April 4, 2013
I just flew from SE Asia to the Middle East, two regions that have been the scenes of violence – much of it involving my country, the US – for most of my lifetime. Sitting in my Istanbul hotel, looking out on this historic city, I am relieved to read that the global arms trade treaty was approved by the UN General Assembly on April 2, 2013. The first treaty of its type, it seeks to regulate the $70 billion international business in conventional arms, ranging from light weapons to battle tanks and warships.
The voting results highlight two interesting facts: The 155 votes in favor prove that the vast majority of countries are striving for a peaceful world and an end to the conflicts here in the Middle East and elsewhere. The 3 votes against, from Syria, Iran, and North Korea, tell us that we must come up with creative approaches to deal with the few nations that seem determined to undermine the peace process.
The US has a long history of blocking efforts at regulating weapons – including the strong opposition within our own boarders to gun control. My recent travels to Vietnam and Myanmar and now in the Middle East have once again been strong reminders of the role the US has played in fomenting wars in so many parts of the world and in using weapons like land mines and agent orange in ways that to me are totally unconscionable. By signing and promoting this arms treaty, the Obama Administration has taken a bold and laudable step in a new direction; he has positioned the US as a leader along a path to world peace.
If this treaty is implemented effectively, it will make a real difference for people everywhere. It will reduce the flow of arms and ammunition that fuels wars. Binding requirements for cross-border arms contracts are a major move toward ensuring that arms will not be used in human rights abuses, terrorism or violations of humanitarian law. In addition to its legal implications, this treaty is also a clear message that the majority of UN countries are committed to trying to find the path to peace.
I signed a letter to President Obama thanking him for his part in making this treaty a reality. And I added a note that I hope his administration will do everything in its power to reduce – rather than inflame – tensions in Korea, Iran, and Syria. During my travels, I constantly hear from the citizens of other countries that the world looks to the US for leadership. In this time of nuclear and chemical weapons that threaten to destroy our very existence on this planet, there is nothing more important than leading a global movement to peace. Let us praise President Obama and encourage him to keep doing more.
April 8-10, 2013:
LEWIS & CLARK COLLEGE SYMPOSIUM
Counsel Chambers, Templeton Building
0615 SW Palatine Hill Road
Portland, OR 97219
April 20, 2013:
GREEN FESTIVAL, New York City
Javits Convention Center, New York City
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