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International affairs, peace
and human security

  • New York UN liaison office
  • History
  • 2004 WCC UN Advocacy Week
  • 2003 WCC UN Advocacy Week


    “Truth, justice and peace together represent values basic to granting of human rights, inclusion and reconciliation. When these values are ignored, trust is replaced by fear and human power no longer serves the gift of life and the sanctity and dignity of all in creation.

    The WCC needs ... to serve as a shared platform for advocacy and making the voices of the churches heard in relation to the international mechanisms and constituencies that are actors on the global arena.”

    - Harare 1998, WCC 8th assembly

    WCC staff and speakers at a seminar during the 2003 International Affairs and Advocacy Week in NYC on "Peace and International Law in Israel and Palestine"

    The WCC Church and Society conference in 1966 said:

    The UN is the best structure now available through which to pursue the goals of international peace and justice. Like all institutions it is not sacrosanct and many changes are necessary in its Charter to meet the needs of the world today. Nevertheless we call upon the churches of the world to defend it against all attacks which would weaken or destroy it and to seek out and advocate ways in which it can be transformed into an instrument fully capable of ensuring the peace and guaranteeing justice on a world-wide scale.

    On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Charter, the Central Committee (Geneva 1995) reaffirmed the WCC’s dedication to the principles and purposes of the charter and the central role of the United Nations in the conduct of international relations, in safeguarding the international rule of law, and in the elaboration of norms and standards governing international behavior for the benefit of the whole of humankind and the global environment.

    The Central Committee went on, however, to express its deep concern about trends in the UN which have diverted it from aspirations expressed in the Preamble to the Charter, and thus erode public confidence; (and to call) for UN reform which would assure full participation in effective decision-making by all member states, redressing the present situation which tends to relegate small, less powerful, and economically deprived nations to subsidiary roles in the formation and implementation of international policy.

    The 1995 review of WCC relations with the UN drew a series of important conclusions, among them:

    The WCC has its own agenda. We must be attentive to UN and other international developments in setting that agenda, but then develop relationships with the UN system in a way which responds to our own priorities in a way which guards against being diverted from them or coopted by others.

    A part of that agenda is to promote effective instruments of global governance. It has, therefore, a responsibility to inform and encourage member churches and related movements in their efforts to improve the UN system and to make it more responsive to the needs of peoples. Here, the CCIA UN Headquarters Liaison Office has a special role to play.

    The WCC should make effective use of those UN mechanisms to which it has access to pressure governments to comply with international norms and standards, such as those on human rights. In this process, the WCC should support and enable partners to represent their own interests in appropriate UN forums.

    When special events, such as world conferences, can be expected to result in constructive new policies or commitments by governments and the international community that have a direct relationship to the ecumenical agenda, the WCC should use them as a stimulus to help the churches articulate their own analysis and recommendations. One goal is obviously to influence the international agenda. But another valid one is to use such occasions for capacity building of the churches and other partners, and building more effective relationships with others who share our goals. A commitment to engage in such a process requires a commitment to help shape the agenda of such events from the earliest stages of preparation.

    The impact of the WCC on the UN agenda can often be maximized through select involvement with other non-governmental organizations and coordinating bodies.

    There is the need for clear priority setting for ecumenical involvement with the UN. It cannot, nor should it pretend to relate to the whole range of issues addressed by the UN. It must relate selectively, in relationship to its own programme priorities. Experience shows that day-to-day cooperation with selected specialized agencies and programme bodies are generally more effective than less focused involvements.

    The WCC functions in relationship to the UN as a non-governmental organization through the CCIA's formal relationship with the Economic and Social Council and several Specialized Agencies, and through other relationships maintained by other programmes of the Council. Indeed, the WCC may well be the largest, and most representative, in geographical terms, of the international NGOs, and possibly one of those closest to local realities. This is a necessary role for the churches, and one often highly appreciated by partners in the UN.

    The WCC should not, however, restrict its role vis-à-vis the UN to that of an NGO. It has a broader responsibility to the world of nations to give voice to ethical, moral and spiritual perspectives which must undergird international relations.

    In general, WCC relations with the UN should be viewed in the light of how we might use the instruments it provides to achieve the ecumenical vision of a just and peaceful world. In this way, it becomes not an extra burden, but part of the total work of the Council.








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