There was a hive of activity in the United Nations building in New York last week as delegates from key governments and experts from organisations much like Amnesty and Oxfam, along with survivors directly affected by armed violence) paced the corridors urgently pushing for what they considered to be the best kind of arms trade treaty.
Although not the final set of discussions – they take place in July – last week’s meeting was crucial as it set the tone for what’s to come in July when governments will finally (after five years of negotiation) attempt to agree for the first time an international arms trade treaty which will regulate the transfers of weapons.
Despite there being pushback from some states, representatives from the UK government at the UN were particularly vocal in calling for a strong arms trade treaty. Here in the UK the Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote this on his Facebook page:
"The final Preparatory Committee meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty is taking place in New York this week. I have received lots of comments on the ATT on Facebook this week, particularly focusing on human rights. The UK has played a key role in driving forward efforts to secure the Treaty since introducing the initial UN Resolution in 2006, and the Government remains totally committed to securing a robust and effective Arms Trade Treaty, with strong human rights and international law provisions at its core. More information on the Arms Trade Treaty can be found on the FCO website."
Needless to say, this level of commitment from the Foreign Secretary is very welcome Similarly, we’re buoyed by the comment piece from the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg which appeared in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday. This showed a real commitment that the UK Government will lead the way to delivering a robust and strong international arms trade treaty.
We certainly don’t want to speak too soon. But here at Amnesty we have to say that we’re really pleased by the level of renewed commitment shown by the UK Government in recent weeks. This is exactly the kind of message the UK needs to be sending to countries like the US, Egypt and Pakistan who have been pretty resistant to developing an effective treaty.
So for now, all’s well. But it’s not over yet. These are definitely the right noises to be making now, but the orchestra is just tuning up for the final symphony in July. So far we’re hearing pleasant sounds from the UK government, but we’re aware that anything can happen between now and July. Strings could be broken. Musical scores could be swept away in the wind. What is vital now is that David Cameron echoes the commitment shown by his Foreign Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister and also the leader of the Opposition. It is rather odd that his voice is so far the only one not heard. We at Amnesty look forward to hearing what Mr Cameron has to say.
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