groups. You can watch the event at:

Housmans hokey cokey

Our sister project, Housmans Radical Bookshop in King’s Cross, London, has opened again!

The shop opened on 12 April and then had a self-isolation issue. But they’ve been fully open from 15 May.

Nik writes: ‘It’s been a tumultuous year for us, but we’re coming out the other side of the pandemic with things we never had before, including having the vast majority of our stock listed and available to buy from our webshop, and a programme of events held online which is reaching people around the world, and living on after the fact on our YouTube channel.’

They can-can

In April, nine French MPs asked the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to publish maps of the areas of the Sahara affected by 17 French nuclear tests in the 1960s – and the relevant data.

In Le Journal du Dimanche, the MPs asked Macron to take concrete action in favour of the people and environment still affected by French nuclear and other waste buried in the Sahara as part of the test programme.

Our correspondent Marc Morgan tells us this is a rare event in the mainstream media in France.

Marc also reports that the ‘nuclear trespassers’ trial in Dijon we mentioned last issue has been adjourned indefinitely.

Get ready to rumba

The British peace group Conscience (whose mission is ‘taxes for peace not war’) are preparing again to put forward a bill in the UK parliament for conscientious objection in relation to taxes. It’s five years since their last attempt.

The core purpose of Conscience is to campaign for a change in the law so that UK citizens can conscientiously object to paying the military proportion of their taxes and can opt for the money to go to peaceful purposes instead.

Conscience has also shifted permanently to home working for its staff.

Whisky tango foxtrot

Scottish CND have condemned a massive NATO exercise which took place mainly in Scotland from 8 – 20 May.

‘Strike Warrior’ involved more than 30 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft from 11 nations.

It was a final test for the UK’s carrier strike group before it set off on what Scottish CND called a ‘bizarre role in a Cold War style patrol of the South China Sea’.

Scottish CND, which has moved to permanent home working, said that this ‘aggressive behaviour’ was ‘utterly infantile and irresponsible in the midst of a pandemic and a climate crisis’.