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The vital importance of a strong Arms Trade Treaty

As part of a blog-swap with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Paul Arkwright, the UK Ambassador to the Netherlands, blogs on the start of the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations.

Today marks the start of important negotiations in New York on establishing a legally-binding Arms Trade Treaty. It is without doubt an ambitious goal. But it’s a goal that we should all be striving to achieve, because an effective ATT would make a huge impact on millions of men, women and children around the world – in particular those who are suffering terribly in areas of conflict.

An ATT has tremendous potential to make a difference by:

  • Supporting human rights and international humanitarian law;
  • Maintaining international security by reducing conflict and by stopping arms reaching terrorists and insurgents;
  • Providing greater certainty for the legitimate defence industry by setting common international standards to work to.

I am currently the British Ambassador in the Netherlands. But I was head of the relevant department in the Foreign Office in London when the UK decided to take the international lead in establishing an ATT. So I have a personal interest in its success. Jo Adamson, the lead UK negotiator in New York, worked with me at the time on the ATT. We’ve kept in touch since. Appropriately enough in this Olympic year, she likes to use sporting metaphors – and she sees me as one of her trainers prepping her for her big race! Knowing that so many people around the world, including members of Amnesty, are backing her strongly is a real motivating force for Jo and her UK team. It will help them to stay focussed on the core goal - achieving the strongest Treaty possible - as we approach the finishing line.

And there’s no doubt Jo will have to keep up her stamina in what will be a gruelling few weeks. Jo will work with many who find common cause with the UK’s objectives. But the real challenge for her will be to win over the sceptics – doubters who for a variety of reasons are not convinced of the need for an ATT. Succeeding in that task will need all of Jo’s legendary diplomatic skills, mixing exhortation with an understanding of which buttons to press, all with liberal doses of charm and firmness. She can’t succeed on her own. The UK team will also need continuing encouragement and support from others who can multiply the message. That’s where Amnesty, other NGOs, civil society, UK industry and developing countries come in.

From my perch in The Hague I’ll be following developments with interest – lobbying my hosts the Dutch if necessary – and urging Jo and her team on from the sidelines.  It’s vitally important for all of us that they succeed.

You can read Head of Campaigns Tom Fyans' blog on the FCO website - campaigning for a strong Arms Trade Treaty

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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