WCC UNITED NATIONS ADVOCACY WEEK
New York City
14-19 November 2003
"Communications technology has changed the way decisions are made in national and international policy making. In order to be effective and affect current policy making, WCC-CCIA must have to have the same message in New York, as in Stockholm, Santiago and Seoul. We must come together, dialogue with one another and have a more coherent, consistent message around the world if we wish to impact the current reality.
The main problem is the difficulty of achieving consensus, confidence and common strategies on how to meet threats to peace and security. These concerns were at the core of the discussions at the WCC International Affairs and Advocacy week at the U.N. this past week.
This was the first time that we, as the WCC, met with key people in member churches, ecumenical organizations and specialized ministries for mutual sharing and common strategizing at the United Nations. The message must be so true and demanding that the messengers will break through the barriers to deliver it and those to whom it is addressed, both hear and respond."
Peter Weiderud, director, Commission of the Churches in International Affairs in a Presentation at the Plenary of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, Vatican City, November 22, 2003
Meeting at the Church Center for the United Nations, directly across 1st Avenue from the United Nations in New York City, the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs hosted a week of education, stimulation, challenge, inspiration and dialogue for invited participants from around the world. This week modeled an effective method and process by which member churches, ecumenical bodies and specialized agencies could begin to develop a common message.
Participants at the WCC UN Advocacy Week, New York, 2003
Then-WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser speaks with the ambassador from Nigeria at a reception hosted by CCIA during the week
CCIA-initiated meeting in Germany of church leaders over impending US-led wear with Iraq (February 2003)
Arriving in New York in mid-November 2003 from many different regions of the world, deep in the work of church advocacy at the national and regional and international levels, participants and CCIA staff dialogued formally and informally about concerns from their home countries and regions, presented their work and analysis to one another and together built foundations for work.
This sharing has formed an important foundation for CCIA's work into the future. Informed by one another’s experiences and analysis from different regions of the world, as well as by the highest quality experts, including those listed below, the week informed and stimulated participants who left this project of WCC- CCIA inspired by the quality dialogue with one another and the information, analysis and insights provided by such distinguished speakers.
Projecting the newly reopened U.N. Liaison Office into a position of leadership and visibility within the U.N. and New York NGO community, the week consisted of high-profile seminars open to the public, workshops for participants and sharing sessions to integrate expertise in regions and home countries with the expertise of CCIA staff, as well as a reception at which participants were able to interact with both U.N. personnel and ambassadors from their home countries.
In addition, participants participated in a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the U.N. Church Center where speakers included Shashi Tharoor, under-secretary general of the U.N. for communications, Peter Weiderud, WCC-CCIA, director, James Winkler and Mia Adjali of the United Methodist Church, and Rev. Dr. Laurence Konmla Bropleh, CCIA UNLO New York Office permanent representative to the United Nations.
Participants were given a tour of the United Nations which ended with a perceptive dialogue with the director of the secretary general’s Office on Strategic Management, Abiodun Williams.
The following is a list of speakers during afternoon seminars. These were open to the public and extraordinarily well attended, filling the room with 100-150 in attendance:
On human rights:
Bertrand Ramcharan, acting high commissioner for human rights;
Theo Van Boven, UN apecial eapporteur on torture
Mia Adjali from the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church
Parvina Nadjibulla from the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church
MK Avraam Burg, former speaker of the Knesset
Professor Richard Falk, University of California
Bishop Riah Abu El Assal, bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem
On the Sudan peace process:
Dr Francis Mading Deng, John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, senior fellow of the United States Institute of Peace former ambassador of Sudan to Canada, Scandanavia and the United States
On the responsibility to protect:
Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary.
Glyn Berry, counsellor, Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations (Canada Co-chaired the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty)
This report will answer the following questions:
What are the churches doing and saying around the world?
Reports and presentations from participants formed a common understanding for past and present work within regions and between regional ecumenical work and the work of CCIA staff. But it also provided a context within which all could learn from one another’s analysis and best practices.
