Africa: Time to Bite the Bullet On the Global Arms Trade

press release

Photo: Anthony Morland/IRIN
Insecurity in neighbouring countries facilitates the flow of arms into northern Kenya.

It's time to end irresponsible arms transfers that fuel serious human rights abuses - that's the message from hundreds of thousands of Amnesty International activists before final negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) begin at the UN next week.

On Wednesday a petition will be handed over as part of a day of action in more than a dozen cities worldwide to demand that governments deliver an effective ATT with strong human rights protections.

From Times Square to Tel Aviv, and Morocco to Australia, planned events include a banana stunt in New York, a tank doing the rounds of several central London embassies, a theatrical display in a market in central Madrid and petition handovers to governments in every region of the world.

"This is one last push before the historic Arms Trade Treaty negotiations formally begin, to make governments around the world aware of the massive global outcry to end arms transfers that fuel atrocities," said Brian Wood, Amnesty International's Arms Control Manager.

"What's urgently needed is the strongest possible treaty that has human rights protections at its core - including a 'Golden Rule' that will stop all arms transfers to states where they are likely to be used for serious human rights abuses."

ATT negotiations open at the UN in New York on 2 July and run until the end of the month. Governments from every country in the world will participate.

Along with a global civil society coalition, Amnesty International has been campaigning for a robust treaty covering all types of conventional weapons, munitions, armaments and related equipment as well as all forms of government-to-government transfers.

The majority of UN member states support an ATT with at least some human rights protection. Many states, including African, American, Asian and European governments, have come out clearly backing strong measures like the 'Golden rule' on human rights.

But a few states have expressed reservations about human rights safeguards, including key arms exporting countries such as China and Russia, as well as most Middle Eastern countries.

Amnesty International continues to call on all governments to face reality and back a comprehensive, effective Arms Trade Treaty with strong human rights protection at its heart.

Over the coming weeks, the organization will be closely monitoring the ATT negotiations and lobbying governments from inside the UN in New York, and will launch a number of related pieces of work.

These include a report documenting arms supplies amid conflict in South Sudan, letters from internationally renowned artists and Nobel laureates supporting a strong ATT, and a UN side event titled 'Arms Trade Treaty - an alternative to the body-bag approach'.

"The coming weeks of ATT negotiations will see a frenzy of action from civil society, governments and the UN, which we hope will culminate in the strongest possible treaty text with human rights protections at its core," said Wood.

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