SUMMARY REPORT ON THE WCC's
World Council of Churches
Small arms and light weapons are an integral part of the spiralling culture of violence in our world. It is estimated that more than 500 million small arms are in circulation around the world and that the death toll to small arms is more than 500,000 people annually. From conflict zones, to the streets of the world's metropolises and homes and schools all over the world, the effects of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons are clear. Death, injury, and the psychological impact are the imminent results of armed violence, but additionally, the rampant availability and use of small arms and light weapons impede development and humanitarian efforts, displace people from their communities, and cause the escalation of conflict. The excessive and destabilizing accumulation and transfer of small arms and light weapons is directly linked with increased conflict and crime all over the world, and is thus a real concern for the international community.
In response to the WCC Central Committee's call in 1997 for the WCC Programme to Overcome Violence to give "special attention to the concern for microdisarmament", an international consultation was convened in May 1998 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on the proliferation and unlawful use of small arms. The consultation suggested that small arms issues should become a core focal point of the WCC's work on peace and disarmament. The final report of the Rio consultation "Small Arms: Big Impact" provided an initial guideline for the WCC's policy on small arms issues. The Rio consultation determined that the churches have a significant role to play in small arms awareness, control and reduction at all levels of society. Churches have a special responsibility to bring central moral and ethical perspectives to bear on the social and political pursuit of microdisarmament. In consideration of this position, the Rio consultation called for the WCC to make a major commitment to this work and to develop "policy responses with a view to controlling and reducing the availability, circulation and use of small arms".
The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (CCIA/WCC) has begun work on elaborating these guidelines, and has created a Reference Group on Peacebuilding and Disarmament to guide the continuing work. The process of policy and programme development is consultative, utilizing the expertise of grassroots organisations, academics, government experts, church leaders, ecumenical as well as partners in the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). This is being done through a series of regional and sub-regional ecumenical consultations held in cooperation with REOs. They aim to:
Two consultations have been held to date. The first, in cooperation with the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and Peace to the City partner, Viva Rio, entitled "Tackling Armed Violence in Latin American Societies: the Issue of Small Arms," was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in July 2000. The second, in cooperation with the Fellowship of Churches and Councils in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA), took place in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2000. A third is scheduled for October 2001 with participants from West Africa.
The Latin American consultation determined that in order to reduce armed violence and the availability of small arms, it is essential to cut the demand for guns through real social and economic transformation. But concomitantly, the need to pursue gun control immediately was considered essential, because "measures to control firearms are themselves important for social reconstruction and creating cultures of peace."
The consultation affirmed the importance of encouraging international values and norms in support of effective small arms control. It welcomed the policy measures of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and other Related Materials, adopted by the Organisation of American States in 1997 and supported the development of the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. The Commission of Nobel Peace Laureates' initiative promoting an International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers was also endorsed.
In discussions about the small arms issue in the Latin American region, the need for security sector reform was given priority. This would include publicly accountable security institutions under the direct authority of states, modernization of police training and procedures and attention to the problem of corruption.
According to the consultation, the churches are important for building awareness and disseminating information, play a significant role in public policy dialogue and advocacy, and should be actively involved in community action, lobbying and peacebuilding. The churches were called to take a firm position, saying, "It's time for the churches to say NO TO GUNS."
Great Lakes and Horn of Africa
At the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa consultation, several needs as regard small arms were noted: reform of the security sector, including a revival of the traditional rules that governed the possession and use of arms; efforts to prevent and combat the illicit trade and control the licit trade, hence the need for legislative transparency; and capacity building through human rights advocacy, peace education, training of leaders and democratization. Churches were called to open dialogue with law enforcement agencies, policy makers and communities, in order to develop community policing forums.
The consultation called on the churches in Africa to endorse the policy elements of the Bamako Declaration on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation, and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Nairobi Declaration on the Problem of the Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa (March 2000).
In general, both consultations expressed the seriousness of the problems associated with the proliferation of small arms in their respective regions and reiterated the significant role churches have to play in reducing the demand and advocating for the control of small arms. In addressing the demand side of the issue, churches were called to continue their defense of human rights, promote good governance, and tackle economic injustice. In addition, the need for reliable information was recognized and research within civil society and the academic community encouraged. The churches were called to make such information available to the public, raising awareness as to the humanitarian impact of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Networking was noted as another invaluable tool in the struggle against armed violence. Churches were encouraged to take a leading role in fostering regional networks. It was noted that the International Action Network on Small Arms and the Ecumenical Network on Small Arms provide a broader framework for regional cooperation.
