Ploughshares Fund

Letter from new Ploughshares Fund President, Emma Belcher

Working together for a safer and more secure future

Today, I’m delighted to assume the role of president of Ploughshares Fund. While I’m beginning in a most extraordinary time, there’s something almost poetic about writing to you from my living room in much the same way that Sally Lilienthal founded our organization — in her living room, almost 40 years ago.

I’m honored to take up this mantle. I am inspired by the Ploughshares Fund staff, board, and by our network of partners and supporters. Together we are all working toward a safer and more secure world for us and for future generations.

Nuclear weapons caught my attention as a high school student in Australia. I remember feeling mortified that human beings had created the destructive power to decimate our civilization and awestruck at that power and the bizarre logic that the threat of mutual annihilation would purport to keep the peace. French nuclear testing in Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific in the 1990s shone light on another nefarious side of nuclear weapons — damage to the health and well-being of historically impoverished and marginalized communities around the world and contamination of the environment.

Three soldiers walk on a hard-surfaced seismic captor in the north zone of the Mururoa Atoll, where French forces have conducted 138 nuclear weapon tests until 1996, in southern Pacific, February 13, 2014.

In my recent position as director of the Nuclear Challenges Program at the MacArthur Foundation, I saw firsthand the power and promise of civil society in holding governments to account and developing creative ideas to address the problem of nuclear weapons.

We all play a critical role in shaping our world for the better. COVID-19 has laid bare all too starkly how our safety and security is linked to people and places on the other side of the world. This global pandemic has reinforced how important it is to cooperate on a global scale to avoid a nuclear exchange.

Because recovery might be impossible.

And the institutional racism and discrimination, so blatantly on display, deny so many people the peace and security that every individual has a right to. Just as the Black Lives Matter movement has spread and sparked discussions around the world, it is sparking discussions within the nuclear community about systemic racism and the barriers to entry for Black, Indigenous and people of color in our field. Unless we address these issues in line with values of justice and equality, we will undermine peace and security at a global scale.

We need to address nuclear threats from a holistic perspective — to show how they are connected to other issues of governance and global security. We must be more inclusive so we can better represent all who have been and will be impacted by nuclear weapons.

Today, I stand with other leaders in the peace and security field by signing onto the Solidarity Statement by Organizations and Individuals Against Racism and Discrimination as President of Ploughshares Fund. And I promise to promote and foster women in the workplace by becoming a Gender Champion in Nuclear Policy.

Fulfilling our mission, especially with today’s challenges, is a tall order. But given all that we have already accomplished, I know that together we are up to the challenge. I look forward to getting to know you and working with you, from our living rooms for now, to ensure a safe and secure future for all.