Churches Push Global Arms Trade Treaty, Meet With 20 Govt's

(ACT Alliance/Paul Jeffrey)A boy approaches ordnance cordoned off in Misrata, Libya

Representatives from a campaign led by the World Council of Churches have met with more than 20 governments since an effort began in October last year to help pass a United Nations treaty this July that will make it harder to buy and sell arms internationally.

The organization said this week that the Arms Trade Treaty aims to keep the arms trade open to militaries, police forces judged to use arms legally and responsibly while cutting off trade to those who don't.

The WCC notes that groups with influence in the effort include arms manufacturers, gun enthusiasts, civil society groups and churches.

Churches supporting the treaty bridge the "north-south divide" shaping the arms trade, the WCC says.

Churches in support come from major arms producers like the US, Sweden, and Norway along with churches from places which have seen conflict like Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Sierra Leone.

Lobbying and Policy

Churches from more than 30 countries are involved in the campaign, according to the WCC. Campaign representatives have met so far with 20 governments from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas to develop measures that will make the treaty strong and effective.

A WCC policy statement notes millions of people have been affected by armed violence and that "badly regulated exports, imports and transfers of weapons must bear part of the blame."

Under the treaty, the U.N.'s 153 governments would seek to adopt "the highest possible common international standard" for how conventional arms may be traded.

The policy also calls for the treaty to work to stop arms for governments that "pose a threat to their own people or to other states" while blocking shipments likely to be diverted to groups liked to organized crime or smugglers.

The WCC says more than 100 religious leaders of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths have signed a declaration to governments supporting the treaty.

The campaign began in October 2011.

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