Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Open Letter on COVID-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns signed on to the following open letter in June 2020.

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.”

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
Centre for Armed Violence Reduction
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)
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
United Methodist Church–General Board of Church and Society
Veterans For Peace
Vision GRAM-International
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
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)
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)
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
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
Bolivian Women’s Efforts
Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas
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
Mines Action Canada
Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Pax Christi Northern California
Peace Action
Peace Education Center
Peace Resource Center, Wilmington College
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)
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)
Students Taking an Active Role in Society (STARS) USA
World Federalist Movement–Canada

Asia:

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
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)
Women for Peace and Democracy Nepal

Europe:

Állítsuk meg a Gyilkos Robotokat
Associació d’Estudiants de Ciències de la Salut
Associazione Culturale Il Villaggio di Esteban
Associazione Nazionale Vittime Civili di Guerra
Campagna Italiana Contro le Mine
Changemaker Norway
Comisión General Justicia y Paz
Den Internasjonale Kampanjen for å Avskaffe Atomvåpen (ICAN) Norge
Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland
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)
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)
Organization of Amputees UDAS
Pax Christi Flanders
Pax Christi Italy
Pax Christi München
Pax Christi Scotland
PeaceLink
Pressenza–International Press Agency
Rete Antirazzista Catanese
Rete Italiana delle Donne in Nero
Rete Italiana per il Disarmo
Sadankomitea (Committee of 100 in Finland)
Secure Scotland
Scientists for Global Responsibility
Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society
UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities
Women in Black Vienna

Middle East:

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
Christians for Peace Newcastle Australia
Disarmament and Security Centre
Foundation for Peace Studies Aotearoa/New Zealand
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
Victoria Regional Meeting of Quakers