An Arms Trade Treaty is coming. Not today, but it is coming
Update 7 November 2012 - An Arms Trade Treaty one step closer after resounding UN vote
The 2012 UN General Assembly has seen the biggest showing of support for the Treaty yet - 157 governments have voted in favour of a final negotiating conference next March. Find out more about the vote
We're optimistic we can still get a Treaty that saves thousands lives and improves many more, but it can only do so if it rules out transfers where there is risk that they would directly contribute to human rights abuses.
A month of negotiations for the first ever Arms Trade Treaty has ended at the UN with a reasonably strong draft text and a second chance. We came so close to getting the Treaty we have all worked so hard for but at the last minute the US said they needed more time and led the way for sceptical countries to stall the process. It is far from over.
The UN meets again in October and then we won’t need consensus – just a majority. There is a lot to do before then to keep up the pressure but we remain optimistic we can get a Treaty that protects human rights and saves lives.
Here our campaigner Verity, who has been at the UN battling for the Treaty, reflects on the last day of the talks and tells us what happens next.
Bullies exist in every form of life unfortunately.
You won't be surprised to hear that the UN, a place based on cooperation, peace and security, has its fair share. Today I saw this in its crudest form - when the US stalled the hard work of many in one fell swoop
This was played out in the last minute way the US chose to throw its considerable amount of weight around, saying it didn't have time to get approval from Capitol – from the Whitehouse - on the draft text. In doing so it scuppered all hope of what was starting to look like agreement on the (not perfect but reasonable) draft text for the arms trade treaty that 193 Governments had worked on for the last month together at the UN.
So, as you can probably tell, I'm angry.
And I think that's ok. Like many people I care deeply about this, and believe that a strong Treaty would have a hugely positive impact on our world. It still can.
The anger will pass.
What's important is what happens next. The title of this blog comes from Ambassador Jo Adamson, the head of the UK government delegation here in NYC. In her closing remarks, she noted that when we look forward we should think about the lives we will save and the injuries we will prevent.
You should all feel incredibly proud to hear these words. The UK government’s support for a strong Treaty is in no small part down to the work you have done up and down the country, urging MPs to get behind it. In only the last two days over 12,000 of you wrote to Minister Burt – the Minister leading on the Treaty – telling him it’s time to deliver. And, as the Ambassador’s words show, your voice was heard on the negotiating floor.
It was also heard at the highest levels of government, with Foreign Secretary William Hague saying today that the UK is committed to 'maintain the momentum and to complete this crucial work as soon as possible'
So, where next?
Amnesty was in this from the start and will be in it until the treaty is a reality. Signed, ratified, and entered into force.
And this is where the anger starts to pass because actually, we now have a second chance. In October the UN meets again. We are confident that at that meeting a strong and robust Treaty can be agreed. This hope was reinforced when the conference closed with over 90 countries signing a statement saying they’d like to see the process succeed as soon as possible.
At that meeting in October we no longer need to strive for consensus between all 193 states – we just need enough to get a two thirds majority . But there is a lot of work to do before then to make this Treaty a reality. We must keep the pressure up. This is too important to give up on now.
A silver lining to the delay is that we have the opportunity to iron out some of the problems that remain with the final draft of the Treaty; we still have the opportunity to improve it. And if the cost of a robust Treaty that actually stops the irresponsible arms trade from fuelling human rights abuses is a few more months and more campaigning then bring it on!
But for now, it's time to take stock. We've been working long, long hours, constantly challenged and striving to do more: send clearer messages, influence, lobby and persuade.
Together we have taken this campaign to the next level. Together we will finish the job. We have to because so many people are depending on us. I’ll be in touch soon with an action plan. In the meantime I leave you with one message: we can do this!
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.