At the 44th meeting of the CCIA, held in Crans-Montana Switzerland, 14-18 May 2001, the statement "Policy Framework and Guidelines on Small Arms and Light Weapons" was adopted, taking into consideration policy elements which emerged from the regional and sub-regional consultations. These include:
The WCC is a founding member of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Created in 1998, IANSA is a global network formed by over 200 member organisations in more than 40 countries to address the small arms epidemic in a holistic way. It provides a framework within which organisations working to tackle different aspects of gun proliferation and misuse can support and learn from each other. It helps co-ordinate activities and campaigning by bringing together human rights organisations, foreign policy think tanks, gun control groups, development and humanitarian relief agencies, victim support groups, and local community and public health groups. IANSA has a range of objectives to reduce the demand for small arms by civilians and governments; stem the supply of small arms; stop the illegal gun trade; reduce the quantity of guns in circulation and reverse cultures of violence. The WCC is an active IANSA partner and is making its particular contribution through facilitating the formation of the Ecumenical Network on Small Arms (ENSA). It is also a member of the Geneva Action Network on Small Arms (GANSA), a working group of the NGO Committee for Disarmament, of which WCC is a board member.
In the development of the Ecumenical Network on Small Arms, seed funding was provided for the following projects addressing armed violence and tackling small arms were supported by the WCC Peacebuilding and Disarmament Programme in 2000:
The conference was held July 9-20, 2001 at the UN in New York and focused international attention on the issue in an effort to develop norms at the global, regional and national level to combat and ultimately prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and thus its devastating consequences.
Three Preparatory Committee meetings (PrepComs) were held in preparation for the conference, in March 2000, January 2001 and March 2001. Based on the Report of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms, issued on September 1999, Chairman Carlos dos Santos of Mozambique prepared a document for discussion amongst the delegates. The "Draft Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects" was debated during the second PrepCom and revised for further discussions at the third PrepCom. From these deliberations, a final Programme of Action was presented in July.
Members of the CCIA/WCC participated in the second and third PrepComs to monitor the UN proceedings, participate in parallel NGO events and represent the WCC position. In addition, as a founding member of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), the WCC helped develop and endorsed the IANSA position paper, "Opportunities for the UN 2001 Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects" which was prepared for the second PrepCom.
The WCC delegation to the second PrepCom in January included WCC/CCIA commissioners Bishop Dinis Sengulane and Ernie Regehr, both members of CCIA's Peacebuilding and Disarmament Reference Group, who, apart from monitoring the UN proceedings, met with government delegates and IANSA partners. During this session fruitful, meetings were held with the chairman of the PrepCom, Ambassador Carlos Dos Santos of Mozambique, and with João Honwana, chief of the Conventional Arms Branch, Department of Disarmament Affairs, to discuss the role of the churches in addressing the small arms issue. A press feature was released on 26 February 2001 and reported on the WCC's participation at the PrepCom.
In March, commissioners Ernie Regehr, Stein Villumstad, Marwan Bishara and Shirley DeWolf, as well as Salpy Eskidjian, International Affairs, Peace & Human Security programme executive, attended the third PrepCom, where they observed the proceedings and participated in several parallel events. At an inter-faith prayer service for peace organized by WCC, in cooperation with IANSA and WCRP, WCC Central Committee member and CCIA vice-moderator Lois McCullough-Dauwey brought greetings on behalf of the WCC, and "Peace to the City" partner, Rev. Jeffrey Brown, contributed from the Christian tradition. A second WCC press feature was released 27 March 2001 as an update on the WCC role in the PrepComs, including expectations of the final Plan of Action. Salpy Eskidjian also moderated the official opening IANSA press conference at the UN.
WCC endorsed the IANSA position paper, Opportunities for the UN 2001 Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which was first presented at the January PrepCom. This statement was signed by 50 NGO's and made available at the third PrepCom and July Conference. It called for:
In tandem with the UN meetings, IANSA coordinated a series of parallel NGO briefings throughout the PrepComs and the conference itself. Daily caucus meetings brought together IANSA partners to discuss strategy for lobbying, while lunch-time briefings utilized the expertise of the NGOs who were present to educate others on specific themes. Wider NGO representation at the third PrepCom allowed for a more coordinated series of briefings, including testimony of victims and people from regions especially affected by small arms. During both PrepComs and the conference, daily summaries were sent to IANSA's listserver, offering partners who were unable to be in New York e-mail updates on the discussions from an NGO perspective. Additionally, comments on the revised Draft Programme of Action were distributed to the IANSA network, governments and the media. Press conferences created important links with the media and were a tool for awareness-raising.
