Students are #upinarms in Westminster
When you see a swarm of young people making a bee-line for one place in a hurry, you may think one thing: “ice cream truck!” especially in today’s glorious sunshine.
But in actual fact, today about 150 students from schools and universities across the UK will descend upon Westminster village all at the same time, for one reason only: to call on the UK Government to help bring home an effective international Arms Trade Treaty.
It’s set to be an inspiring day as the young campaigners will have the opportunity to meet and question Foreign Affairs Minister Alistair Burt, as well as share with him their views on the importance of an effective Arms Trade Treaty.
The students will then hear from two people who have experienced the horror that an unregulated arms trade can have on individuals and family life – David Grimason and Emmanuel Jal. David Grimason is a Scottish arms control campaigner who lost his two year-old son in Turkey back in 2003. Former child soldier Emmanuel Jal is now a successful rapper: he'll be performing for the delegates in the afternoon.
Tragically, David and Emmanuel have had to tell their personal stories before in an attempt to prevent it from happening to others. We’d all prefer it if these stories weren’t told – rather, couldn’t be told. But the bitter reality is that they are just two people out of thousands who have been impacted as a result of lax controls on the global arms trade. In fact – as we’ve pointed out in the past – 1,500 people die every year as a result of armed conflict and violence.
Which is why we – and the scores of students in Westminster today – are calling for the final negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty taking place next month to go well.
So to let the chance to fix that slip by seems so absurd, and quite honestly, mind-baffling.
Yesterday, the Foreign Office said that it was “aware of a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters heading to Syria”. According to the Financial Times and other media outlets, that ship is now reported to be returning to Russia.
As Donatella Rovera pointed out yesterday evening, “anyone supplying attack helicopters – or maintaining, repairing or upgrading them – for the Syrian government displays a wanton disregard for humanity.” Well I would have to agree
It’s a good thing that this shipment is heading back to Russia. But, the question is how many shipments have managed to get through and slipped across borders?
That’s exactly why we need tightly-controlled regulated arms trading, which ensures that it’s not just the more scrupulous countries – like the UK in this instance – which prevent such weapons making their way to destinations where atrocities against civilians are being committed on a daily basis.
It’s quite obvious that the world needs an international arms trade treaty – and one which doesn’t simply pay lip service to the need to control the trade, but one which will really be so robust that shipments such as the one we’ve heard off the Scottish coast won’t even be able to leave the shores of any country in the first place.
Sounds like a pipe dream? Perhaps. But youth campaigners will be the first to remind us that dreams can come true and the impossible can become a reality.
Follow the students as they tweet #upinarms and #armstreaty today while in Westminster or keep up to date with all the happenings here on Storify.
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.