Within the first day and a half, formal reports of perceptions and reflections on “the churches and human rights” were heard from Latin America, the Philippines, Sweden, the UK and Africa. Later in the week, formal reports were heard from West Papua and Argentina regarding “The churches and impunity”. Angola, Columbia, Indonesia and Iraq became the focus of four working groups of participants who arrived at not only analysis of current situations but some suggestions for CCIA work in the regions in the future. And experts from amongst the participants spoke to all regarding both small arm and nuclear disarmament needs in the current political climate.
With key experts in Christian mission, theology and human rights from around the world, these reports and responses from the participants were vital attestations of the sophisticated analysis, advocacy and action already in place around the world.
The dialogue repeatedly presented an interrelated, complex set of factors which are governing current patterns of social, political and economic forces. The interrelationship of a worldwide “war on terror” in a “free-market” economy within cultures which have not yet been able to build adequate justice mechanisms for past gross human rights violations, often in cultures of impunity, where the right to assemble is looked at with suspicion and where resorting to the use of small arms for establishing ones own security is rampant and where the building of national arsenals of nuclear weapons is on the rise – this is a complex paradigm which was heard throughout the week from various perspectives, whether in Angola, Columbia, the Philippines, Singapore, West Papua, Argentina.
Latin America: "If human rights is getting top billing in Latin America, it is mostly due to the requirements that must be met in order to have access to credit and the international market. A free market grounded human rights agenda takes violations to a level of sophistication such that they can go unchecked."
Asia: "The core human rights and the non-derogable civil rights of expression and assembly continue to suffer setbacks in Asia despite the fact that the military dictatorships and authoritarian regimes of the 70s and 80s have been ousted. [. . .]Spectacular economic growth in newly industrializing countries like Singapore and Malaysia have not translated into dramatic improvements in the human rights conditions in these countries. [. . .] A culture of militarization and repression of dissidents is entrenched. The long history of colonialism and subjugation has so plundered many Asian countries as to leave them helpless and totally dependent upon foreign powers. Economic colonialism has succeeded in intensifying the misery of the poor while concentrating wealth in the hands of a privileged few.
Continued escalating problems include, trafficking of women and children; freedom of expression, association and assembly are under assault; destructive racial, ethnic, communal, sectarian and religious conflicts rage, exacerbated by the U.S.-led war on terrorism; hastily enacted, highly repressive measures have been put in place because of the 'war on terror' for the sake of 'national security' which suppress legitimate political dissent, amplify the powers of the police, the military and intelligence."
Africa: "In Africa there are three interrelated concerns:1. Small arms, civil wars, impunity and reparations smolder across the continent. 2. Transnationals continue to weaken national governments. 3. HIV/AIDS and the inability of nationals to receive medical care and pharmaceuticals points daily to the greed of transnationals and the injustice of living in Africa. 2 and 3 are interrelated as is 1."
From West Papua: There is a threatening situation in Indonesia; the military is beginning to come back to West Papuan states. The military has the resources; 75% of their budget comes from outside of Indonesia. The state only provides 25% of the budget. We must deal with the issue of impunity; the military is obliged to guard “vital projects” - transnationals. The government dictates this and is bound to it by other nations. For any president to lead a peaceful country, the military must be dealt with. When a general is brought to court, a conflict in the countryside is already taking place and the provocateurs are paid by the military because the military needs to justify its continued presence.
Given these complex interrelationships of political, social and economic powers and forces, many who attended expressed a common desire that the Commission be a focal point for gathering together groups of experts in order to more fully analyze these interrelationships. It is hoped that this kind of dialogue would enable partners to more accurately ground a common advocacy message with best practices and methods shared. This week of dialogue was held up as an example of the kind of leadership which participants desire.
What are the frameworks CCIA uses in its work of international, regional and national advocacy?
