Churches criticise government for failure to progress on disarmament

By agency reporter
1 May 2014

The leaders of the Baptist Union, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church are pushing the government to make progress on disarmament at the Non Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting in New York this week. They are concerned that the UK government has failed to live up to commitments made at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2010.

Steve Hucklesby, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, is part of a World Council of Churches delegation attending the PrepCom meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The delegation will meet with representatives of governments around the world. "The UK's report outlining four years' work is woefully thin," he said. "Our government appears happy to talk about a commitment to encouraging progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons but then acts against some of the most promising initiatives."

Leaders of seven UK Churches wrote to William Hague, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in March outlining a series of missed opportunities for progress on promises made in 2010. The UK Government boycotted the Oslo and Nayarit inter-governmental conferences, held last year and earlier this year, on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In his letter to Church leaders, William Hague said: "We concluded that the objectives of the (Oslo and Nayarit) conferences were at best unclear and that many supporters of the conferences appeared to have as their goal a nuclear weapons convention or other treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons outright."

In response to William Hague's letter, Steve Hucklesby said: "There is no adequate explanation from the Secretary of State as to why an examination of the relationship between nuclear weapons and International Humanitarian Law is such a concern to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Oslo and Nayarit conferences did not focus solely on the disarmament agenda; such conferences have the potential to strengthen the Treaty as a whole. The NPT has been the cornerstone of efforts to constrain non-proliferation for decades, but it will be under threat unless the nuclear weapons' states take their responsibilities seriously."

The Rev Dr Michael Jagessar, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, said: "The possession of chemical and biological weapons is banned by international treaties and the same should apply to nuclear weapons. While states continue to invest billions in nuclear weapons there remains the risk of a nuclear disaster either by accident or design. Our Churches have long maintained that security policies based on the terror of a catastrophic nuclear explosion are both unreliable and unethical; that nuclear weapons offer more insecurity, fear, and a threat to life; that true peace will not be found in a climate of fear; and that the only ultimate protection against nuclear weapons is their total elimination."

[Ekk/4]

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