Arms Trade Treaty
(July 2012)
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Ethics and Arms Trade

Fr.Paul Lansu

Pax Christi International and its Member Organisations have an important role to play leading up to negotiations of a global treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade in 2012. Key human rights obligations must be embedded in the treaty and Pax Christi member organisations should advocate together, on the basis of faith and ethics.

Pax Christi International promotes sustainable security, rooted in justice and emancipation. The movement offers a forum at which the major global security issues can be analysed and discussed. As an international network, Pax Christi presents strategies and campaigns with regards to weapons of war and their effects upon human security.

Pax Christi International is set on the elimination of all weapons production. In order to ensure the security of human beings now and in the future, Pax Christi believes that it is imperative that the production and distribution of arms be reduced as much as possible.

To make this feasible, international and nonviolent security strategies and resources must be strengthened and further developed. This means the creation of binding and enforceable multi-lateral treaties with regards to all aspects of the weapons industry. Our efforts at establishing such treaties currently focus on the Arms Trade Treaty.

The arms industry is a massive global industry which manufactures and sells weapons and military technology and equipment. Defence companies produce arms mainly for the armed forces of states. Products include guns, ammunition, missiles, military aircraft, military vehicles, ships, electronic systems, and more. The arms industry also conducts significant research and development projects.

The international community must immediately adopt a global Arms Trade Treaty, as it is desperately needed now. The Treaty would create legally binding arms control and ensure that all governments control arms to basic and uniform international standards. In short, it would help stop weapons falling into the hands of indiscriminate killers and human rights abusers.

Sanctify Of Human Life And Of All Life

The point of departure between the fundamental premise of Christian faith and the basic problem of armaments is the sanctity of human life and of all life. i We believe humankind was created in nothing less than the image of God. To be created in the image of God means that we all must treat this manifested image with dignity and respect, as God asks us to protect and love one another. Armed violence and illicit weapons that kill and maim people is not some unfortunate by-product of a lucrative commerce in arms. In the larger scheme of life, protecting this sanctity and dignity of life is a central standard for judging the legitimacy of that commerce and human rights law makes such judgments possible.

To live without the threat of arms resonates both within the vision of peace contained in sacred texts of all major religions, as well as with the principles of customary law that prohibits the threat or use of force in international relations. It also speaks to governments themselves, which we believe are responsible for establishing frameworks of security, and therefore regulations for what is allowed and what is not in service of the common good.

For us, the rule of law includes the rules-based resolution of conflict and control of all weapons which may be used in conflict. Governments have this unique role – within their societies and amongst the nations. Under these high standards and clear constraints, many of our Pax Christi Member Organisations recognize a government monopoly on the use of force. And the “human” in human rights retains its precedence during that use of force.

There is a broad and unshakeable basis for including human rights in the Arms Trade Treaty. International human rights movements have the distinction now, after 50 years of development and application, of becoming what was once said “the only political-moral idea that has received universal acceptance.” These “rights” express the moral responsibility charged to us by Holy Scriptures to protect the life of our sisters and brothers and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

The United Nations Charter, nine universal human rights treaties, and 100 other international treaties attest to that judgement. 192 United Nations Member States apply human rights law to state activities. State activity includes the authorization of arms transfers. In the patchwork of regional and other existing arms transfer control agreements which the Treaty is intended to repair, expand, and affirm, the majority contain human rights standards. Hopefully, the votes during development of the Treaty will uphold the same commitment.

Morality expressed in international human rights law protects those who need it most. In this is an insight useful for deliberation on how to bridge these rights into a strong and effective Treaty. When it comes to rights, the voice of a representative majority is crucial. The voice of the less powerful, less wealthy, and less dominant states will be the surest guide for bringing human rights into the Treaty. Again, people whose hearts are open to others as their equals will not be surprised. From the Christian tradition, it is the least among us, the marginalized and the impoverished, who are considered not to have power. They are the ones to be heard; the voice of what justice and mercy require of us all.

Small arms and light weapons have been called the “weapon of mass destruction of the poor.” These arms kill, injure, and tear apart families and communities across the world. They prolong armed conflicts and fuel poverty. But unlike the trade in other items, like food or drugs, the trade in arms and ammunition is not subject to any international regulation.

Social Teaching of the Catholic Church

Appropriate measures are needed to control the production, sale, importation and exportation of small and light armaments that facilitate many violent outbreaks.

