Congratulations, you've made history

I am pinching myself because I can hardly believe it is finally time to write these words, but for the first time ever (excuse the shouting): THE WORLD HAS GOT AN ARMS TRADE TREATY!! [cue lots of jumping around, yelping and hugging].

Twenty years, millions of actions taken by you, thousands of hours spent lobbying governments, hundreds of MPs across the UK holding the government to account, six years of UN deliberations and it has all paid off. Today, together, we have achieved a great milestone for human rights. Find out what went down

You are the reason we are able to stand here today and celebrate an achievement that, twenty years ago, we only just dared to believe was possible. So my overwhelming emotion? Gratitude. Please, spread the love and share this blog, so that everyone knows your support helped us, helped the world, make a huge leap towards human rights for all.

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Our delegates at the negotiations send their thanks for your work helping to secure an Arms Trade Treaty

As with all of these things, it is hard to give tangible figures and quantify quite how significant this is. But I can say that since governments failed to agree this Treaty last June, tens of thousands of lives were lost as a result of the irresponsible trade in arms. A trade that will now, for the first time in history, be internationally regulated.

How you helped the world win an Arms Trade Treaty

When we first arrived at the final talks we were full of apprehension but we had a spring in our step, thanks to Minister Alistair Burt responding to your actions. And on day one things looked good. The UK didn’t just make a strong statement of their own; they also joined 107 other countries in sending a clear message that they were in New York to secure a Treaty that protects human rights.

The sceptics were there alright – arguing for ammunition to be left out, for human rights requirements to be reduced, for no public reporting and much, much more – but the positive voices dominated. We were hopeful. But then a draft was released. We were not entirely happy. It contained many of the loopholes we had been working to close

So we put you to work, and boy did you deliver! We asked you to write to Minister Alistair Burt – the Minister responsible for the Treaty – and ask him to make sure the UK upped their game on the negotiating floor. We joined you and lobbied behind the scenes, having an emergency phone call with the Minister and briefing MPs on what we needed them to do. The next day, at a crucial time in the talks, the UK made strong statements on three of our four campaign asks.

Just 24 hours later and we had a final draft, a final draft that closed two of the loopholes we were most concerned about and strengthened other areas considerably.

So your actions really did have a direct impact on the negotiating floor and helped deliver a Treaty that we can all be proud of.

We still hadn’t quite crossed the finish line, we were really worried that the sceptics would do all they could to derail the process. And we were right. With the Treaty about to be put to the room the tension was electric.Everybody was waiting to see what would happen, painfully aware that we needed consensus. That, after all of the hard work and with so much at stake it would only take one government to delay this breakthrough for human rights.

In the end it was three. One after the other, Iran, Syria and North Korea stood up to voice their resistance and block the Treaty.

But it didn’t stop there. In one of the most thrilling (if, ultimately, disappointing) evenings of my working life there were huge twists and turns, and while we didn’t get the Treaty there and then we did leave the talks with hope in our hearts, having watched powerful statements of support and commitment from many governments, led by Mexico and Kenya.

It was Kenya that made a statement on behalf of many governments, including  (no doubt thanks to your campaigning) the UK, letting the room know that they would write to the UN Secretary General urging him to take the Treaty to vote at a UN General Assembly at the soonest opportunity. That opportunity was this morning.

And I am pleased to say that when governments voted, they voted almost unanimously to adopt an Arms Trade Treaty with human rights at its heart. They voted to save the lives of thousands and improve the lives of many more. They voted for a better world. 

To put it in perspective, 60% of all human rights abuses that we document involve arms. Stopping the flow of weapons to those who commit such abuses obviously isn’t going to magically stop all of them from happening. But it is a seriously significant step forward.  You have been involved in securing one of the greatest achievements in human rights history. THANK YOU!

Of course, we wouldn’t be Amnesty if we didn’t point out there’s still more to do…

And while today we have made a huge leap for human rights, for this Treaty to have full impact we need states to ratify it into law. We don’t need all 193 of them, though, just a mere 50 so we’ll be back here on the campaign trail, telling you about plans soon.

After all, if today proves anything it proves that when we get together we really can make a difference. If you aren't already, become a member and help us do even more.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
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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5 comments

Incredible news, this. And massive respect to all of you for all your hard work on getting to this result too.

richardmcasson_1 4 years ago

Many congratulations to you all, I know how hard you have worked for this over the last 20 years. You have made a brilliant piece of history & made the world a better & safer place for us all.

Christine Thorne 4 years ago

This is such a wonderful moment - we must now keep up te momentum. I call for attribution of the source of weapons whenever they are shown or mentioned in the media. If a conflict is being discussed and that conflict is using weapons, we must know where they came from - who supplied them, how much they cost and the reason the Arms Deal took place. Please support this idea. I'm calling for transparency. Thanks. Peace.

johnwesleybarker 4 years ago

I am so happy that this treaty is finally here! Thank you so much for your amazing efforts and dedication. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this in the years to come; or hearing about them since I have the good fortune to live in a safe place.

RosieDembski 4 years ago

Congratulations to all the team who worked so hard on this - fabulous news.
It's times like this I'm so proud to be a member of Amnesty

Ruth B 4 years ago