150+ Organizations Issue Global Call For "New Normal"

Humanitarian disarmament approach offers proven model for change

(July 2, 2020)—More than 150 organizations from around the world released a joint letter today stating that humanitarian disarmament can lead the way to an improved post-pandemic world.

Endorsed by global campaigns that have garnered two Nobel Peace Prizes and fostered the creation of four international treaties in the past 25 years, the letter argues that humanitarian disarmament's proven human-centered approach should guide current and future efforts in dealing with the pandemic and advancing human security.

“This year has shown that security is not just about military might. The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as locusts in East Africa and the wildfires in Australia, show that we need a dramatic shift in our understanding of what true security means” said Erin Hunt, Program Manager at Mines Action Canada. “Expertise from civil society and cooperation between states will be key to building a safer post-pandemic world and we encourage Canada to foster these partnerships at home and around the world.”

The letter’s signatories include local, national, regional, and international organizations from around the world. Disarmament, human rights, peace, faith, medical, student, development, and other groups have all endorsed the letter. The widespread support across campaigns underscores how seriously the humanitarian disarmament community views the letter’s call. 

Humanitarian disarmament seeks to reduce the human suffering and environmental damage inflicted by arms. To advance its goals of preventing and remediating harm, money invested in unacceptable weapons would be better spent on humanitarian purposes, the letter says. 

As COVID-19 exacerbates inequalities and presents new challenges for conflict survivors and other persons with disabilities, the letter also warns against entrenching marginalization. It calls for inclusive and non-discriminatory measures to bring affected communities into decision-making.

During the pandemic, international diplomacy has gone digital, creating the possibility for more meaningful and inclusive participation. The letter argues for seizing these opportunities while ensuring accessibility and inclusivity. It also stresses that cooperation—including the coordination, information exchange, and resource sharing that underlie humanitarian disarmament agreements—is essential to addressing global issues.

The letter concludes with a call to prioritize human security, allocate spending on humanitarian causes, work to eliminate inequalities, ensure multilateral fora incorporate diverse voices, and bring a cooperative mindset to problems of practice and policy.   

The original endorsers of the letter were leading humanitarian disarmament campaigns with hundreds of member organizations. They include the International Campaign to Ban Landmines–Cluster Munition Coalition and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, winners, respectively, of the 1997 and 2017 Nobel Peace Prizes. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Conflict and Environment Observatory, Control Arms, and the International Network on Explosive Weapons are also original endorsers.

Key humanitarian disarmament treaties include the Mine Ban Treaty (1997), Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008), Arms Trade Treaty (2013), and Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017).

The letter remains open for future signature by civil society organizations worldwide.

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Open Letter on COVID-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament

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