Forums and Conferences

Canadian Pugwash Group Annual Forums

Since 1996, Canadian Pugwash has sponsored an annual forum. Each of these seminars has a global security theme; the invited presenters are acknowledged experts in their field. Members, on the basis of their own expertise, add value to the information exchange. Suggestions for future topics for the Forum are welcomed and should be forwarded to the Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group.

Canadian Pugwash Group Conferences

The purpose of the Pugwash Conferences is to bring together, from around the world, influential scholars and public figures concerned with reducing the danger of armed conflict and seeking cooperative solutions for global problems. Meeting in private as individuals, rather than as representatives of governments or institutions, Pugwash participants exchange views and explore alternative approaches to arms control and tensions reduction with a combination of candour, continuity, and flexibility seldom attained in official East-West and North-South discussions and negotiations. Yet, because of the stature of many of the Pugwash participants in their own countries (as, for example, science and arms-control advisers to governments, key figures in academies of science and universities, and former and future holders of high government office), insights from Pugwash discussions tend to penetrate quickly to the appropriate levels of official policy-making.

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

Origins and History

The Pugwash Conferences take their name from the location of the first meeting, which was held in 1957 in the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada, birthplace of the American philanthropist Cyrus Eaton, who hosted the meeting. The stimulus for that gathering was a “Manifesto” issued in 1955 by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein–and signed also by Max Born, Percy Bridgman, Leopold Infeld, Frederic Joliot-Curie, Herman Muller, Linus Pauling, Cecil Powell, Joseph Rotblat, and Hideki Yukawa–which called upon scientists of all political persuasions to assemble to discuss the threat posed to civilization by the advent of thermonuclear weapons. The 1957 meeting was attended by 22 eminent scientists (seven from the United States, three each from the Soviet Union and Japan, two each from the United Kingdom and Canada, and one each from Australia, Austria, China, France, and Poland).

From that beginning evolved both a continuing series of meetings at locations all over the world–with a growing number and diversity of participants–and a rather decentralized organizational structure to coordinate and finance this activity. By the summer of 1997 there had been over 225 Pugwash Conferences, Symposia, and Workshops, with a total attendance of some 10,000 (there are now in the world over 3000 “Pugwashites”, namely individuals who have attended a Pugwash meeting and are hence considered associated with Pugwash and receive our quarterly Newsletter). The Conferences, which are held annually, are attended by 150 to 250 people; the more frequent topical Workshops and Symposia typically involve 30 to 50 participants. A basic rule is that participation is always by individuals in their private capacity (not as representatives of governments or organizations).

The Pugwash Conferences have a loose organizational structure. The President of Pugwash (Sir Michael Atiyah) is the titular head of the organization; the Secretary-General (since 1997 George W. Rathjens, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has the overall executive responsibility; formal governance of the organization is by a (currently) 26-member Council (which generally meets once a year and is elected every five years at the “Quinquennial” Conferences, held since 1962, which lay out the goals of Pugwash) and its 10-member Executive Committee (which meets once or twice a year). International arrangements and communications are coordinated through four small permanent offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts (in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), London (in front of the British Museum), Geneva (near the United Nations), and Rome (in the National Academy of the Lincei–“Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei”), which operate with a total of three staff persons (plus six conscientious objectors in the Rome office). Over 30 National Pugwash Groups–organized independently, and in several cases sponsored and/or administered by academies of science–help to identify suitable participants from their countries and rotate the work of hosting meetings (with funds raised locally). There are approximately 12 Student/Young Pugwash Groups.

Costs of operating the Pugwash offices in Cambridge, Geneva, London and Rome are met by a combination of donated services, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and National Pugwash Groups (in proportion to their participation and ability to pay: for instance, the largest contribution, by the U.S. Pugwash Group, now amounts to US$ 25,000 per year). Costs of participants’ food and lodging during meetings are generally covered by the host Pugwash Group, with participants providing their own travel support either individually or through their National Pugwash Groups, which raise funds from foundations and individuals, and in some instances from their governments (often through national academies of sciences). No honoraria or other fees are paid to participants in Pugwash meetings, nor to the officers of Pugwash (who serve on a voluntary–unremunerated–basis).

The first half of Pugwash’s four-decade history coincided with some of the most frigid years of the Cold War, marked by the Berlin Crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the Vietnam War. In this period of strained official relations and few unofficial channels, the fora and lines of communication provided by Pugwash played useful background roles in helping lay the groundwork for the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, and the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Subsequent trends of generally improving East-West relations and the emergence of a much wider array of unofficial channels of communication have somewhat reduced Pugwash’s visibility while providing alternate pathways to similar ends, but Pugwash meetings have continued until the present to play an important role in bringing together key analysts and policy advisers for sustained, in-depth discussions of the crucial arms-control issues of the day: European nuclear forces, chemical and biological weaponry, space weapons, conventional force reductions and restructuring, and crisis control in the Third World, among others. Pugwash has, moreover, for many years extended its remit to include problems of development and the environment.

Starting in January 1980, for example, Pugwash’s series of Workshops on nuclear forces provided an off-the-record forum where not only military and civilian analysts but also some members of the official negotiating teams compared notes and sought solutions to obstacles in the official negotiations (24 Workshops of this series have been held until now, most of them in Geneva, Switzerland). The Pugwash chemical and biological warfare Workshops–22 of them since 1974–have similarly engaged technical experts from the official negotiating teams, as well as academic and industry experts; this series led in early 1987 to the first visit of Western chemical weapons specialists to an Eastern European chemical-production complex, and Pugwash contacts were also instrumental in setting up the first access by a U.S. expert to the medical records associated with the disputed 1979 anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk. The Pugwash study group on conventional forces, which originated in the European Security Working Group of the 1982 Pugwash Conference in Warsaw, held 11 meetings, and played a pioneering role in developing concepts for restructuring conventional forces and doctrines into modes less suited for attack, and in gaining credibility for these concepts with Eastern as well as Western military planners and policy makers.

While Pugwash findings reach the policy community most directly through the participation of members of that community in Pugwash meetings and through the personal contacts of other participants with policy makers, additional means of airing Pugwash ideas are also used. A quarterly Pugwash Newsletter–distributed worldwide to policy makers, past Pugwash participants, and libraries–contains communiques issued by the Pugwash Council, descriptions of and reports on Pugwash meetings, and, with the authors’ permission, excerpts from commissioned and proffered papers presented at these meetings. (The reports on the meetings are written by participant/rapporteurs and do not quote or commit other participants.) The Proceedings of Annual Conferences are published regularly and distributed to Pugwashites and governments. And Annals of Pugwash, containing an anthology of papers presented at Pugwash meetings, have also been published and distributed as ordinary books.

In recent years, Pugwash has undertaken some research projects requiring a more sustained organizational effort than a single meeting or even a series of meetings. For instance, an American-European-Soviet book on verification was produced in 1991 (VERIFICATION: Monitoring Disarmament, edited by F. Calogero, M. Goldberger and S.P. Kapitza; Westview Press, 1991 [in English]; Mir, 1991 [in Russian]); its chapters, covering most verification issues, were all co-authored by high-caliber experts from the “West” and the “East” (probably the first book in the world, dealing with a sensitive security issue, to have this remarkable feature). In 1993, another project resulted in the publication of a multi-authored Pugwash Monograph (A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Desirable? Feasible?, edited by J. Rotblat, J. Steinberger and B. Udgaonkar; Westview Press, 1993), which has been instrumental in opening a serious debate about the prospect of a complete elimination of nuclear weaponry. This book has also been published in several other languages (Russian, French, Chinese, Arabic, Swedish, Japanese). A project on Education for World Citizenship will result in the publication of a Pugwash Monograph. A project on the “Conversion of Military Research & Development to Civilian Uses”, with particular attention to the weapons laboratories in nuclear-weapon countries, is now in progress. And a Report on the “Conversion of Military Research & Development in the former Soviet Republics — the Future of their Nuclear Weapon Complex” was produced in 1993 and updated in 1994; another updated version has appeared in 1995, as a SIPRI book: M. De Andreis and F. Calogero, The Soviet Nuclear Weapon Legacy, SIPRI Research Report no. 10, Oxford University Press, 1995.

Despite its reserved nature, the Pugwash Conferences have received many international awards: in 1987, they were awarded the Olympia Prize by the Onassis Foundation (US$ 100,000, shared with the Archaeological Society of Greece), and the Feltrinelli Prize by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Lit. 100.000.000–awarded every four years for work having a high moral and humanitarian value). This money was placed in the International Pugwash Foundation (located in Geneva, and on whose Administrative Board both Robert McNamara, ex-U.S. Secretary of Defense and later President of the World Bank, and Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan take part), which was set up with the goal (still far off) of raising US$ 5,000,000 as a financial base. In 1989, UNESCO awarded to the Pugwash Conferences the Einstein Gold Medal. In 1992, The Albert Einstein Peace Prize (US$ 50,000) was awarded to Hans Bethe and Joseph Rotblat, who donated his half to the Pugwash Foundation.

In 1995 the Nobel Peace Prize (which entails a monetary award of 7,200,000 SEK, approximately one million US$) was assigned, in two equal parts, to Joseph Rotblat, President of Pugwash, and to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Joseph Rotblat has donated his half of the Prize to Pugwash (one-third to International Pugwash, one-third to British Pugwash, and one-third to a special Pugwash Trust that he is now setting up). The funds that have thus come to International Pugwash (two-thirds of the Nobel Peace Prize monies) have all gone to the Pugwash Foundation.

The communiqué (Friday, October 13, 1995) which announced the award of the Prize reads as follows:

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1995, in two equal parts, to Joseph Rotblat, President of Pugwash, and to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the longer run to eliminate such arms.

“It is fifty years this year since the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and forty years since the issuing of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. The Manifesto laid the foundations for the Pugwash Conferences, which have maintained a high level of activity to this day. Joseph Rotblat was one of the eleven scientists behind the Manifesto, and has since been the most important figure in the Pugwash work.

The Conferences are based on the recognition of the responsibility of scientists for their inventions. They have underlined the catastrophic consequences of the use of the new weapons. They have brought together scientists and decision-makers to collaborate across political divides on constructive proposals for reducing the nuclear threat.

“The Pugwash Conferences are founded in the desire to see all nuclear arms destroyed and, ultimately, in a vision of other solutions to international disputes than war. The Pugwash Conference in Hiroshima declared that we have the opportunity today of approaching those goals. It is the Committee’s hope that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1995 to Rotblat and to Pugwash will encourage world leaders to intensify their efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.”