The UN Conference on the Illicit trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, July 9-20 provided an international forum to address not only the technicalities of the illicit trade in small arms, but also the devastating humanitarian impact of armed violence. Through its presence and participation in the government meetings and NGO side events, the CCIA/WCC sought to share the churches' voice on this issue.
The WCC/CCIA delegation to the UN conference consisted of five CCIA members -mainly from the Peacebuilding and Disarmament Reference Group - from Norway, Brazil, Canada, Mozambique and Indonesia, two "Peace to the City" Network partners from Palestine and Sierra Leone, as well as two staff members and an ecumenical communicator from the Philippines. The delegation participated in advocacy efforts, monitoring the meetings and actively lobbying governments for a strong plan of action. The WCC delegation was invited to various governmental receptions and meetings, including a luncheon meeting between the Humanitarian Coalition and the Human Security Network. Three of the CCIA/WCC delegation members served dual roles, also acting as advisors to their governments: Rubem César Fernandes, Ernie Regehr and Stein Villumstad to the Brazilian, Canadian and Norwegian delegations respectively.
The Policy Framework and Guidelines on Small Arms and Light Weapons, adopted at the 44th meeting of the CCIA in May 2001, provided the framework for advocacy efforts at the UN Conference. The document was distributed to all UN member states for their consideration and was made available to all NGO's at the conference.
In its capacity as a member of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response Working Group on Landmines (SCHR), the WCC offered input in the drafting and signed on to a "Humanitarian Programme of Action for the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects". This statement was an initiative of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, which offered governments an alternative plan of action addressing the humanitarian impact of small arms and light weapons, taking into consideration aid work in the field. WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security staff attended the launch of the IASC Programme of Action, and a panel-discussion on "The Human Costs of Small Arms and Light Weapons". Following the launch, members of the working group met to discuss conference follow-up.
The government meetings for the UN conference involved three days of ministerial meetings where states presented their national statements on the issue of small arms and light weapons. Deliberation over the Draft Plan of Action took place in sessions that were closed to NGO's, who were given the floor for one three-hour session on Monday, July 16 to address the conference. Apart from the WCC, four of the 30 NGO's who spoke during this session were from the WCC constituency.
The WCC intervention addressed the demand for small arms and the need for social, political and economic change that would promote demand reduction. Suggested wording was offered as follows:
"Recognizing that to address the problem of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects in a comprehensive, integrated, and sustainable manner, it is necessary to reduce the demand for weapons through measures that promote the strengthening of democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law and good governance, as well as economic recovery and equitable growth, and other measures such as reform of the security sector and programmes to reverse cultures of violence and create cultures of peace."
The Christian Council of Sierra Leone spoke to the impact of small arms and light weapons on children, including the increased death toll, sense of insecurity, loss of family identity and
Based on its experience with the "Turning Swords into Ploughshares" project, the Christian Council of Mozambique addressed the issue of practical disarmament and the role of the church in discussing the need to collect and destroy unauthorized or excessive arms.
Fundacion Gamma Idear ("Peace to the City" Colombia) addressed the impact of small arms on health in situations of conflict.
Viva Rio, a "Peace to the City" partner, spoke to the issue of follow-up and the need for practical disarmament initiatives including annual gun destruction days.
The WCC used the opportunity of this conference to raise awareness with member churches about the problem of small arms proliferation and its consequences. The need for urgent and far-reaching action to control the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was emphasized and churches were called to join in this effort.
An informative leaflet entitled, "Adding the Voice of the Churches to the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, New York, July 9-20, 2001" was drafted with two purposes in mind: to inform the churches about the need for governments to tackle the small arms problem and to call the churches to action on this occasion through several concrete steps. This was distributed to over 2000 churches and partners, and was also available online.
The Microdisarmament website of the WCC International Affairs, Peace & Human Security' Peacebuilding and Disarmament Programme was updated specifically on the occasion of the conference. The new UN Conference site included the text of the call to action, an online petition, news and stories from the ecumenical family and the CCIA Policy Framework and Guidelines on Small Arms. Additionally, links to the UN's official conference site provided access to official documentation and access to the International Action Network on Small Arms' (IANSA) site provided daily updates on conference developments and NGO activities. The site can be found at:
Recognizing that the UN Conference on Small Arms should not be limited to the halls of the UN building, the WCC participated in several NGO events outside the parameters of the official meetings. The purpose of these activities was to raise awareness amongst the public about the human cost of the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons. The WCC delegation ensured that the faith community was represented in this effort. The WCC US Office was helpful in providing advanced publicity for the NGO initiatives, sharing information with over 300 New York area churches.
An international rally to demonstrate the human cost of small arms, entitled "Guns Know No Borders", was held at Dag Hammerskjöld Plaza, 17 July 2001. The WCC was a co-sponsor of this public rally with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Amnesty International USA, Silent March and the American Friends Service Committee. An information table was set up where colleagues from the WCC US Office helped distribute WCC materials on the Decade to Overcome Violence, microdisarmament and peacebuilding. Two "Peace to the City" partners brought their personal testimonies to the experience of armed violence in a 'speak-out' led by victims of armed violence and their families.
One of the highlights of the rally was the International Affairs, Peace & Human Security-sponsored special performance of the "Peace to the City" ballet, which shared its unique message of peace through music, song and dance. The performance was one stop for the ballet on a US tour, co-sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the United Methodist Church. Following on the call to churches to send photos, letters, postcards and artwork as testimony to their experience with armed violence, International Affairs, Peace & Human Security also sponsored the display of a 12-meter-long mural of materials placed in memory of victims to gun violence. This commemorative "Wall of Pain" originated in Rio de Janeiro, and was developed by "Peace to the City" partner, Viva Rio as part of its "Enough, I want Peace" campaign.
In cooperation with the World Conference on Religion and Peace, WCC staff organized an inter-faith prayer service which was held on Friday, July 13 at the chapel of Church Centre at the UN. The service focussed on the victims of gun violence with testimony from Asia, Africa, North America and South America, including "Peace to the City" member Florella Hazeley of Sierra Leone. Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Mozambique, moderator of the CCIA Peacebuilding and Disarmament Reference Group, shared a message of hope and peace. Participants of various faiths joined together to remember the victims of gun violence through a moving memorial service, each person placing a flower in front of the Wall of Pain.
The WCC facilitated a display of 25 sculptures produced from decommissioned guns through the "Turning Swords into Ploughshares" Programme initiated by the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM). With sponsorship from UNDP in Mozambique, these pieces of art were brought to New York to be displayed at the UN. During the exhibit opening hosted by Ambassador Dos Santos of Mozambique, International Affairs, Peace & Human Security staff brought greetings at the launch of the exhibit on behalf of the WCC general secretary. Speakers included the UN under-secretary-general for the Department of Disarmament, Jayantha Dhanapala, IANSA coordinator, Sally Joss and president of the CCM, Rev. Arao Litsuré.
The WCC was a major contributor to the IANSA's activities throughout the conference. Delegation members participated in daily IANSA briefings and meetings, as well as the first IANSA General Meeting, where strategies for future direction were discussed. In addition, WCC/CCIA delegation members Rubem César Fernandes and Ernie Regehr were invited as panelists at the opening and closing press conferences respectively. Bishop Dinis Sengulane was one of the panelists at an Africa Day briefing, organized by IANSA, and spoke on behalf of the WCC/CCIA and the churches of southern Africa.
The Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects adopted by the conference addresses a wide range of steps that States might take to control the supply of small arms and light weapons, but it requires no firm commitments or legal obligation and fails to address the wider problems of the social, political and economic conditions that generate demand for such weapons.
The WCC has joined a group of NGOs active on the issue of small arms, concerned with the humanitarian impact of armed violence and working in the field, to form the Humanitarian Coalition on Small Arms. On 22 June 2001 a meeting was called by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva to address the impact of small arms proliferation on the protection of human rights, sustainable development and humanitarianism. International Affairs, Peace & Human Security staff from the WCC were present for the discussions and strategy session. Some of the other NGOs gathered included Human Rights Watch, NISAT, Oxfam GB, Care, World Vision, Save the Children, Médicin du Monde and the Lutheran World Federation. On the occasion of the UN Conference in July, the Humanitarian Coalition drafted a "Humanitarian Statement of Concern Addressed to the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects". This statement called governments to stop the supply of small arms and light weapons to those who use them to violate recognised standards of international human rights and humanitarian law, and to address the human suffering caused by the millions of weapons in circulation. Over 60 NGO's signed on to this statement, including the CCIA/WCC, and it was distributed to all member governments at the UN Conference.
WCC participates in UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects