Arms Trade Treaty – It’s time to tango

Chair says "let's tango". China says "let's abandon our efforts".

It is the day we have been waiting for. The day civil society has been working towards for decades, and many governments for six years. For some of us, with the way negotiations have progressed so far, we weren't sure that it was going to come.

But it did. Ambassador Moritan, presiding over the Arms Trade Treaty talks, presented the draft treaty text at 10.30am on the 24th July, less than three short days before the deadline for the end of negotiations.

There’s precious little time left for negotiation and communication with capitols, where the political decision makers ultimately decide whether or not their delegations here in NYC will be able to support the Treaty or must block it.

So, lets tango!

After giving delegates a few hours to go away and analyse the text Moritan re-opened the talks by… challenging the assembled world Governments to tango!

My only regret is that music didn't start pumping in through the translation microphones and a massive flash mob started off. That wouldn't have helped progress negotiations but might have lightened the heavy mood in the room somewhat.

"Tango", Moritan began, "needs good timing, from the embrace to the end, there has to be a sensuality to it. To make it easier for this to happen is the music, the melody, that helps bring about the sensuality with the couple to get with the feeling that comes from the music and the lyrics. The man and women change their behaviour so the two bodies can be accommodated."

Moritan's analogies are legendary, at a previous prep committee we heard negotiations being compared to the process of making an omelette. But the tango one is my favourite so far. He continued...

"Every dance doesn't follow the same pattern of conduct, every melody, every letter, generates a type of dancing that is different.

Another thing with dancing is that there are sensual moments, happy moments and euphoric moments. There are silent moments, and grandiose endings. It occurs to me that a great deal of the work we have ahead in the coming days is a matter of accommodating our national positions in a common way so we can leave the hall with a reasonable amount of joyfulness."

And with that, he opened up for discussion.

The floor responds

The big players all made their voices heard, with over 70 states requesting the floor. The US remained adamant that ammunition has no place in the Treaty.  The Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, the UK and many others challenged that directly, saying it was essential.

China made the longest statement I have ever heard them deliver. They highlighted their flexibility around the inclusion of provisions around international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

But they laid down a marker - unless this flexibility is rewarded with explicit mentions of the non-interference with state sovereignty principle then we may as well "abandon our efforts to achieve consensus on the Arms Trade Treaty".

They also think the battle on ammunition is over, and that consensus will not be reached on whether or not it should be included.

As I file this, the discussion is still going. We've already met with dozens of Governments to discuss the new paper, and to let them know what works and what doesn't.

The next few days are going to be tough, powerful forces are at play. It is vital that the supporters of a strong Treaty continue to make their voices heard. Please email the UK government and tell them to stand firm on human rights

Perhaps I should look into getting that music I mentioned earlier pumped in here, and see what a dance or two does to the mood, what do you think? Shall we tango? 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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