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#armstreaty - it's time to get down to business

It's hard to describe how I'm feeling right now. But I'll try.

Nervous. Prepared. Raring to go. Hot (it's 34degrees in New York City right now...)

The journey we've been on together to get here has been a long one but we are now on the eve of UN negotiations for the first ever international Arms Trade Treaty.

Ten years ago we thought it was a pipe dream but today – thanks to survivors of armed violence, parliamentarians, former military chiefs, British Industry, UK Government and people like you around the world – it’s a reality.

A decade might sound like a long time but when you are working on something like this it’s fast track!

What we've all been up to - and why

Last week I found myself driving around London on an armoured tank delivering our campaign message to embassies of five countries whose stance could be crucial in the negotiations.

Doing so confirmed for me (as if more confirmation than the incredible work  you all do every day was needed) that people on the street care about issues like how the arms trade is regulated, that people on the street, once informed about an issue are prepared to do something about it. 

Watch this short video to find out exactly what happened on the day we took a tank to powerful world governments. 

We’ve all done this because the world needs an Arms Trade Treaty - we need a legally binding set of international standards that say its not ok to sell weapons to dictators and war-lords, that it's not ok to turn a blind eye, or even worse, facilitate the continued repression of innocent civilians. 

Our recent report from Sudan illustrates this with shocking and thought provoking research

What next?

My colleague Olly Sprague has been working on the arms trade for 18 years, you can follow him on twitter @ollysprague to keep up with all that's happening at the UN. I'm @veritycoyle and between us we'll be your people in the room.

From working with 150 young activists to lobby Minister Alastair Burt, to driving the tank (did you like the video?) round London, I'm privileged to be part of the Amnesty team delivering work on the Arms Trade Treaty.

But we wouldn't have got this far without you, so my request today is that you all join the control arms Facebook group as this will be our fastest way to communicate with you during the negotiations.

We’ll need you if we are going to hold the UK Government to a strong position and ensure they don’t compromise on human rights. The world needs an Arms Trade Treaty that is strong and comprehensive. There’s no wiggle room - The stakes are simply too high. 

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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Good luck with the negotiations at the UN. It was a real pity not to get a strong statement from the PM, particularly in light of this statement that he made on the BBC on 11 April in relation to the sale of arms to Indonesia :

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Have the talks already stalled over whether Palestine is actually a state or not ?

Why did we have all those preparatory talks for some state/s to throw up this ?

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Hi Daveboy, thanks for the comment. I don't think we should be disheartened. The PM confirmed his support for a strong ATT when questioned in parliament last Wednesday. We are continuing to lobby for support at the highest level and have good access here at the UN Conference to the UK negotiation team.

Coyleverity 11 years ago

Hi again Daveboy, on the delay - It is important this is sorted so the ATT negotiations can start. The world is expecting leaders to deliver a strong ATT that protects human rights by the end of the month, we don't want to see any further delays in achieving this?

Lots of States are working hard to find a solution, check out tomorrow's blog to hear what happens.

Coyleverity 11 years ago

I suspect this is not the end to the political toing and froing in the negotiations.

No doubt Egypt are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause but they also get billions of dollars in military "aid" from the USA. Let's hope that the "win,win,win" New Zealander's can win out over any "win,win" nations.

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Syria is proof that France, Britain and Turkey will flood weapons into a conflict if it is cheaper or if it makes sense, even if the recipients have a zero-compliance with the Geneva convention.

'Pillay reiterated her position that the 15-nation council should refer the issue of Syria's conflict to the International Criminal Court in The Hague because there crimes against humanity and other war crimes may have been committed. She said both sides appear to have committed war crimes.'

Of course it has to be a 'legal war' for the convention to apply.

Gregory Carlin 11 years ago

Ammunition will be a major issue in these talks and an important one if there is to be a substantial reduction in human rights violations as a result of them.

I hope the UK negotiators will push really hard to have this area included. Disappointed to see the PM not make a proper statement in the House of Commons when asked about this issue but only promise a written statement to Chris Bryant. The negotiators will have to be a lot stronger in the UN meetings if they wish to succeed in this area.

The US who supposedly produces 6 billion bullets a year, one each for about 85 % of us on the planet !! might well have a lot to say on this point. Many of these are clearly in private hands or sold as supposedly the US army run out of them in Iraq !?!

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Amnesty's dubious position on the arming of Syrian insurgents has sacrificed credibility in relation to the arms trade treaty. In a civil war with all sides committing war crimes it is a mistake to arm any of the factions.

Gregory Carlin 11 years ago

Looking at the tweets and blog statements at the end of the first week personally I feel underwhelmed. To get to the final day and have a load of states statements about breadth which must of already of been discussed in the preparatory talks and rediscussions of procedure is in my mind no progress.

We have just had a UN global conference in Rio on development where a political statement was madly rushed together in a few days with many of the important topics omitted, producing an extremely weak set of future plans.

If these negotiations continue at the same pace in the next couple of weeks then I personally fear that we will be heading in the same direction.

Of course I may be wrong and everything is happening behind closed doors as the rest is a sideshow. In two weeks time somebody will open the door with a copy of the treaty and everybody will be heading for the exits, either elated or downcast.

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Let's hope that the negotiations don't descend to this :

Suspect the politician on the right may not be a supporter of a strong ATT.

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Have the negotiations begun yet ? All I'm seeing on the Amnesty tweets and other blogs are still a series of statements, which look rather repetitive. When will we see something concrete such as a general text or even sub text that can then be negotiated on ?

I'd love to see the Golden rule but would happily see any rule at the moment, as long as it reduces the violence caused by arms throughout the world.

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Is the UK delegation moving the content of the treaty from international to national standards ?

"Apart from the veiled attack on the apparent lack of dynamism, structure, and organisation of the diplomatic conference, the day's most notable--and troubling--event was the statement by the United Kingdom on behalf of the P5. The P5 now supports the Russian Federation's proposal to incorporate criteria within the section of the treaty dealing with national implementation. This is supposed to be purely a "structural" rearrangement (though the UK still felt constrained at the end of the agreed statement to speak in its individual delegation capacity to underline that it was not a change of "substance or content"). So even though the treaty is supposed to be establishing the highest possible common international standards, the P5 thinks it would be a good idea to put the standards in a national implementation section. A section that will put national discretion and sovereignty at the heart of the provision."

Also the US are finding it difficult to say the words "human rights" :

"In its general statement, the US was unable to bring itself to use the phrase "human rights" with reference to the criteria. The closest they came was in referring to "unacceptable or inhumane purposes".

With the news that NGO's will not be allowed into 50% of the remaining negotiations, being not supported by any state on this matter, their positions are much more weaker.

These indicators seem to suggest a nationally based treaty with weak, obtuse language around human rights formulated by a small but powerful part of the UN.

Daveyboy 11 years ago

Let's hope that the treaty doesn't just focus on the illicit trade of arms by non state actors. Many human rights violations have occurred from state actors supplying weapons and these must be addressed by the treaty. If there is a shift to national scope from international then this scenario is more likely to occur and the treaty would be a whole lot weaker.

Daveyboy 11 years ago

What seems to be materialising out of these negotiations is a treaty with little or no obligations on state and non state actors to withhold arms sales where cases of severe crimes against humanity etc. are taking place.

There seems to be a rolling text effect happening at the moment, a hotch potch of ideas with no clear consensus on obligations. Maybe if the negotiators look at the real rolling situations which are also happening in Syria, Southern Sudan, Gaza, DRC etc. it might just crystallise their thoughts a little and might even shake them out of their parallel universe.

Daveyboy 11 years ago

70 odd members of the UN are presently standing up for a strong treaty that would prevent transfers where there is a substantial risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law. Where is the UK ?

Quote from Alistair Burt and Alan Duncan :

"The treaty should include strong provisions on human rights,......"

Seems one verse outside the negotiations with another inside. Classic political double speak.

Daveyboy 11 years ago