@ControlArms joins disarmament NGOs in “making the path” at campaigning summit

October 22 2012, 9:26 AM by Lorey Campese

Global civil society seems to have taken its cue from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, who once wrote, “Traveler, there is no road; you make your own path as you walk.”

We were reminded of these words in a speech by Ambassador Dhanapala this weekend, as part of the “Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Summit” held in New York. Convened by Human Rights Watch, the two day meeting brought together individuals working across a number of disarmament and arms control issues to address the big question of how civil society can work together to collectively advance disarmament through multilateral processes. Through interactive break-out sessions over 80 participants were able to share experiences, challenges, practical advice, and ideas for future collaboration. Each session generated a list of lessons learned and action points. A communique with the outcomes of the Summit have been compiled and will be submitted to Angela Kane, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

The Summit took place as part of the 20th anniversary of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a global coalition whose incredible success in banning landmines is often held up as a model for other campaigns and studied by academics. When the ICBL was formed, ‘transnational issue networks’ were few and far between and NGOs had little access to meeting rooms or decision making processes.

Their actions made a path for other groups to follow. Subsequent campaigns have each added to that path, with various twists and turns along the way. But no matter what road has been taken, the goal of a more secure and humane world with fewer weapons remains our common destination.

It is this point that, more than any other, the Summit underscored for me. It is too rare that organizations that focus on disarmament and arms control issues come together in one room to break out of the narrow silos in which we work. Emerging campaigns on killer robots and abolishing nuclear weapons learned from the successes of those who have banned landmines and cluster bombs. Those of us advocating for an Arms Trade Treaty or a ban on uranium weapons took inspiration to continue fighting. We were energized with a lot of laughter – and much coffee! – while also acknowledging some of the serious challenges that the NGO sector faces in its pursuit of human security.

But this is only a beginning. Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch made the point in his closing speech that, “We are more powerful through our unity.” The benefits of closer and more regular NGO collaboration across security issues are manifold. Let’s make it happen.

Written by Allison Pytlak, Campaign and Communications Coordinator, Control Arms

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