Church leaders: "The UK government has missed opportunities to make progress on disarmament"

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

Steve Hucklesby, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, is partof a World Council of Churches delegation attending the PrepCommeeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Thedelegation will meet with representatives of governments around theworld. "The UK's report outlining four years' work is woefullythin," he said. "Our government appears happy to talk about acommitment to encouraging progress towards a world free of nuclearweapons but then acts against some of the most promisinginitiatives."

Leaders of seven UK Churches wrote to William Hague, the Secretaryof State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in March outlining aseries of missed opportunities for progress on promises made in2010. The UK Government boycotted the Oslo and Nayaritinter-governmental conferences, held last year and earlier thisyear, on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In hisletter to Church leaders, William Hague said: "We concluded thatthe objectives of the (Oslo and Nayarit) conferences were at bestunclear and that many supporters of the conferences appeared tohave as their goal a nuclear weapons convention or other treatyprohibiting nuclear weapons outright."

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

The Revd Dr Michael Jagessar, Moderator of the General Assembly ofthe United Reformed Church, said: "The possession of chemical andbiological weapons is banned by international treaties and the sameshould apply to nuclear weapons. While states continue to investbillions in nuclear weapons there remains the risk of a nucleardisaster either by accident or design. Our Churches have longmaintained that security policies based on the terror of acatastrophic nuclear explosion are both unreliable and unethical;that nuclear weapons offer more insecurity, fear, and a threat tolife; that true peace will not be found in a climate of fear; andthat the only ultimate protection against nuclear weapons is theirtotal elimination."



1. For more information, please contact Karen Burke.
2. To read the UK's NPT Review Conference report, click here.
3. Read JPIT on "Towards a world without nuclear weapons" here.