Open Letter on COVID-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament

COVID-19 AND HUMANITARIAN DISARMAMENT

Open Letter from Civil Society

Opened for Signature June 2020

This letter argues that humanitarian disarmament can lead the way to an improved post-pandemic world and calls on states, international organizations, and civil society to follow its lead to create a “new normal.” It is open for signature by civil society organizations through the form below.

This letter is also available in Spanish and French.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy human and economic toll and shattered lives in many countries. The pandemic has also underscored that global solutions should be used to address global problems, in the current crisis and after it ends. Now is the moment to reflect on the world as it is and consider a better alternative for the future. A “new normal” should go beyond the field of public health to deal with other matters of ongoing international concern, including the humanitarian consequences of arms and armed conflict as well as peace and security more broadly.

Humanitarian disarmament, an approach to governing weapons that puts people first, can help lead the way to an improved post-pandemic world. Humanitarian disarmament seeks to prevent and remediate arms-inflicted human suffering and environmental damage through the establishment and implementation of norms. Originating in the mid-1990s, it has generated four international treaties, been recognized with two Nobel Peace Prizes, and inspired ongoing efforts to reduce other arms-related harm.  

Humanitarian disarmament’s twin pillars of prevention and remediation should guide the allocation of resources to advance human security. COVID-19 has caused people to take a fresh look at states’ budgetary choices. To prevent arms-inflicted harm, governments and industry should stop investing in unacceptable weapons as well as strengthen the protection of civilians from the use of weapons and ensure arms transfers comply with international law. The money spent on nuclear arsenals and other military expenses could be better used for humanitarian purposes, such as health care or social spending. To remediate harm, governments should redirect money to programs that assist victims, restore infrastructure, clear explosive ordnance, and clean up conflict-related pollution. Funding the multilateral institutions that set standards on these topics and ensure their implementation would also advance humanitarian disarmament’s goals.

The principles of inclusion and non-discrimination, which are fundamental to humanitarian disarmament, should inform measures to address the inequalities that COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated. The pandemic has increased the challenges faced by conflict survivors and other persons with disabilities due to the vulnerability of certain groups, their inability to access health care and basic necessities, and restrictions on aid workers. A humanitarian disarmament response would ensure that such inequality and marginalization do not become entrenched. It would also promote more sensitive programs than existed before. States and humanitarian actors should broaden efforts to involve affected individuals and diverse populations in decision-making, gather data disaggregated by gender, age, disability, and ethnicity, and deliver assistance in a non-discriminatory manner. 

Inclusivity and accessibility should underpin diplomacy as it emerges from its current digital state. Since the pandemic led to a global lockdown, in-person disarmament meetings have been canceled, postponed, or held digitally. While face-to-face meetings have important advantages, once they resume, the international community could increase inclusivity and accessibility by permitting meaningful online participation at multilateral meetings. Individuals, including survivors and other persons with disabilities, who are unable to travel due to lack of funding or visa restrictions, could add their voices to critical discussions about setting and operationalizing norms.

Finally, international cooperation should become a standard way to address global issues, as it is in humanitarian disarmament. Humanitarian disarmament treaties, which mandate international coordination, information exchange, and resource sharing, offer models of cooperation. States should adopt a cooperative approach to addressing the human and environmental harm inflicted by arms and increase their assistance to affected states. Such a cooperative mindset, reinforced by the pandemic experience, should carry over to other multilateral efforts to create, implement, and adapt international norms.  

As the world transitions to a post-pandemic reality, we call on states, international organizations, and civil society to follow humanitarian disarmament’s lead. The international community should prioritize human security, reallocate military spending to humanitarian causes, work to eliminate inequalities, ensure multilateral fora incorporate diverse voices, and bring a cooperative mindset to problems of practice and policy. Together we can reshape the security landscape for the future and help create a new—and improved—“normal.” 

Since the letter opened for signature in June 2020, it has been signed by the following 245 organizations:

Global Campaigns:

  • Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
  • Conflict and Environment Observatory
  • Control Arms
  • International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
  • International Campaign to Ban Landmines–Cluster Munition Coalition
  • International Network on Explosive Weapons

International:

  • Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
  • Action on Armed Violence
  • AssoPacePalestina
  • Centre for Armed Violence Reduction
  • Centre d’Estudis per la Pau J.M. Delàs
  • Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy
  • Centre for Peace & Development, Security, and Armed Violence Prevention (CPS-AVIP)
  • Conflict Awareness Project
  • Edupax
  • Ethics in Technology
  • Global Campaign on Military Spending (G-COMS)
  • Greenpeace
  • GunPolicy.org
  • HALO Trust
  • Humanity & Inclusion
  • International Campaign for Responsible Technology
  • International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW)
  • International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA)
  • International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR)
  • International Peace Bureau
  • International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)
  • Jesuit Refugee Service
  • Landmine Free 2025 Campaign
  • Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  • Mayors for Peace
  • Mercy International Association, Global Action
  • Mines Advisory Group (MAG)
  • Movimiento por un Mundo sin Guerras
  • Nonviolence International
  • Norwegian People’s Aid
  • Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
  • PAX
  • Pax Christi International
  • PeaceQuest International
  • Recherches et Documentation Juridiques Africaines (RDJA)
  • Rotarians4NuclearBan
  • Shadow World Investigations
  • Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation
  • Soka Gakkai International
  • Tipping Point North South
  • TRANSCEND Media Service (TMS)
  • United Methodist Church–General Board of Church and Society
  • Veterans For Peace
  • Vision GRAM-International
  • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  • Women in Black
  • World BEYOND War

Africa:

  • Action for Women and Children Concern (AWCC)
  • African Council of Religious Leaders–Religions for Peace (ACRL-RfP)
  • Association of Medical Students of Namibia
  • Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace (CAMYOSFOP)
  • Centre d’Encadrement et de Développement des Anciens Combattants (CEDAC)
  • Civil Society Advance Forum on Sustainable Development
  • Ecumenical Service for Peace (SeP)
  • Environmental Protection Promoters Initiative
  • Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA)
  • Femmes des Médias pour la Justice au Congo (FMJC)
  • Fondation Solidarité des Hommes
  • Groupe d’Actions pour la Consolidation de la Paix (GACP)
  • International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations–South Africa (IFMSA South Africa)
  • Jireh Doo Foundation (JDF)
  • Kikandwa Rural Communities Development Organization
  • Liberia Action Network on Small Arms (LANSA)
  • Ligue Internationale des Femmes pour la Paix et la Liberté–RDC (WILPF-RDC)
  • Mécanisme pour l’Initiative de la Recherche de la Paix et le Développement (MI-RPD)
  • Medical Students’ Association of Malawi
  • Noble Delta Women for Peace and Development
  • Peoples Federation for National Peace and Development (PEFENAP)
  • Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation (RCIDC)
  • Restoring And Empowering Communities
  • Reveil Communautaire d’Assistances aux Victimes (RECOVI)
  • Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms (SLANSA)
  • Somali Human Rights Association (SOHRA)
  • Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD)
  • Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRaRO)
  • West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA)
  • Women’s Right to Education Programme
  • Zimbabwe Medical Students Association
  • Zimbabwe Open University

Americas and the Caribbean:

  • 24-0 México
  • Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
  • Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress
  • Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI), Harvard Law School
  • Artistes pour la Paix
  • Asociación Mexicana de Médicos en Formacion A.C. (AMMEF A.C.)
  • Bay Area Women in Black
  • B.C. Southern Interior Peace Coalition
  • Bolivian Women’s Efforts
  • Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas
  • Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW)
  • Caribbean Coalition for Development and Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV)
  • Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos
  • Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios Estratégicos para la Seguridad y el Desarrollo Social (CIESED)
  • CODEPINK
  • Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH)
  • Comité Central Menonita (CCM) México
  • Denman Island Peace Group
  • Direção Executiva Nacional dos Estudantes de Medicina (DENEM Brazil)
  • ECPAT
  • Environmentalists Against War
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
  • Hibakusha Stories/Youth Arts New York
  • Instituto de Ecología Política
  • Instituto Sou da Paz
  • International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations–Brazil (IFMSA Brazil)
  • International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations–Québec (IFMSA Québec)
  • International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) Canada
  • Legacies of War
  • Les Artistes pour la Paix
  • Mines Action Canada
  • Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix
  • Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
  • Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Pax Christi Northern California
  • Peace Action
  • Peace Action Committee (GPAX), Green Party of the United States
  • Peace Education Center
  • Peace Resource Center, Wilmington College
  • Peace Quest Cape Breton
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Plataforma Global El Salvador
  • Popular Resistance
  • Project Ploughshares
  • Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs/West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs (PSALM/WVCBL)
  • Red Jesuita con Migrantes América Latina y el Caribe
  • Registry of World Citizens, Canada
  • Religions for Peace Canada
  • Religions pour la Paix Québec
  • Rodeemos el Diálogo (ReD)
  • Science for Peace
  • Seguridad Humana en Latintoamérica y el Caribe (SEHLAC)
  • Serviço de Paz (SERPAZ)
  • Soka Gokkai Argentina
  • Students Taking an Active Role in Society (STARS) USA
  • World Federalist Movement–Canada

