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IPPNW Joins Nobel Laureates Panel at United Nations ATT Meeting

February 14, 2012

Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, former president of Costa Rica with IPPNW's co-president, Dr. Robert Mtonga.

“Listen to your doctor – we can achieve a strong and humanitarian-based ATT,” were Dr. Bob Mtonga’s closing words as he joined Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez and others on a Nobel Laureates side panel today at the ATT talks.

In 1997 Dr. Arias, former president of Costa Rica, convened in New York a group of Nobel Peace prize winners, including IPPNW, to call for an International Code of Conduct on arms trade to stem the tide of injuries and death from unregulated arms flow. Another speaker today who also attended that same meeting was Susan Waltz, Amnesty International US board member. The Albert Schweitzer Institute was also at the meeting nearly 15 years ago, and was represented today by David Ives, the current Executive Director.

Dr. Arias began his address entitled ” TRAVELER, YOUR FOOTSTEPS ARE THE ROAD” with these moving words:

“I have been asked to join you today to discuss the balance between the ambition and implementability of this treaty; the balance between ideals and reality; the balance between hopes for peace, and national interests. The no man’s land between dream and deed is well known to me, as it must be to any lifelong public servant, or anyone who spends his life in the pursuit of peace. Successfully traversing its rocky terrain requires hard decisions, faith, and good luck. There is no marked path, no signposts, no map to show you the way. The best description of it is found in the words of the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado, who wrote: “Caminante, no hay camino… Traveler, your footsteps are the road, nothing more; traveler, there is no path except the one you make by walking. As you walk you make the road, and when you look back, you see the trail where you’ll never again set foot.”

He then went on to speak about the years-long journey to bring the ATT to its current incarnation, and the challenges ahead. His full speech can be found here.”

Ms. Waltz called for forging an ATT based on the highest common international standards. “The text to be negotiated over the next several months will serve as a moral guidepost as well as legal restraint, and what is at stake here is a moral imperative,” said Waltz. She then outlined how human rights and humanitarian law must act as moral touchstones for the ATT, the need for a comprehensive treaty covering all weaponry, and the need for a guarantee of transparency reagrding arms exchanges.

Bob Mtonga addressed the public health aspects of an ATT, how public health approaches can be employed to prevent armed violence, and reviewed some of IPPNW’s initiatives in this area including our Aiming for Prevention program. He provided compelling testimony about his experiences treating victims of armed violence.

David Ives closed with comments about Dr. Schweitzer’s philosophy of reverence for life, and how a strong ATT would be the epitome of this.

The panel was chaired by Ambassador Eduardo Ulibarri of Costa Rica. It was attended by several hundred, a generally unprecedented amount for a UN side event. Tomorrow IPPNW will present its own side event, as the number of signatories on our Medical Alert for a Strong ATT nears the 1000 mark from over 50 countries.

  1. February 14, 2012 7:09 pm

    Sign petition to stop ICBM launch!
    from Rick Wayman Director of Programs & Operations (805) 965-3443 I wanted to send out a reminder that there is a petition opposing the launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base on February 25. This petition is backed by many groups that are part of UFPJ. Not much has happened yet with this petition – we are only at around 200 signatures. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will be doing an action alert to our members later this month (but before the test). I encourage you to spread the word about this petition among your contacts and members. The online petition is available at There is also a paper version available for you to download and print at Please contact me at if you have any questions. Thanks Rick Wayman and MacGregor Eddy

  2. February 14, 2012 6:10 pm

    It was a moving speech by Dr Arias Sanchez. Dr Bob Mtonga’s closing remarks stirred up the much needed response from the listeners. It’s been great participating in the ATT talks.

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