Arms Trade Treaty talks get off to a strong (if delayed) start
After several false starts, the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations finally got underway yesterday. The Chair of the conference, Ambassador Moritan, was keen to make up some lost time and kept everyone in the room for an extra hour beyond the normal 6pm finish.
The procedural wrangling and political tensions that have frustrated efforts over the last two days seem to have been fixed by essentially moving every delegate two spaces to the right to allow the room and seating plan to be re-arranged in what could be best described as a grand game of geo-political musical chairs.
Any delay is of course literally a matter of life and death for the thousands of people that are caught up daily in the devastating consequences of the irresponsible arms trade.
The relief in the room to be finally underway (from Government's and NGO's alike) was palpable, indicated by the frequent ripples of applause - very rare exuberances in the formal setting of Treaty negotiations.
Today was actually momentous for other reasons though. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon addressed the conference with a powerful and motivational speech reminding all delegates of the pressing and urgent need to negotiate a strong treaty to address the terrible human suffering that is facilitated by irresponsible arms sales.
In his words, “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded”
Sending a powerful message
We had our own strong start when we handed in the Control Arms Coalition global petition, with nearly 700,000 signatures from around the world.
After receiving the petition Ban Ki Moon offered some warm words of encouragement:
‘I am convinced that your strong voices will inspire and motivate the delegates as they work to adopt a robust and meaningful treaty by the end of this month’
And he echoed our thanks to all of you when he said:
Your determination has helped us get this far – and your continued pressure and activism will help make a Treaty a reality
Not all delegates at the negotiation share our desire for such a robust Arms Trade Treaty and there might be times during the talks when we need you to keep up the pressure.
And we kept going...
Team Amnesty was also busy with a lunch time event co-hosted by the government of Norway, Uruguay and Australia.
Our Secretary General Salil Shetty was joined byDell Higgie, Ambassador for Disarmament and Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the UN in Geneva and Rt. Brigadier General Mujahid Alam. All spoke about the importance of establishing an strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that has human rights protection at its centre.
The event was also chaired by H.E. Mr. Martin Vidal, Deputy Permanent Representative Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations.
Salil Shetty spoke about the need for the treaty to have binding human provisions, comprehensive scope of weapons and transactions to be covered as well as the need for effective transparency and implementation mechanisms.
Rt. Brigadier General Mujahid Alam spoke about witnessing and investigating atrocities in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
His direct experiences in the those countries reminded everyone in the room that Governments must take responsibility for ensuring that weapons they trade do not get diverted to illicit markets or end up in the hands of those that use them to commit war crimes and other atrocities.
Dell Higgie spoke of the historic opportunity that these negotiations present and that the Arms Trade Treaty would be unique in its ability to address humanitarian, trade regulation and disarmament issues.
I close with her words - the Arms Trade Treaty is a “"win-win-win”. Who could disagree with that?
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.