2017 Annual Report

Rise Up: 2017 Annual Report

Our world is poised at a tipping point.

THE PROGRESS AND PROMISE of new arms control agreements has faltered, while new political forces have rekindled old animosities between nuclear rivals. New weapons programs are gearing up across the nuclear weapons states, while the United States under President Donald J. Trump has seemingly turned its back on decades of bipartisan nonproliferation efforts. The threat of stumbling into terrible new wars with North Korea and Iran has never been more real, and the risk of any new conflict going nuclear hasn’t been this great since the height of the Cold War.

Ploughshares Fund is more committed than ever to fighting for peace, justice and security in this uncertain world. We lead three major coalitions aimed at: preserving peace in the Middle East by maintaining the Iranian nuclear deal; easing tensions with North Korea through a diplomatic freeze of its nuclear program; and reducing the dangers posed by our own nuclear arsenal by stemming the flow of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to new and destabilizing nuclear weapons. In so doing, we remain dedicated to reaching out to new communities, sharing new voices and finding new ways of building public support for a world without nuclear weapons.

State of the Field
Joe Cirincione
Joe Cirincione
Ploughshares Fund

“None of this is normal,” Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake said on the Senate floor. Many of us certainly feel the same way.

Watching the headlines build like storm clouds over the past year has been deeply disturbing. The administration abandons effective, bipartisan agreements that have blocked the spread of the deadliest weapons ever built. Instead, it pours billions of dollars into new weapons and inches closer to wars with North Korea and Iran. Tweets and bombast have replaced dialogue and diplomacy.

Mark Twain said patriotism is supporting your country all the time and supporting your government when it deserves it. We clearly cannot support these new and dangerous nuclear policies. We will not be tricked into another unnecessary war.

But we can support the vibrant and diverse new mass movements rising up across this country, and the new generation of experts and activists mobilizing to meet today’s threats. Ploughshares Fund continues to fund and lead a network of dozens of groups working to protect the historic Iran deal, stop a nuclear war with North Korea, and block new nuclear weapons. And it is not just through traditional grants.

We connect our grantees with other experts, activists and media specialists. We help organize campaigns and have launched a new Women’s Initiative to increase the role and voice of women in nuclear security, all toward the goal of creating more just, effective and peace-oriented foreign policies. We stand in the town halls and in the halls of Congress arguing for saner, more rational security policies.

We are also building the foundation of a new progressive national security policy; one that supports diplomacy over bombs, democracy over tyranny. We remain dedicated to reaching out to new communities, sharing new voices and finding new ways of building public support for a world without nuclear weapons. With your help, we will succeed.

For peace, justice and security.

Challenge: Nuclear Policy

No-first-use: launching a nuclear missile should be harder than sending a tweet.

No president—and certainly not our current one—should have sole authority to launch a nuclear war.

HOW MANY AMERICAN LEADERS does it take to start a war that could kill millions in an instant? Unfortunately, just one. The president of the United States has the sole authority to launch a nuclear attack. They are not bound to consult the military or Congress before launching any one of the 6,800 nuclear weapons the United States maintains in its arsenal. Even in the world’s greatest democracy, one man has the power to destroy human civilization in a matter of minutes. Now members of Congress are looking to wrest “the big red button” away from just one person’s finger. The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, co-sponsored by Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., was introduced this year to require a declaration of war from Congress in advance of the first use of nuclear weapons.

Grantee Spotlight

Global Zero

To get to zero, they’re recruiting thousands.

Global Zero is on a mission to rid the world of the nuclear threat. Achieving it is hardly the work of one person, one organization or one campus. It will take thousands, maybe even millions, of people across the globe—especially young people, eager to engage in new ways.

With backing from Ploughshares Fund, Global Zero is enlisting young activists across the United States.

In dorm rooms, in parks, in garages and online, they’re demanding passage of the Markey-Lieu Bill to prevent the president from launching a nuclear war on his own.

They’ve even staged actions at Trump Hotel, in Washington, D.C., where Global Zero activists have projected some of the president’s most terrifying threats above the entrance:

They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen … Nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me … Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

Noting that Trump himself is a “bomb threat” we need to address, organizers call on members of Congress to speak out and pass Markey-Lieu. Silence in the face of such clear danger, they say, is complicity.