The sale and trafficking of such weapons constitute a serious threat to peace. These arms kill and are used, for the most part, in civil and regional conflicts. Their availability increases both the risk of creating new conflicts and increasing the intensity of those already occurring. States that apply severe controls on the international transfer of heavy arms but rarely restrict the sale and trafficking of small arms and light weapons is an unacceptable contradiction. It is indispensable and urgent that governments adopt appropriate measures to control the production, stockpiling, sale, and trafficking of such arms in order to stop their growing proliferation, in large part among groups of combatants that are not part of the military forces of a state.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. ii

The Catholic Church’s social teaching views peace as much more than simply the absence of war. Peace-making is viewed as a positive activity: “the fruit of anxious daily care for justice” (Pope Paul VI). Church teachings represent a challenge to many contemporary attitudes and assumptions.

The Church’s position on war is clear - "War is not inevitable and should, apart from the immediate right of self-defence within strict just war limits, have no place in the resolution of conflict today. We should work through the United Nations and use all the other nonviolent methods available to resolve conflicts. The rights of conscientious objectors must be respected."

The Church describes the arms trade as “a serious disorder” highlighting the disparity between global military expenditure and the real needs of the poor as a scandal. The Church calls us all to be peacemakers, building a culture of peace based on justice, which is central to the message of the Gospel.

The International Arms Trade. An Ethical Reflection iii

Most arms are transferred from one state to another. Therefore, the prime responsibility for the control of these transfers falls squarely on the state. As urgent and necessary as these national means of control may be, they are inadequate, because the phenomenon is, buy nature, transnational. While existing international treaties forbid the transfer of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons iv , similar treaty parties do not regulate the transfer of conventional weapons. Both governments and international organizations have long been conscious of this anomaly.

A transfer of arms has moral consequences. Each person brings into play a series of political, strategic and economic interests that at times converge, at others diverge. In each case, there are specific moral consequences. The illicitness of the transfer – be it by sale, purchase or any other means – can only be determined if all the conditioning factors are taken into account.

Arms can never in any way be treated like other traded goods. While the possession of arms can serve as a deterrent, arms also have finality. There is, in actual fact, a close and in dissociable relationship between arms and violence. It is because of this relationship that arms can never be treated like ordinary commercial goods. Similarly, no economic interest can of itself justify their production or transfer.

The ultimate guide for any regulation of the arms trade is the dignity of the human person. Everyone – including governments and decision-makers in the arms industry – must commit themselves to this. Public opinion acts as a dynamic force which supports and anticipates the creation of government programmes and regulations.

“In many parts of the world, the illicit trade of weapons and ammunition has led to human suffering, internal conflicts, civil unrest, human rights violations, humanitarian crises, crime, violence and terror. In fact, the international community is confronted with irresponsible arms deals in several places around the globe. Although an eclectic set of national and regional control measures on arms transfers exists, the global trade in conventional weapons — from warships and battle tanks to fighter jets and machine guns — remains unregulated in the absence of a set of internationally-agreed standards. Therefore, the Holy See has participated in the negotiations on the Treaty from the very beginning.” v

-Holy See, July 2011.

“The international community needs a strong, credible, effective and concrete legal instrument so as to improve transparency in arms trade, promote the adoption of common criteria for arms trade control and establish a binding legal framework for regulating the trade of conventional weapons and munitions as well as the trading and licensing of technologies for their production.” vi

-Holy See, July 2011.

“Moreover, arms cannot simply be compared with other goods exchanged in global or domestic markets. The quest for a world more respectful of the dignity of human person and the value of human life must be the founding principle of the Arms Trade Treaty. Viewed from this perspective, the international community requires a strong, effective and credible legal instrument that is capable of regulating and improving transparency in the trade of conventional arms and munitions, including the trading and licensing of technologies for their production.” vii

-Holy See on Arms Trade Treaty United Nations, 13th of February 2012

“It is a scandal that enormous amounts of money are spent on military budgets and toward providing weapons for allies and the arms trade while this money is urgently needed to eradicate poverty around the globe, and to fund an ecologically and socially responsible reorientation of the world economy. We urge the governments of this world to take immediate action to redirect their financial resources to programmes that foster life rather than death. We encourage the churches to adopt common strategies toward transforming economies. The churches must address more effectively irresponsible concentration of power and wealth as well as the disease of corruption. Steps toward just and sustainable economies include more effective rules for the financial market, the introduction of taxes on financial transactions and just trade relationships.” viii

-Message International Ecumenical Peace Convocation World Council of Churches, May 2011.

“To respect the sanctity of life and build peace among peoples, churches must work to strengthen international human rights law as well as treaties and instruments of mutual accountability and conflict resolution. To prevent deadly conflicts and mass killings, the proliferation of small arms and weapons of war must be stopped and reversed. Churches must build trust and collaborate with other communities of faith and people of different worldviews to reduce national capacities for waging war, eliminate weapons that put humanity and the planet at unprecedented risk, and generally delegitimize the institution of war.”

-Just Peace Companion, World Council of Churches ix