Congress Advances Peace Toolbox, Bans Cluster Bomb Exports, Funds Loose Nuke Cleanup

For immediate release
Washington, D.C.
March 11, 2009

Congress and President Obama took strides this week to fund peacebuilding, permanently ban cluster bomb exports, and clean up loose nuclear weapons. These successes are the result of many years of lobbying by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and its colleague organizations.

The provisions on peacebuilding, cluster bombs, and nuclear weapons were approved as part of the omnibus spending bill passed by senators this week. The House passed similar legislation on February 25th. President Obama signed the bill today.

Peacebuilding: The bill approves $75 million dollars for the State Department's civilian response corps, a program championed by FCNL. A strong civilian response corps will give the United a team of skilled civilians who can rapidly deploy to rebuild war-torn states or prevent weak states from collapsing. The spending bill also provides funds to fill 500 vacant positions at U.S. embassies around the world.

Cluster Bombs: In a key victory for arms control advocates, the spending bill permanently bans U.S.export of most types of cluster bombs. "This measure will end the U.S. practice of peddling these dangerous and ineffective weapons," said Lora Lumpe, FCNL lobbyist and coordinator of U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs. "It is a sign that the nation could soon follow the lead of over half the world's countries, who have agreed to end their use of the bombs."

Nuclear Weapons: Just as Congress decided to rein in the U.S. use of cluster bombs, it also provided unprecedented funds to clean up loose nuclear weapons. Hundreds of tons of nuclear weapons materials are stored inadequately in Russia and as many as 20 other countries. The $400 million approved by Congress in the omnibus bill will be devoted to cleaning up this radioactive material so that it cannot fall into the hands of violent extremist groups. "These funds are a significant victory for global security and will help end the reign of nuclear weapons in the world," reported David Culp, head of the Quaker Nuclear Disarmament Program.

While these successes represent tremendous advances towards building a more peaceful world, more work remains to be done in all three areas. FCNL will continue to lobby Congress in the coming weeks to fill the remaining positions at U.S. embassies, ban the U.S. use of cluster bombs as well as their export, and advance nuclear disarmament through the U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

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