And while that danger is clearly planetary, Global Zero also emphasizes local ties in training new activists. Outreach to other young people—for instance, climate activists and other Trump resisters—is crucial to building a cohesive, interconnected movement that will last beyond the moment.

Each year, the group convenes supporters from across the country for Action Lab trainings. Action Lab provides deep learning on security briefings, training on lobbying, and skills building for connecting with future volunteers.

Participants then carry those skills back to their towns, their campuses or their churches to start new Global Zero chapters.

The threats of 2017 are not the threats of 2007 or 1997. These are extraordinary times and they require an extraordinary response. We need the support of people and places we haven’t had before to answer them.

Global Zero will help get us there. Ploughshares Fund’s investment in their work is a wise investment in a more peaceful future.


Markey-Lieu Press Conference

Senator Edward J. Markey, Congressman Ted Lieu and Congresswoman Barbara Lee speak at a press conference accepting nearly 500,000 petition signatures supporting a no-first-use nuclear policy.

Hale Fellow Report

This year’s Roger L. Hale Fellow report, “Between the Shield and the Sword: NATO’s Overlooked Missile Defense Dilemma,” focuses on the perils of expanding the US anti-missile defense system in Europe. Dr. Tytti Erästö argues that because of increasing budgetary pressures and a fraying relationship with Russia, NATO should press pause on this destabilizing program.

CSIS Debate Series

Ploughshares Fund was proud to partner with CSIS’ Project on Nuclear Issues this year on a series of nuclear debates based on our 2016 report “10 Big Nuclear Ideas for the Next President.” They covered a range of topics from North Korea to the future of the nuclear modernization program.

ICAN Receives Nobel Peace Prize

Ploughshares Fund is proud to have been a supporter of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for the past two years. This year, ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize for “its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.” Watch the video here.

Challenge: Iran

The Iran deal is working: don’t let the president undermine it.

Iran’s nuclear program has been frozen—just as the groundbreaking international agreement intended. But the pact is under siege.

Securing the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015 was a monumental achievement. The UN Security Council endorsed a framework agreement negotiated by the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China, European Union and Iran, to halt Iran’s nuclear development for over a decade. And it’s working. Iran has halted its nuclear program, and the US State Department, intelligence community and the International Atomic Energy Agency have all acknowledged its compliance. President Trump, however, is doing all he can to undercut the agreement. By refusing to certify Iran’s compliance, he’s made it easier for Congress to reimpose sanctions on Iran, and according to US military experts, has put us back onto a path toward war with Iran. Congress needs to know the American people are safer with the deal in place than without it.

Grantee Spotlight

Vote Vets

Military veterans are worried, especially those who’ve served in recent conflicts.

They know what war in the Middle East is like. They know its sounds and smells. They’ve faced combatants, person to person, and know the fear of IEDs. They’ve brought home the scars and the memories.

That’s why VoteVets.org is urging Congress to stay in the deal, not just now, but for the long haul.

Vote Vets represents more than 500,000 veterans, family members and supporters, on the issues that affect their lives most—including national security. Hardly a special interest group, they reflect the full spectrum of American life: walk-up recruits to academy graduates, men and women from every corner of the country who know the honor and sacrifice of service to our nation.

Since President Trump assumed office, Vote Vets has thrown itself fully into educating Congress on the importance of the Iran commitment. They’ve sat down with senators and representatives, spoken up at town halls, made calls, sent emails and drafted op-eds detailing the danger of abandoning our international commitments.

For some, there’s a sense of déjà vu. The last time we went to war in the Middle East it was over weapons of mass destruction. If we sabotage the Iran deal, we could see an unconstrained Iran rush to build a bomb. What will we do then to block them? Military action would not be a simple or painless option, as Vote Vets knows all too well.

And if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon? Then we have another North Korea on our hands.

Vote Vets knows pressure works. When the year began, many people assumed Obamacare wouldn’t survive to the summer months. But Americans spoke up. Citizens called, they wrote and they demanded healthcare safety and security, for their families and for their neighbors. And Congress listened.

It wasn’t easy. Keeping the Iran deal secure won’t be easy either. Even as Secretary of Defense James Mattis testified before Congress that it was in our national security interest to maintain the agreement, President Trump was bent on scrapping it.

As experienced military men and women, Vote Vets members know how to tackle jobs that aren’t easy. Their service on the nation’s behalf continues even when they’re no longer in uniform.

Vote Vets’ message to Congress—stick with the Iran deal—is vitally important. We’re honored to support and amplify their work.


John Kerry at 2017’s Chain Reaction Gala

Ploughshares Fund was honored to welcome former Secretary of State John Kerry to our annual Chain Reaction Gala in San Francisco this year. He spoke powerfully about climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

CATO Institute

Ploughshares Fund partnered with the CATO Institute this year to evaluate the lasting impact and continued importance of the Iran nuclear deal in the Trump administration. Watch their panel with Ambassador Wendy Sherman.

Challenge: North Korea

North Korea: A critical time for engagement

After simmering for two decades, tensions with North Korea are at a crisis point.

SHORTLY AFTER THE 2016 ELECTION, President Barack Obama told then President-elect Donald Trump that North Korea would be his most vexing foreign policy challenge. The problem quickly escalated into a more perilous threat as both North Korea and the United States ratcheted up tensions. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has kept the world on high alert, conducting a battery of missile and bomb tests. He claims to have developed a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on a missile that could reach the United States. President Trump has exacerbated the strain with public taunts that have stunned the world community. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has hollowed the ranks of the State Department just when diplomacy is desperately needed.

Grantee Spotlight

Jeffrey Lewis and the Middlebury Institute for International Studies

Understanding the North Korean regime and why a war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic.

Ploughshares Fund’s immediate goals in North Korea are twofold.

First, we work toward freezing North Korea’s nuclear program where it exists. Kim Jong-un has already accelerated his country’s capabilities; development must be halted to contain its growth and prevent its spread to other nations.

Second, we seek to avoid any military conflict on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate to nuclear war. A new war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic, with Pentagon planners estimating that the first 90 days of a war on the Korean Peninsula could produce between 300,000–500,000 South Korean and American military casualties along with hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. And that’s if the North Koreans don’t retaliate with any of their nuclear weapons. But the truth is that any conflict with North Korea, no matter how limited in scope, could easily escalate into the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.

Jeffrey Lewis and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ (CNS) work at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies is critical to our mission.

When North Korea launches another missile, or conducts another nuclear weapons test, CNS’s analysts are the ones sought out for their technical expertise and public communication talents. They provide objective, nonpartisan, factual information about North Korea’s nuclear program, which aids in developing realistic assessments of emerging nuclear and missile capabilities.

In this regard, their work is invaluable in our efforts to find a realistic approach to resolving the North Korean nuclear program.

Jeffrey Lewis, the director of CNS’s East Asia Nonproliferation Program, maintains a high profile, steady stream of interviews and public-facing analyses, and serves as the lead contributor to his influential nuclear policy blog Arms Control Wonk. Lewis and CNS’s opinions are valued by journalists, policymakers and the public for their ability to communicate highly technical issues in ways that nonexperts can understand.

CNS provides expert analysis that informs not only those in dialogue with North Koreans, but other decision-makers, media outlets and citizens all over the world. Lewis and his team’s analyses are featured frequently in The Washington Post, The New York Times and on CNN, critically informing the debate and arguing for diplomatic engagement with the DPRK.

To most Americans, North Korea is a black box, and belligerent rhetoric only serves to clamp down the lid.

That’s why it’s imperative that Ploughshares Fund supports the work of Jeffrey Lewis and CNS. Clearheaded and factual analysis, paired with media engagement, are our best tools for debunking fear mongering and shedding light on what North Korea’s actions actually mean. They’re our best hope for stepping back from the precipice, and making progress to a nuclear-free Korea.


Ploughshares in the Media

Ploughshares Fund experts were interviewed dozens of times this year by major news outlets on the most pressing nuclear issues. Watch one of Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione’s interviews with Rachel Maddow for MSNBC here.

Challenge: Conflict Prevention

To prevent conflict, we must change narratives.

We create lasting peace at the negotiating table. And we can begin at the school lunch table.

FIGHTING TO ELIMINATE nuclear weapons for good must stretch beyond the weapons themselves. Lasting change requires us to step back, to examine our interactions before they reach violent tipping points. Why do nation-states want nuclear weapons to begin with? What are the underlying issues that divide people, such as resource allocation, political structures or identity-based politics. How does culture stoke or soothe them? What roles do community organizations play? To prevent conflict among nation-states, we need also to promote resolution and coexistence among towns, families and houses of worship; all of which can start with young people. This is especially critical in South Asia, where historic local conflicts are more dangerous because they occur within the borders of nuclear states.

Grantee Spotlight

Aware Girls

The voices that perpetuate conflict are too often those that should be working to end it—elders, parents, older siblings.

Two girls in Pakistan’s Peshawar province decided young people working with their peers could break that pattern. Though they were only 15 and 16, Saba and Gulalai Ismail co-founded Aware Girls to help youth resist and replace old narratives—especially narratives that called for women to assume subservient roles.

Aware Girls’ peace initiatives help young people understand that adopting guns as toys makes using guns to settle disagreements all that much easier. They train their peers at school in conflict resolution skills, so arguments actually lead to stronger relationships, rather than broken bodies.

In universities and madrassas, Aware Girls teaches people their own age how to resist recruitment by militant extremists. Now, after training hundreds of young people in Pakistan, they’ve expanded their work to Afghanistan.

In addition, Aware Girls has done landmark work in sexual and reproductive rights for young women, and established a hotline to aid victims of domestic violence. Fostering a culture of equality and respect is key to ending the most basic violence.

Today, Saba Ismail is no longer a teen herself, but she continues to work with and inspire young people. She’s a member of the United Nations’ advisory group for studying youth, peace and security. In that role, she embodies UN Resolution 1325, which calls for equal involvement of women in maintaining and promoting peace and security.

Ploughshares Fund agrees, and we back that belief by funding initiatives targeted toward the next generation.

Building trust across every division will take generations. It’s necessary work. It’s the only way to ensure that when today’s kids have their own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, they face no threats of annihilation, conventional or nuclear.


Bill Perry’s Nuclear Nightmare

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry depicts how tension between nuclear armed states can lead to catastrophic miscalculations, and how even a small exchange of nuclear missiles can lead to devastating worldwide results.

State of the Future
Mary Lloyd Estrin
Mary Lloyd Estrin
Board Chair
Ploughshares Fund

On Inauguration Day, our country was catapulted backward: from a president who called for eliminating nuclear weapons to one who reportedly asked why we couldn’t use them.

At Ploughshares Fund, we were alarmed—and we obviously were not alone.

The single most defining trait of President Trump’s first year may be uncertainty. He arrived at the White House with no track record of governing and little demonstrated grounding in history or policy.

In the face of an unspeakable danger, people wanted to know what to do. So we helped mobilize them.

Even before the inauguration, more than 100,000 people signed our petition to take nuclear weapons off “hair-trigger alert.” They’ve kept up the pressure by calling Congress in support of the Markey-Lieu bill that would require a Congressional declaration of war before nuclear weapons could be launched first.

We also recognize that we can’t respond to uncertainty in Washington without expanding the strategies and tactics we’ve used to date. We’re particularly excited by Ploughshares Fund’s new Women’s Initiative to cultivate and empower voices and perspectives that have been excluded from the national security debate.

The resistance movement sparked by President Trump has forced issues like equity, the environment, civil liberties, corruption and healthcare into the spotlight. The movement so far, however, lacks a strong national security and foreign policy platform that is so critical when the Iran nuclear deal is being tested and the administration is in danger of stumbling into a new Korean war.

Over three years, Ploughshares Fund will be working with partners to build a network uniting feminist scholars, activists and experts to create that platform and bring it to resistance leaders and policymakers. We’ll also be working to increase the number and influence of women with inclusive security perspectives in the nuclear security field, and to align our own internal organization to achieve gender balance.

At a time of political upheaval, it is incumbent on leading organizations not to step back, but to step forward and to grow. The resistance movement offers us the opportunity to merge nuclear disarmament into a powerful mass movement. If we do it right, we’ll learn from new leaders while doing so.

We know from our N Square initiative in recent years that people better understand the relevance of nuclear security when more voices are involved in the conversation. The Women’s Initiative will carry us even further.

This is our chance to rise up. You can count on Ploughshares Fund to make the most of it.

At a time of political upheaval, it is incumbent on leading organizations not to step back, but to step forward and to grow.

Ploughshares Fund Innovators

Our Women’s Initiative

A critical part of the current nuclear weapons problem is that US nuclear policy has long relied on a narrow track of perspectives, policies and tactics. From the lack of opportunities for mid- and senior-level women professionals in the field, to the significant gender imbalance present in the media and expert-level security policy discussion, women and inclusive security perspectives have been noticeably marginalized in our society. The result is national security policies that do not take advantage of the full range of possibilities, because they are not integrating the full range of human experiences.

