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Nobel Peace Laureates Call upon Obama to Help Secure Arms Trade Treaty

March 14, 2013

As negotiators from around the world head to New York for the final talks on an international Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations next week, US President Barack Obama must take the lead in securing a strong global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a group of 18 Nobel Peace Prize winners said in an open letter delivered to their fellow Laureate at the White House today.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Amnesty International, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leymah Gbowee, and Oscar Arias are among the Nobel Laureate signatories, who include leaders on human rights, humanitarian and disarmament issues from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa.

The letter was delivered ahead of talks starting on March 18 at the U.N. in New York to conclude negotiations on an historic treaty aimed at bringing the poorly regulated global arms trade under control.

“The US and other arms supplier states have both a moral duty and a national security interest to help achieve [a strong] Treaty in order to protect human rights and save the lives of innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of conflicts fuelled by the irresponsible international conventional weapons trade,” the Nobel Laureates said in the letter.

“We cannot accept the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are gunned down each year, with millions left maimed and traumatized,” they continued.

The international trade in conventional arms – worth well more than $70 billion annually – fuels conflict, violence, and serious violations of human rights, with devastating effects on health, security, and sustainable social and economic development.

The current absence of legally binding international rules to strictly regulate the global trade in conventional arms represents a “colossal failure” of the international community, according to the letter.

“As an African physician, I have seen too much personal human suffering from gun violence. Multiplied worldwide, the unregulated arms trade results in a global public health catastrophe,” said Dr. Robert Mtonga, co-president of the IPPNW, awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. 

“A strong Arms Trade Treaty will be a huge step forward in preventing further unnecessary injury and death from armed violence. President Obama’s support will enhance the prospects for achieving this urgent humanitarian agreement.”

As the world's largest arms exporter, the USA, under Obama, is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in delivering a strong treaty.

“International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War participated in the historic 1997 meeting in New York of a small group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, convened by Oscar Arias, who called for an International Code of Conduct on arms trade that would benefit all of humanity,” said Dr. Catherine Thomasson, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the US affiliate of IPPNW.

Dr. Thomasson delivered the Nobel letter to White House National Security officials today along with colleagues from the faith community, celebrities and retired generals also calling on President Obama to support a robust ATT. “After 15 long years and millions killed, maimed or traumatized by gun violence, we are hopeful that this month the world’s countries will make history and finally enact a humanitarian-based Arms Trade Treaty,” concluded Dr. Thomasson.


The 18 Nobel Peace Laureates who co-signed the letter are: Leymah Gbowee (2011); Tawakkol Karman (2011); Shirin Ebadi (2003); Jimmy Carter (2002); John Hume (1998); Jody Williams (1997); International Campaign to Ban Landmines (1997); Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (1995); Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992); Óscar Arias Sánchez (1987); International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (1985); Desmond Mpilo Tutu (1984); Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980); Amnesty International (1977); Mairead Corrigan Maguire (1976); Betty Williams (1976); American Friends Service Committee (1947); International Peace Bureau (1910).

Contact: Michael Christ, Executive Director, IPPNW
617-440-1733 x 307

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