In his opening statement , CCIA director Peter Weiderud spoke of the CCIA advocacy praxis developed through CCIA’s response to the impending 2003 war with Iraq. From CCIA’s perspective, advocacy during this process meant the following:
- Listening to member churches and partners
- Reading the political context
- Providing theological insights, moral and ethical dimensions
- Formulating positions and statements
- Communicating positions to the media and the wider public
- Shaping public opinion
- Mobilizing member churches
- Lobbying international bodies, intergovernmental bodies and governments
The methods developed during the impending U.S.-led war with Iraq used all these methods and although they did not succeed at arresting the war with Iraq, it was said that this advocacy effort did bring an important message to the Muslim world: “This is not a Christian war against Islam but an action taken by governments”. CCIA’s methods and advocacy actions clearly contributed to the discussion about the illegality of the U.S. led Iraq war.
For the newly hired CCIA United Nations Liason Office permanent representative to the U.N., Rev. Dr Laurence Konmla Bropleh, it was imperative that along with the above, the United Nations system needed to be honoured, in itself – that system obligates interaction and collaboration with stakeholders and main players within the United Nations system. In his words, the goal for the WCC United Nations Liason office was to see “WCC as a facilitator, an access point and provider of ecumenical coordination while continuing to gain expression and conviction that the United Nations be an instrument of the peoples”.
Before a session where small groups discussed regional conflicts, CCIA staff outlined tools and methods by which WCC-CCIA worked. Clement John reviewed the booklet “The Role of the World Council of Churches in International Affairs” which outlined the way CCIA develops priorities and methods of advocacy. Salpy Eskidjian followed with a review of the theory in practice with a case study of CCIA’s work in the Israeli/Palestinian situation over many years. These sessions were informative and important to the ongoing dialogue that will occur between churches, ecumenical bodies and specialized agencies.
What are some of the summary points which came forth from these working sessions?
What would help further the partnership of CCIA with member churches, ecumenical bodies and specialized agencies into the future?
There were many valuable contributions based on perceptions and needs of participants regarding CCIA’s work. It was noted many times that participants were looking to the WCC for leadership where their concerns were heard, where fundamental questions were addressed, where theology was explored and where the root causes of injustice could be illuminated in these complex times. Those attending a session or two who were not from the church, i.e. U.N. staff and governmental delegates, expressed to the gathering the importance of the role of the church in today’s world.
As CCIA director Peter Weiderud later acknowledged in a statement to the plenary of the Pontifical Council at the Vatican,
"It was heartening to experience the expectations the participants had towards the leadership role of WCC in international affairs. There was also great interest from the U.N., for example on the ethical and theological aspects of the responsibility to protect, which was one of the public seminar topics. Our advocacy role as churches is not only critical, but much needed and we must not shy away from it . . The present state of flux in national and international politics and the need for a new political ethos is a great challenge and an opportunity for the Christian Churches".
Specific desires for the way forward were spoken during the evaluation session held on the last afternoon of this important week of information-sharing, dialogue and strategy-setting. It was unanimously decided that there would be another meeting such as this in November 2004 . Many topics seemed to come onto the possible agenda for this next meeting, including: U.N. reform; the Security Council; economic justice; non-state actors, corporate responsibility and transnationals; human security, terrorism; and economic, social and cultural rights.
There was a specific desire to continue discussion around:
- Impunity and reconciliation and its specific address within the International Criminal Court.
- Disarmament and its embrace within larger questions of justice, peace and human security
- The root causes of injustice in the world today and the development of key advocacy foci.
There was a desire that the staff of CCIA take back to the commissions and programme bodies of CCIA
- The possibility of a human rights officers working group in Geneva
- The possibility for more information-sharing from Geneva and New York to churches, ecumenical bodies and specialized agencies in attendance and those not in attendance
- The possibility of an increased emphasis on Latin America and advocacy on human rights, economic justice, indigenous peoples, disarmament, impunity and reconciliation mechanisms at the WCC General Assembly in 2005.
- The importance of an increased presence of those from the U.S. familiar with U.S. positions, strategy and advocacy at these meetings, including the important emphasis of the DOV emphasis on the U.S. this year.