Ploughshares Fund is bringing together a network of women from both inside and outside the nuclear security field to build a new and inclusive national security and foreign policy platform. This platform will be rooted in a shared belief that security policies must be inclusive, incorporate perspectives not traditionally associated with national security, and recognize that individuals and local communities, not simply nation-states, are also key constituencies affected by these policies. Our goal is that all people in the network will learn from each other, and bring a common-sense security platform back into their work whether it be as an activist or in the policy community.

Ploughshares Fund Innovators

Meredith Horowski at Chain Reaction 2017

Meredith Horowski, Global Campaign Director at Global Zero, spoke at this year's Chain Reaction 2017. She talked about her personal interaction with President Donald Trump on the 2016 campaign trail, the Ploughshares Women’s Initiative, the nuclear challenges facing us today, and how we can move ahead to meet them together.

Ploughshares Fund Innovators

N Square

Now in its fourth year, N Square—our partnership with the Carnegie Corporation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Skoll Global Threats Fund— is changing how experts in the nuclear field and civil society work together to address today’s nuclear threats.

Following an initial partnership with Games for Change, experts at the Princeton Nuclear Futures Lab are working with augmented reality experts to develop virtual reality simulations for arms-control treaty verification and training. On the heels of the Iran nuclear deal, this kind of work is critical and could strengthen the international verification regime.

Singularity University (SU) recently connected experts at The Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey with technology experts at Hypercubes, a SU Labs startup, to develop new imaging tools for identifying weapons-usable materials from space—a potentially groundbreaking innovation.

Lastly, N Square’s partnership with the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center is connecting nuclear experts with Hollywood writers to integrate nuclear issues into their storylines. The most recent result: an episode of NCIS that highlights nuclear dangers at a weapons silo in Colorado.


the bomb

Ploughshares Fund has been proud to Partner with the N Square Collaborative on the bomb, a compelling multi-media experience about the origins and current status of nuclear weapons. We have been proud to support the bomb at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Glastonbury Festival, and now on Netflix. Watch the Netflix trailer here.

State of the Fund
Philip Yun
Philip Yun
Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer
Ploughshares Fund

Whenever people learn I work at Ploughshares Fund, their eyes open wide and they lean in a little closer. “So,” they ask quietly, “just how worried should I be?”

“Well,” I tell them, “certainly more than you were last year.” That’s the reality of electing a president who, according to members of his own party, is both inexperienced and ill-suited to govern.

Where you can take some comfort is knowing that Ploughshares Fund is on the case. And we’re more robust than ever after 36 years.

Ploughshares Fund has the agility to identify pressing needs rapidly and to direct money where it will have the biggest and quickest impact.

For instance, as soon as it was clear that the Iran deal was threatened, we channeled funds to partners like J Street, MoveOn and Indivisible who marshalled their activists in support of the deal. Pressure from all quarters kept President Trump from unraveling the deal altogether.

Our work on Iran is far from finished. With President Trump decertifying Iran’s compliance and opening the door to new sanctions from Congress, we’re making sure the deal’s defense is consistent and continuous.

We are funding advocacy, engagement, analysis and communications to move the dial. The information, policy and actions we back are essential. They have to be. The stakes are too high to pursue anything that doesn’t ultimately point to a nuclear-weapons-free world. And we’re funding more than we ever have before.

Victories on our issue take time, but they all start with passion, vision and hope.

By now you are probably aware that the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN. Although their objective seemed like a long shot at the time, Ploughshares Fund proudly supported ICAN for the very efforts that led to the Nobel Prize. Calling nuclear weapons immoral, illegitimate and illegal, ICAN fought for and achieved the adoption of a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn has claimed inspiration for the organization’s approach from the International Committee to Ban Landmines—another Ploughshares Fund grantee, which itself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

The world won’t eradicate nuclear weapons next month. But we can, as was done with landmines, isolate and stigmatize their producers while building support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

This is how we rise up. We act swiftly, and we act patiently. Our founder, Sally Lilienthal, ensured that informed risk-taking would always be part of our approach. In every action we take, you can trust us to be working smartly with effective, experienced partners toward a safer and saner world.