Asia:

  • Agrarian Resource Center (ARD)
  • Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL)
  • Center for Peace Education, Miriam College
  • Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution Cambodia
  • ChangeMaker: Society for Social and Economic Development
  • Family Studies Circle, Miriam College
  • Forum for Nation Building Nepal
  • Indian Institute for Peace, Disarmament and Environmental Protection
  • International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations–Japan (IFMSA Japan)
  • International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations–Pakistan (IFMSA Pakistan)
  • Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • Jesuit Service Cambodia
  • Medical Students Association of India
  • Pax Christi Philippines
  • Poovulagin Nanbargal
  • Punarchith Collective
  • Rotary Club Visakhapatnam
  • Society of Malaysian Medical Association Medical Students (SMMAMS)
  • University of the Philippines Visayas
  • Women for Peace and Democracy Nepal

Europe:

  • aHang
  • Állítsuk meg a Gyilkos Robotokat
  • Associació d’Estudiants de Ciències de la Salut
  • Associació Lika
  • Associazione Culturale Il Villaggio di Esteban
  • Associazione Nazionale Vittime Civili di Guerra
  • Campagna Italiana Contro le Mine
  • Casa per la Pace Modena
  • Centro Social Librería La Pantera Rossa
  • Centro Studi Sereno Regis
  • Changemaker Norway
  • Colectivo Antimilitarista de Zaragoza Mambrú
  • Comisión General Justicia y Paz
  • Comitato Senzatomica
  • Coordinadora d’ONGD i altres Moviments Solidaris (aMS) de Lleida
  • Coordinamento Associazioni Lucane per la Biosfera
  • Coordinamento contro l’Atomica, tutte le Guerre e i Terrorismi (AGITE)–Piedmonte
  • Coordinamento Interconfessionale “Noi Siamo Con Voi”
  • Den Internasjonale Kampanjen for å Avskaffe Atomvåpen (ICAN) Norge
  • Disarmament Dynamics
  • Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland
  • En Pie de Paz, Coordinadora 12D
  • Facing Finance
  • Forum Peace Ethics (FFE) within the Evangelical Church of Baden, Germany
  • Fredsministerium
  • Fundació Catalunya Voluntària
  • Fundació per la Pau (FundiPau)
  • Hellenic Medical Students’ International Committee (HelMSIC)
  • Il Centro Documentazione Pace onlus e Libera Ivrea e Canavese
  • Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai
  • International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons–France (ICAN France)
  • International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) Norway
  • Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • Macedonian Medical Students’ Association
  • Medact
  • Movimento Internazionale della Riconciliazione (MIR)
  • No Borders Refugees
  • Organization of Amputees UDAS
  • Pax Christi England & Wales
  • Pax Christi Flanders
  • Pax Christi France
  • Pax Christi Italy
  • Pax Christi München
  • Pax Christi Scotland
  • PeaceLink
  • Plataforma Benvinguts Refugiats Menorca
  • Pressenza–International Press Agency
  • Rete Antirazzista Catanese
  • Rete Italiana delle Donne in Nero
  • Rete Italiana per il Disarmo
  • Sadankomitea (Committee of 100 in Finland)
  • Scientists for Global Responsibility
  • Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • Secure Scotland
  • Servei d’Informació de l’Objecció Fiscal a la Despesa Militar (SIOF)
  • Soka Gokkai de España
  • Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society
  • UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities
  • Women in Black Vienna

Middle East:

  • Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO)
  • Arab Human Security Network
  • Landmines Resource Center (LMRC), University of Balamand
  • Peace and Freedom Organization
  • Yemen Mine Awareness Association

Oceania:

  • Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign on Military Spending
  • Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
  • Christians for Peace Newcastle Australia
  • Disarmament and Security Centre
  • Foundation for Peace Studies Aotearoa/New Zealand
  • Generation Zero
  • Hunter Peace Group
  • Independent and Peaceful Australia Network
  • Marrickville Peace Group
  • Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
  • Pacific Small Arms Action Group (PSAAG)
  • Paddle Now
  • Pax Christi Aotearoa, New Zealand
  • Peace Movement Aotearoa
  • SafeGround Inc
  • Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Northern Monthly Meeting in Aotearoa/New Zealand
  • Te Hāhi Tuhauwiri, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Victoria Regional Meeting of Quakers
  • West Papua Support Dunedin
  • White Poppies for Peace Aotearoa New Zealand

This letter has also been supported by the City of Fremantle, Australia.