- The importance of more adequate representation from the global South at these meetings.
The importance of developing interfaith partnerships around the world’
- The importance of ensuring that all Christian voices are at the table.
The week proved to be successful. As participant after participant praised this meeting during final evaluation, they also asked that the CCIA staff look very carefully at their goals for this meeting so that their methods might more clearly produce the results desired. With good spirit and cooperation those attending hoped that this clarification of goals might help all more fully achieve what CCIA desires - a common message around the world which with single heart empowers advocates for a more just and peaceful coexistence.
Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning
November 10 &11, 2003
The churches and human rights
Formal reports of the churches from:
Latin America by Ms. Lilia Solano, Profesora-Investigadora, Proyecto Justicia y Vida, Columbia
Philippines by Mrs. Carmencita Karagdag, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Philippines
Sweden by Ms. Jenny Zetterqvist, Co-ordinator for Human Rights, Democracy and Gender, Church of Sweden, Sweden
The United Kingdom, by Paul Renshaw, Coordinating Secretary for International Affairs, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, UK
Africa, by Mr. Mongezi Guma, Executive Director, Ecumenical Service for Socio Economic Transformation (ESSET)
Moderated by Ms. Carmen Alicia Nebot, Director Justice and Peace Program, Council of Churches of Porto Rico, Puerto Rico
SUMMARY: These reports outlined regional, national and international pressures working against the establishment of human rights and the advocacy efforts within these regions.
From Latin America:
- If human rights is getting top billing in Latin America, it is mostly due to the requirements that must be met in order to have access to credit and the international market.
- A free market grounded human rights agenda takes violations to a level of sophistication such that they can go unchecked.
- The core human rights and the non-derogable civil rights of expression and assembly continue to suffer ignominious setbacks in Asia despite the fact that the military dictatorships and authoritarian regimes of the 70s and 80s have been ousted.
- Spectacular economic growth in newly industrializing countries like Singapore and Malaysia have not translated into dramatic improvements in the human rights conditions in these countries.
- A culture of militarization and repression of dissidents is entrenched while task of reconstruction and rehabilitation after civil wars has been carried out often at the expense of human rights and civil liberties.
- The long history of colonialism and foreign subjugation has so plundered many Asian countries as to leave them helpless and totally dependent upon foreign powers.
- Economic colonialism has succeeded in intensifying the misery of the poor while concentrating wealth in the hands of a privileged few.
- Continued escalating problems include:
- Trafficking of women and children
Freedom of expression, association and assembly are under assault
Destructive racial, ethnic, communal, sectarian and religious conflicts rage, exacerbated by the U.S. led war on terrorism.
Hastily enacted highly repressive measures have been put in place because of the “war on terror” for the sake of “national security” which suppress legitimate political dissent, amplify the powers of the police, the military and intelligence.
Directions for advocacy:
- Human rights advocacy must support economic, social and cultural rights which are as important as civil and political rights and are integral part of human rights.
- Human rights advocacy must accompany, support and empower their constituencies in the region who are engaged in similar advocacy on the ground.
- Human rights advocacy must put the U.S. to task for undermining the integrity of the U.N and its quest for global hegemony
- Human rights advocacy must go hand in hand with critique of corporate globalization
- Human rights advocacy must work for justice, understood as distributive and transformative justice.
From Church of Sweden:
Three essentially interrelated aspects of the work on human rights
- Advocacy for human rights must be within the frame of international law
- Advocacy for human rights must use a right-based perspective as a tool for analysis
- Advocacy for human rights must use the framework of human dignity
From the U.K.:
A review of recent trends in human rights work within the ecumenical community in Great Britain
- There is currently no specific human rights desk officer in Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
- Engagement with human rights issues currently is found within these CTBI structures
International Affairs Liason Group (post 9/11 security issues)
Churches’ Commission on Racial Justice (asylum,migration,community relations)
Churches’ Commission on Mission: (religious freedom in Europe and other areas where mission partners live)
Churches’ Commission on Interfaith Relations: (faith community responses in post-9/11 atmosphere.)
Specific denominational work in the UK
Catholics: child abuse
Baptists: religious freedom
Church of Scotland: Guantanamo Bay
Other denominations: Israel/Palestine, Burma and Zimbabwe
- 9/11 agenda and impact on human rights
- Issues of economic justice within Trade Justice Movement
- Issues of tolerance
- Racism within policing agencies and justice mechanisms
Africa: There are three concerns to be pointed out:
- Wars within Africa
Impunity and reparations
- HIV/AIDS pandemic
Generic drug access and the right to health
- The place of transnationals
Human rights and NEPAD
Concerns for AACC and WCC:
- How do we more fundamentally work together and with the international community for accompaniment?
- How do we have a clearing house of information for those within our continent for dissemination where the information and best practices are from the African context?
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
: The churches and impunity
Formal reports of the churches in
Argentina by Juan Abelardo Schvindt, general secretary of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate
West Papua by Welly Esau Mandowen, lecturer of Linguistics, Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua, Indonesia
And the churches respond informally
The current climate for the wrestle between impunity, justice and reconciliation for past violations which occurred during civil wars and insurrections:
- Some newly elected governments who desire to bring justice mechanisms in order to address the rights of those who had been violated under past military rule. Yet, insurrections of those who want impunity threaten the viability of newly elected governments
- Other newly elected governments overlook or minimize injustices of the past without a mechanism which listens to the victims.
- Powerful countries, especially the U.S., providing sanctuary for past leaders who have committed gross human rights violations
The above is happening within a current day to day context of human rights violations of an economic, social and cultural order:
- Political and social unrest from those whose social, cultural and economic rights are currently in jeopardy through current economic trajectories which are reinforcing inequalities between the rich and the poor.
- Transnationals, leaning upon the injustice of these current economic trajectories, often mandate that they be protected by elected governments.
- These economic trajectories are continuing to make the establishment of just democracy based on the rule of law, fragile and vulnerable and impossible at times.
All of the above is happening
- within the current simplified framework of the “war on terror”. An analysis that should be complex and of many dimensions and matrixes is thus simplified: “unrest = terrorist”. This is not a correct analysis.
The churches have worked in the following ways:
- As advocates for reconciliation, they have provided interfaith and ecumenical forums at local, national and international levels, providing a space for victims to speak and tell their stories.
- As sanctuaries, they have provided refuge for political prisoners, refugees, displaced persons, migrants, and families broken by the effects of economic systems imposed upon them.
- As educators -- they have been the tellers of a story of non-violent transformation and a story of what real Peace and Security through the defense of human rights and human dignity is really about in the eyes of the Creator.
The churches need to be concerned about:
- Any national reconciliation process that happens without truth-telling and without the victims present
- The ICC: more work needs to be done to understand the possibilities of this instrument of justice. It has the potential to be a more objective and less politically combustible instrument to redress human rights violations within national and international contexts.
- The ability to be co-opted by government and “realistic” expectations rather than truth and the real peace the telling can bring.
- New paradigms of theological thought which embrace true human security as the establishment and protection of economic, social and cultural rights
Wednesday, November 12, 2003 :
The churches and disarmament
A panel of experts, and an informal dialogue with the churches:
Ms Salpy Eskidjian, CCIA staff, WCC
Mr Ernie Regehr, sirector, Ploughshares, Canada
Mr Stein Villumstad, regional representative Eastern Africa, Norwegian Church Aid, Kenya
The goal of this session, according to Ms Salpy Eskidjian, was to look together at the key issues in disarmament and to get to know who is doing what in order to build the ecumenical alliances necessary around the issue of disarmament. Using two Commissioners as experts in the field, disarmament was discussed at both the level of nuclear arms and the level of small arms and light weapons.
Mr Regehr’s presentation revolved around the necessary leadership of nuclear states in the process disarmament.
- If nuclear states do not conform to already agreed upon international agreements regarding the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons especially within a context of preemptive strike policies, then non-nuclear states will also not conform to non-proliferation agreements.
- If national security policies are not embraced within a larger framework to include current security issues of economic marginalization, resource scarcity and political exclusion, then weapons will proliferate.
- We, in the churches, need to bring our witness to bear and need to not compartmentalize disarmament from these larger questions of poverty eradication. Our institutions need to reflect this.
Mr Villumstad’s presentation pointed out the complexity of small arms trade and what the Church has done to date along with some of the questions which are yet unresolved such as
- How do you limit and control the production of small arms?
- How do you limit exportation to only legal ends? What are legal ends of small arms?
- What do we do about brokering of small arms where small arms intended for one place, end up in another?
- When is the use of small arms legal? Where is the line where use becomes illegal? Is state use always legal?
- How is the church to be involved in the practical advocacy and programs needed to address this issue?
The churches speak:
- Board of the Christian Council of Sweden is holding a expert panel on Arms Trade. Second one will be happening in the Spring
- There was a need expressed that WCC-CCIA embrace the issue of disarmament for the constituency into the larger framework of poverty eradication; need to develop policy examples for the Churches where this is the angle.
- Ecumenical group in U.S. is working to fight the momentum financially for research and development of new weapons. They have slowed down the process but it has not stopped. Education of the constituency is a major angle of the U.S. groups.
- Norwegian Church Aid is working to develop a tool kit that can be used on the ground in African countries and to influence focal points within Nairobi Declaration countries.
- Ploughshares in Canada asked whether it is time to target the manufacturers of weapons with boycotts?
- We have a resolution on small arms; the problem? It takes intensive lobbying from the churches, and funds to do small arms work.
- We need to develop regulatory standards for arms trade
- We have got to continue to work with the actors in the churches, some has been successful and some has not depending on the networking success of the area.
Thursday, November 13, 2003 :
CCIA responses to regional conflicts, actual and proposed
Four distinct approaches were available for exploring CCIA’s responses to regional conflicts.
- Clement John reviewed the booklet “ The Role of the World Council of Churches in International Affairs” with particular attention to the ways CCIA develops priorities and then the methods of advocacy.
- Salpy Eskidjian followed with a practical look at how the WCC worked on the Israel/Palestine concerns through the years with all of these methods of advocacy.
- The churches then followed with questions especially surrounding relationships between CCIA and other regional bodies.
- The group was then divided into four working groups to work on four regional conflicts to develop deeper understandings of the conflicts and then to work through possible priorities for the WCC-CCIA agenda within these regions: Angola, Colombia, Indonesia and Iraq
Thursday, November 13, 2003
: the churches sharing session on regional conflicts
Within four regional conflictual areas, four working groups proposed directions and priorities for CCIA work:
- Pastoral support team(s)
- Technical support team (s)
- Building of a coordinating instrument, Ecumenical forum
- Preparation for elections, monitoring of elections and follow up on human rights concerns after elections
Potential stumbling blocks:
- Critical that Angolans lead advocacy efforts
- Human and financial capacity or lack thereof must be addressed
- Fact- finding mission to Colombia in order to present situation to Porto Alegre WCC Assembly
- Develop ecumenical initiatives modeled on El Salvador and Guatemala in order to develop peace initiatives in Colombia
- Media attention on area and issues and root causes
- Larger question: alternatives to military solutions must be explored
- Second team visit should be explored
- Continue work with Human Rights Commission in regards to Indonesia; invitation to join in to ecumenical community
- Comprehensive study of the status of economic, social and cultural rights in West Papua to serve as the basis for national dialogue with Indonesia resulting in legislative and political reforms in Papua
- More information-sharing
- Establish a working group similar to that on Israel/Palestine
- Advocate and consult with United Nations for exit strategy of military from Iraq
- Find ways to promote WCC Central Committee guidelines formed in early September 2003 within the denominations