Friday, October 11, 2013

Humanitarian curbs on deadly weapons boost new UN treaty, sharpen old debates.

By the World Council of Churches news service

World leaders at the United Nations (UN) at the end of September backed two steps in relation to the Arms Trade Treaty, promoted by churches, to make people safer through new laws to control deadly weapons.

The biggest event came as the United States, the world largest exporter of arms, signed the new Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) during a high-level phase of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 24-26. Twenty-six other countries signed as well. Churches had lobbied seven of the new signatories, including Zambia, the USA, South Africa, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, and Ghana.

A UN majority of 112 world governments has now signed the Arms Trade Treaty in just four months.

The World Council of Churches and member churches have campaigned for the ATT for the past three years to block sales of arms which risk being used to commit atrocities and violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The next step is for 50 states to ratify the treaty and bring it into effect.

Humanitarian concerns were also prominent at a special high-level UN meeting. This gathering, devoted to nuclear disarmament, met on Sept. 26. Scores of countries, including all the nations of Africa and southeast Asia, focused on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Government and civil society speakers called for an outright ban on nuclear weapons, criticizing the current inertia in disarmament led by nuclear-armed states and echoing a core position in ecumenical advocacy.

“Weapons that have been outlawed increasingly become seen as illegitimate,” a representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons told the meeting. Several states pointed to the widespread condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, which are banned on humanitarian grounds, and noted that nuclear weapons are widely condemned but not banned.

A map showing states that have signed and ratified Arms Trade Treaty is online at

The website of the ecumenical campaign on the Arms Trade Treaty is found at

The Church of the Brethren is one of the founding denominations of the World Council of Churches, which promotes Christian unity in faith, witness, and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.

Source: 10/11/2013 Newsline

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