By Hannah Russell, 2nd year Ancient History Student at Royal Holloway
As anyone who is involved in Amnesty will know, the Arms Trade Treaty talks will be taking place in July, an event that could be remembered as one of the greatest human rights breakthroughs in history. The only way that we, as an organisation, can ensure that the UK pushes for an effective and comprehensive treaty without loopholes is to lobby those who will be at the UN to represent us.
All over the country local groups and university groups have been refocusing their resources on raising awareness about the arms trade treaty, and the response has been overwhelming.
My University group at Royal Holloway felt that the arms trade treaty should be the theme of all our campaigns this year as there wouldn’t be an opportunity to raise awareness of it again. In the Autumn and Winter terms we hosted several talks about the arms trade an held a music event to raise money, and in the Spring term we kicked things off with a poster and leaflet campaign. We chose the statistic ‘enough bullets are produced each year to kill every human twice’ as the kind of tag line of our campaign, and as well as posters about the treaty, we put up posters with the statistic on it with a little tearaway strip of paper with two bullets pictured, and I distributed a leaflet with two actual size bullets on it to every workstation and library space on campus.
This campaign culminated in Royal Holloway’s own secret policeman’s ball, a night of comedy and music, with poet and activist Martin Powell to round off the night with some important messages about the ATT. We also had a photo campaign where the guests would lie in a crime scene dead-person outline, holding two silver bullets in their outstretched hand. It seems other university groups from around the country were also moved to take action in anticipation of the impending talks. Each group campaigned in a way that was the most effective for their university, doing bake sales, petitions, banners, holding marches hosting talks.
After this year of campaigning, the AGM was upon us. One of the highlights of being part of the STAN committee was the workshop we had with the Oxfam Youth Board, 20 young people aged 18-25, discussing issues that were relevant to both Amnesty and Oxfam. We focused particularly on the opportunities for Oxfam and Amnesty to join forces on campaigns, the Arms Trade Treaty and the Control Arms Campaign being our most immediate concern. We all thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, personally I had never met anyone on a board of a charity that was just for young people, the exchange of ideas was highly beneficial to both parties.
After this year of campaigning, it was a total delight to be a part of the action held at the AGM, where Amnesty members of all ages and from all over the country marched through Manchester waving banners singing the ‘ain’t going to study war no more’ song taught to us by Dan Jones. Once in the square, we unfurled the enormous banner and hundreds of people held Amnesty signs, and we took a completely spectacular aerial photograph.
Despite all of this inspiring work by Amnesty members, we still have to persuade David Cameron to stand strong at the talks in July and make history. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office event on Wednesday 20 June at Westminster is going to be an excellent opportunity to get one step closer to our goal.
Follow what happens at http://amn.st/MRHUKF
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