UK: Students and school groups challenge government to quickly deliver Arms Treaty

Earlier this month [15 June] more than 120 students from schools, colleges and universities across the UK met government ministers at the Foreign Office to demand tough new laws to control the Arms as quickly as possible.

School Children's rights as young as 12 and students from universities including Exeter, Cambridge and Middlesex met senior government representatives – including Defence Minister, Bill Rammell MP and one of the UK’s Ambassador to the UN, John Duncan – to urge them not to delay in securing an effective international Arms Treaty with other UN member countries.

The young activists had been invited to high-level talks at the Foreign Office in recognition of their campaigning work with Amnesty International for an Arms Treaty (ATT).

More than 1000 people are killed with firearms every day around the world. Thousands more suffer indirectly as a consequence of armed violence because the trade is not effectively policed and arms readily end up in the wrong hands.

The need for a Treaty was agreed at the UN in 2006 and, in part thanks to the hard work from Amnesty members, a timetable for its implementation was passed at the United Nations late last year. However, concerns remain over the speed of its implementation.

Speaking after the conference Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen said:

“The UK Government has gone some way to supporting a treaty, and they were instrumental in putting in place a process for its development at the UN.

“But the challenge now is for the UK Government to help establish a strong and effective Arms Treaty which has human rights at its core. Without that all the effort and time which these young people have invested may well be lost.

“Those fears were expressed loudly today and hopefully will act as a catalyst to help deliver a binding treaty that will make a difference to millions of people across the globe.”

Three school pupils from Malborough High School in Woodstock, Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton and Villers School in Ealing and one Exeter University student were invited to a special meeting with the UK Ambassador John Duncan during the conference.

Speaking about her interview with Ambassador John Duncan, 16-year-old Katrina Kenny from Lady Eleanor Holles School said:

“I asked John Duncan what hope there was of the treaty being passed without the strength of the USA behind it, and what would be done about chemical weapons and toxins, which the treaty does not cover. Mr. Duncan replied stressing his hope for the new Obama Presidency to bring an end to America’s reluctance to join an ATT, showing the British Government’s hopes for a more promising future.”

22-year-old Mark Johnston from Exeter University reported:

“I asked John whether he thought that the Arms Treaty should be agreed through the United Nations or through a group of nations acting independently. I asked this question because I am particularly concerned that the UN process may delay or weaken the Arms Treaty. For instance, if the Treaty is created through the UN it will depend upon the support of powerful countries like the US.

“In his answer, John explained that he believed the UK should continue working through the UN.”

Speaking about the whole event, Mark Johnston continued:

“Overall, I really enjoyed the conference. I especially appreciated the opportunity to question people like Bill Rammell and John Duncan directly.

“The responses I received were encouraging, and I now feel confident that the UK government is actively working towards an Arms Treaty. This has inspired me to keep campaigning with my Amnesty student group for an Arms Treaty over the coming months and, if need be, years.”

For more information on the event, visit our Control Arms campaign pages

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