The day an #ArmsTreaty becomes a reality?

Whenever David Grimason poignantly recounts the personal tragedy of how his two-year-old son was killed after being caught by a stray bullet as the family were sitting in a café in Turkey nine years ago, you can’t but acknowledge just how urgently the world needs an Arms Trade Treaty.

As David points out in the Daily Record today, he became an avid arms campaigner shortly after his son died and has unceasingly supported the call to establish an international Arms Trade Treaty ever since.

At that time, in 2003, the treaty was still a hopeful dream. Yes, some arms experts – including those at Amnesty – had been saying that the world needed one for years.  But the majority of government leaders hadn’t even heard of the concept, let alone agreed with the principle.  So it must have been tough to have held onto the idea of  the dream becoming a reality at that time.

I got involved with Amnesty's campaign for a Treaty in 2006.  That year was a particular high point in the ATT work , when Amnesty and other members of the Control Arms Coalition, stepped up their campaigning (here’s a corker of a spoof made at the time).  It was such a great moment when at the United Nations that year the majority of the Member States (about 153 at the time) said ‘Yes – the world needed an Arms Trade Treaty.’  The United States and Zimbabwe were the only two countries at the time to say ‘No’.  

But now, after six years of intense campaigning, evidence gathering and political lobbying from organisations like Amnesty, and after years of negotiations between various governments (including the US, who got on board with negotiations in 2008), today is THE day when the world could have a Treaty  - a mere hope back in 2003.

The latest Treaty text is extremely encouraging.  Speaking of the latest draft to the Associated Press, Amnesty’s senior director for law and policy Widney Brown said: "some of the significant loopholes that we were concerned about have if not been closed, definitely been narrowed."

But it’s not over yet.  This is the final day when governments can potentially amend this text, and it’s still not perfect.   There are still loopholes which we want to see closed, one of which is ensuring that the treaty includes ‘gifts ‘. At the moment, the definition of the trade in weapons doesn’t extend to gifts.  Some countries carry out arms transactions in the form of gifting military support in exchange for access to other resources. So this needs to be addressed, and there are a couple of others also.  Read Amnesty’s latest news release to find out more

As well as the gaps in the existing treaty text, there’s also the threat from those who are staunchly opposed to the Treaty, and there are some in the negotiating room who remain so. In the US, the story has been followed by the New York Times and Fox News. Each present differently-slanted viewpoints.

So – after nearly two decades of campaigning, it's now potentially down to hours.  We’re almost there,  and there's still ime to narrow some more loopholes. So we’re calling on all who can to urge governments to deliver the right kind of Treaty.  If you want to join in, click here.

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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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