It's over, but we're not done
All week we’ve been at a meeting of governments preparing to draw up the first ever international treaty to control the trade in arms. In July they meet for the last time to finally determine the content of the Treaty. Interested in the process? Read our explainer
We can't quite believe the week is over. Agreement on the rules and procedure of the July conference was finally reached at 6.15pm. The session was six hours late because States were literally huddled around coffee tables trying to thrash out a deal.
In the meantime we waited (and lobbied) and waited (and lobbied) and waited.
What actually happened
Proposals and counter proposals flew around the UN throughout the final day, as did a lot of rumours and, proving that the devil is in the detail, the suggestion of a ‘footnotes fix’. Passions and tempers gave way to reason as it dawned on governments that the process was in danger of being wrecked - did they really want to ruin this whole exercise over a handful of words?
After 10 official hours, and many more unofficial hours, of last minute wrangling we have rules of procedure. Woo! So what are they?
You’ve heard us go on about the consensus rule all week. The decision on this is to allow a mix of consensus and majority voting. As it stands, there is a small amount of wiggle room away from the strict consensus rule. Many states will interpret this as offering a way to veto progress, but it is constrained.
This is good, but let's not kid ourselves. It's going to be enormously difficult to get the kind of treaty we need; one that has a comprehensive list of weapons that make up the arms trade in it's entirety, and strong human rights rules that protect peoples’ lives, rights and freedoms.
The other key area of debate was around civil society access to the July talks.
Countries including Syria and Egypt - who continue to use weapons against their own people - were arguing to keep us out by augmenting the infamous rule 57 dealing with NGO access. But the UK championed our right to be in the room during the final negotiations.
The UK government
We’re happy to report that civil society access was just one of several areas where the UK Government team significantly upped its game this week. Working hard, and working the room, the UK was vocal and engaged and made a number of strong statements.
While the states were wrangling Salil Shetty, our Secretary General, took the time to reinforce our position:
"We cannot allow a few governments to hold humanity to ransom over something as important as the ATT. It is particularly appalling when these are governments that have demonstrated their willingness to use weapons against their own people.”
“These talks are a historic opportunity to secure an international agreement to stop arms from being sent where there is a significant risk they will be used against civilians. This agreement could saves lives and protect human rights.”
We're not done
It may be Friday night and the prep com is just over, but July is already in the forefront of our minds. We need to turn positive statements into categorical assurances that the UK Government and others will fight for a Treaty that protects human rights and saves lives.
There is much to do before the final negotiations start. Amnesty and its partners and supporters have been in this fight since the beginning. Tonight we should all celebrate, Monday morning the final push begins.
Verity & Olly.
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.