The work of the World Council of Churches (WCC) related to disarmament continues to endure and expand, even as the world faces increasing injustice and tensions that threaten peace on a daily basis.
In June, representatives from the WCC joined some 80 diplomats, peace activists, researchers and chaplains from across the globe for an “Idea Forum on New Arms Control Initiatives” in Loccum, Germany.
The program included panels on the past, present and possible future situations of nuclear arms control and devised policy “roadmaps” for foreign ministries in Moscow, Berlin and Washington.
Participants noted that, though we are not yet in a new nuclear arms race or a new Cold War, all the indicators are pointing the wrong way as old treaties are abandoned and new threats are not addressed.
The WCC has also been working with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons to ensure that, as each United Nations member state goes through its Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council, a short report is submitted calling upon that state to sign or ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In May, the third Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons met in New York.
Emily Welty, vice–moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, delivered a statement on behalf of 53 faith based organizations, pointing to the complementarities of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. For the WCC, the conference opened the door for further strong collaborations with Muslim, Buddhist and other faith groups supporting these goals.
The Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems met in Geneva in March 2019 for the sixth year. The group discussed potential military applications of autonomous weapons systems and considered the potential challenges for international law and the “human element” in the use of force.
Discussions indicated that some states are intending to develop and use killer robots. Australia, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States spoke against any move to create a new treaty on autonomous weapons. Fortunately, other governments spoke out to express their concerns and belief that human beings must retain meaningful human control over weapons systems.
The group met again in August, when Russia, the US and some other governments continued to block attempts to restrict or prohibit the development of autonomous weapons technology. A disappointing report was adopted, which did not set out any meaningful process for the way ahead. Alarmingly, the report does not refer to human control, human rights or human dignity.
The WCC continue to support the aims of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which is advocating for a pre-emptive ban on the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons.