Back at the Arms Trade Treaty talks, but this is no groundhog day

Last July I spent a month as part of the Amnesty team lobbying governments as they strove to develop the world’s first global Arms Trade Treaty. That effort was delayed (but not defeated) when the US, followed by others asked for more time on the final day. 

More time was granted after the UK worked with other countries to table a Resolution at the UN General Assembly in October that set more talks for March 2013. And so here we are again, two days into what is hopefully the final negotiation on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Some say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I’m going to strike out against that because we’re here, doing the same thing we were last July, but we WILL get a different result this time.  

We will achieve a robust Arms Trade Treaty. And it will save lives. 

This is not insanity; I had hoped it would be different this time. And, so far, looking back after day two of negotiations at the United Nations, it has been.

A small example - In July it was so hot that even the industrial air conditioning of the UN failed to keep us cool at times. Last night, it snowed, Ha!

One thing that is the same is the pace - Sub-zero New York is on fire.

In the final few days of theJuly talks the pace was blistering. Proposals, counter proposals, debates, discussions and diplomatic fights were happening everywhere you turned. The hours were brutal and we all worked long through the night into the early hours of each morning.

This time it’s been like that since day one. Maybe minus the fights, but they will be coming. On issues like ammunition, defense cooperation clauses and even fundamentals like Human Rights, we still don't have universal consensus. But that’s why we are all here  - to work towards it. to make the Treaty come to life. 

The majority of my day today has been about  Article 3 of the Treaty - the bit that outlines prohibitions, part of the criteria we have worked so hard on for so long (because we want the Treaty to prohibit transfers where there is substantial risk that they’ll contribute to human rights abuses). We’ll know on Wednesday evening if we have been successful in improving this area. It’s going to be a long 24 hours!.

The UK Foreign Office Minister responsible for the Treaty, Alistair  Burt, has been at the UN today. Before heading over, he took the time to respond to your campaigning. In person, the Minister today came across as someone who can see the Treaty in his vision line, there’s a quiet but steely sense of assurance coming from him that this is the time, and that himself and his team are going to do everything in their power to bring home a robust arms trade treaty. They even made some positive 'interventions' (that's what we call it here when someone takes to the floor to speak), mentioning some of our key concerns.

Well done everyone, you have helped ensure it might be different this time. But we’re not there yet – please continue to email your MPs, urging them to ensure the UK stays strong on human rights

One final note - I nearly used toothpaste as face cleanser, so maybe insanity has taken me. Or maybe it’s just been a really long, intense day.... 

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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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