2021 Annual Report

Annual Report 2021


Letter From The President
Emma Belcher

It was 40 years ago when Sally Lilienthal founded Ploughshares Fund in her San Francisco living room with a simple but bold goal: to eliminate nuclear weapons.

The year was 1981 — with the world entering a fifth consecutive decade of the Cold War. Children still routinely ducked and covered under their desks for mock drills at school. Local city and county governments distributed how-to pamphlets for increasing the chances of survival from a nuclear attack. US and USSR nuclear arsenals were accelerating to a point that could — in a matter of minutes — destroy the entire planet countless times over.

And in that same year, Sally’s idea took root with 62 Ploughshares Fund donors seeding $150,000 in grants aimed precisely at solving the world’s biggest problem of nuclear weapons.

Our Mission

Forty years later, the Ploughshares Fund mission continues. Every single day since, we have worked to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.

Our Vision

While much has changed from 1981 to 2021, our vision remains focused on a world in which everyone has the right to a safe and secure future and where nuclear weapons can never be used again.

Our Strategy

Ensuring everyone’s right to a safe and secure future requires breaking through bureaucracy and catalyzing systems-level change when it comes to nuclear weapons. It requires championing and balancing proven methods with new voices and new ideas. It means partnering with others who share our vision. It means building a resilient and cutting-edge field. You’ll read about how we are implementing this approach in this annual report. Because adapting to fit the current moment is a part of our status-quo-challenging DNA.

As we write the next chapter of the Ploughshares Fund story together, we will not lose sight of the true plot of our purpose of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. Thank you for supporting Ploughshares Fund as we empower change for peace.

All the best,
Emma Belcher
Ploughshares Fund President

Emma Belcher interviews Jon Finer on Press the Button LIVE

Press the Button LIVE took this year’s annual nuclear policy conference virtual with guests like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Adam Smith, Rep. Ro Khanna and others.

To watch Emma Belcher’s interview with Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, click play on the accompanying video.

A challenge to the status quo

Nuclear Ban Treaty in Effect

With support from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in January following its 50th ratification. Signed by over 86 states — and counting — the treaty is a powerful symbol of global disruption to the nuclear weapons status quo complex.


Funding our mission

We believe that everyone has the right to a safe and secure future where nuclear weapons can never be used again. That’s why 55% of our portfolio went toward the elimination of nuclear weapons; 37% went toward preventing the emergence of new nuclear states; and 8% went toward preventing conflict and building regional security.

To learn more about what we fund, head to the “GRANTS” page via the tool bar on the left-hand side of this digital report.


Fresh "NEW Start"

In a hopeful sign for a return to arms control and diplomacy, the US and Russia agreed to a five-year extension of the New START Treaty, agreeing to openly adhere to limitations in each country’s nuclear arsenals through 2026. The common-sense nuclear policy was negotiated over a brief phone call between Presidents Biden and Putin.

Ploughshares Fund grantee partners such as the Arms Control Association, Council for a Livable World, and Beyond the Bomb were critical in ensuring this was addressed in the first weeks of the Biden Administration.


Solving the US-Iran Stalemate

As progress for saving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) stalls, Ploughshares Fund and our Iran Coalition partners continue to pressure President Biden to fulfill his promise of reentering the nuclear deal. The need is urgent. Sanctions continue to cause unneeded suffering for millions of Iranians with blocked access to basic needs like food and medicine. A blueprint to de-escalate nuclear tensions is embedded in the Iran deal that Ploughshares Fund helped foster. With our partners, Ploughshares Fund continues to push for action.


Terrell Jermaine Starr on Press the Button

Terrell Jermaine Starr, founder and host of the foreign policy podcast Black Diplomats, is the recipient of the 2021’s Mary Lloyd Estrin Award. Starr used the funds granted by this award to create and produce Black Diplomats’ “Iran in Context” series. Starr discusses this series and his motivation behind producing it with Michelle Dover on Press the Button.


How to Avoid a New Arms Race

The discovery of China’s new missile silos in 2021, coupled with long- simmering US-Russia tensions, underlines the urgency for arms control as a foreign policy priority. “We’ve seen this movie before. It’s expensive and dangerous,” said Emma Belcher in a November interview with The Guardian. By placing diplomacy first, we can create an off-ramp from a new kind of cold war.


2021 Olum Grantees

The 2021 Olum Grant recipients are Emma Claire Foley, Program Associate at Global Zero (left), and William Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy (right). Foley and Hartung are respected authorities on nuclear weapons who are investigating ways to eliminate ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and repurpose weapons spending for more constructive aims.

Olum Grantees
Biden at DOD
US Nuclear Policy

Reviewing our Nuclear Posture

A president’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) sets the tone for nuclear policy for their entire term in office, which is why much concern was raised when Biden’s own political appointee, Leonor Tomero — known as an advocate for nuclear restraint — was dismissed from her position overseeing the drafting of the NPR. Our Roger L. Hale Fellow Dr. Doreen Horschig authored an in-depth multimedia report urging the Biden Administration to end presidential sole authority, declare sole purpose and terminate launch-on warning as core NPR goals. Read more at: ploughshares.org/BidenNPR.


Biden Administration Nuclear Posture Review

The Biden Administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) should be based on one overarching goal: preventing nuclear warfare. This can be achieved through reducing the risk of accidental war by ending sole authority, declaring sole purpose, and terminating launch-on-warning. Read »


Equity Rises as a Top Priority

This fall, Ploughshares Fund introduced Equity Rises as the expanded and evolved name and approach of the Women’s Initiative. Equity Rises is dedicated to inclusivity of gender, race and disability both within Ploughshares Fund and the entire nuclear policy field. To place Equity Rises as a core structural component of our mission, Ploughshares Fund announced a $1 Million Request for Proposals with an expanded lens on diversity, equity and inclusion.



Earlier this year, Shalonda Spencer and Maher Akremi of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security & Conflict Transformation (WCAPS) joined Press the Button to discuss the Organizations in Solidarity initiative at WCAPS, and the fight for racial justice and equity in the peace and security field with Michelle Dover.

Donor Spotlight

Contributing to a Safer World


Photo (L-R): Nika Robani Shirani, Lee Shirani.

Nika Robani and Lee Shirani have been ardent supporters of Ploughshares Fund since 2019. The Northern California-based couple are not only donors — they are also Ploughshares Fund ambassadors, serving as volunteers for our annual gala, Chain Reaction, and Equity Rises. As Iranian Americans, the issue of nuclear de-escalation is of personal and urgent concern. Lee is committed to seeing the US rejoin the Iran deal, and Nika is passionate about preventing a future nuclear war for the safety and security of all children and for humanity as a whole.