The ARMS DOWN! Campaign for Shared Security concludes its first phase with more than 20 million signatures
Young leaders from the world’s great religious traditions convened in New York on 4 October to deliver a petition signed by more than 20 million people from 140 countries to H.E. Mr. Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, United Nations Secretary-General’s High Representative for Disarmament. The petition calls on all governments to officially pledge to cut their military budgets by 10% and re-allocate those funds toward development.
The event—co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations—was the culmination of the first phase of the Arms Down! Campaign for Shared Security and took place at the Diplomat Ballroom of the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, where nearly 300 guestsgathered, including religious and civil society leaders, representatives of United Nations Member States, and international youth leaders.
Eduardo Ulibarri, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations; Rev. Kosho Niwano, President-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, representing Rev. Nichiko Niwano, Co-President of Religions for Peace; Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace;Honorable Madam Ela Gandhi, Founder of the Gandhi Development Trust and Honorary President of Religions for Peace; Ms. Stellamaris Ndinda Mulaeh, Chairperson of theReligions for Peace International Youth Committee and Youth Representative of the Religions for Peace World Council; and Mr. Lawrence Chong, member of the International Youth Committee ofReligions for Peace and Asian Moderator for the Religions for Peace Asia-Pacific Youth Network; spoke during the ceremony.
Along with the ceremony, a series of meetings were held from 3-5 October for both International Youth Committee Members and the youth who have actively contributed to the campaign. At the meetings, youth presented Arms Down! activities and accomplishments in their region and discussed the next phase in advancing the Arms Down! campaign.
As a result of their enthusiasm and commitment, it was decided that Arms Down! will continue past its original end-date and continue into a second phase of campaigning that will be marked by increased advocacy.
The Arms Down! Campaign was initiated in November 2009 by the Global Youth Network ofReligions for Peace and it has three goals: (1) to abolish nuclear weapons; (2) to stop the proliferation and misuse of conventional weapons; and (3) to reduce military expenditure by 10% to make the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) possible by 2015.
“For the world to be successful in accomplishing MDGs by 2015, efforts should be strengthened, resources allocated, and decisions wisely taken and implemented,” said Eduardo Ulibarri, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations. “One of those decisions should be the reduction of military budgets.”
In 2009, global military spending reached 1.6 trillion USD, perpetuating the maintenance, proliferation and use of weapons that take lives each day. At the same time, billions of people continue to live in grave poverty. The Arms Down! Campaign was a direct response to the dramatic inequality in spending priorities.
“We don’t want a repetition of the disaster of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of a repetition is there as long nuclear weapons exist. We need to build a culture of non-violence,” stated Honorable Madam Ela Gandhi, Founder of the Gandhi Development Trust and Honorary President of Religions for Peace.
The Campaign received the strong support of Heads of State such as the Presidents of Costa Rica, Nepal and Rwanda; the Prime Minister of Japan; the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and more than 3,000 other cities; and nearly 200 Parliamentarians.
Prominent religious leaders from different traditions such as the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Pope Shenouda III, Rabbi Rosen of Israel, and the Supreme Patriarch of Tendai Buddhism, supported the Campaign and signed the petition.
Approximately 400 national, regional, and international partner organizations participated in the Campaign.
To support these goals, the youth took action all around the world. More than 10,000 active leaders and campaigners emerged from more than 200 multi-religious trainings, consultations and campaign advocacy actions. Youth-led multi-religious actions and petition collection were undertaken even in countries and regions affected by conflict, including Palestine and Israel; tribal areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Mindanao, Philippines; Sri Lanka; and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Today, as never before, we need a multi-stakeholder partnership to break the link between arms and poverty. We need religious communities, governments, the United Nations, business and every other sector of civil society to cooperate to break this ugly link,” said Dr. Vendley.
The petition presented to the High Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General during the ceremony urged the Secretary General, H.E Ban Ki-moon, to work with Member States to honor their obligations to disarmament for development and create a safer world for all.
“Disarmament and non-proliferation are essential not simply for international peace and security, but across the international agenda,” said H.E Ban Ki-moon in a message delivered by H.E. Mr. Duarte. “They can foster confidence among nations and strengthen regional and international stability. They are integral to realizing the vision of the United Nations Charter.”
VIEW REMARKS FROM THE CEREMONY:
Message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: http://www.armsdown.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/remarksfrommoon.pdf
Message from President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla Miranda: http://www.armsdown.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Message-from-Costa-Rican-President.pdf
Remarks from Ambassador Ulibarri: http://www.armsdown.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Ambassador-Ulibarri-remarks.pdf