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Update on Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations – Week Two

by Oxfam | July 17, 2012

Oxfam’s Anna MacDonald reports that states continue to delay on getting text on the table, while campaigning remains strong

Week two of the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations saw half of the discussions move behind closed doors. A worrying sign. There is still no complete draft treaty text on the table, although elements of text – on goals and objectives and the scope of the treaty – were circulated by the Chair on Friday.

The talks are moving more slowly than we would like to see and again we are seeing new text suggestions being watered down substantially from the original Chair’s draft papers. Supporters must step up their game if a strong treaty is to be achieved.

Control Arms campaigning and media work has remained strong, and energy remains high within and outside the UN.

Here is a quick summary:

Monday began with a strong New York Times editorial on the ATT. In the evening, Oxfam hosted a dinner for diplomats on gender-based violence, which led to several states including Kenya, Finland, Zambia, Sweden, Ghana and UK making strong statements the following day.

Tuesday Oxfam and Control Arms held a press conference well-attended by senior UN press corps journalists, which led to influential Middle East broadcaster Al Arabiya running an ATT story and quoting Oxfam. Oxfam also issued its first free eBook made up of the five ATT briefing papers released in the run-up to the Diplomatic Conference. The book is available at the back of the conference room for diplomats, and you can now get it at Amazon’s Kindle store store and Apple’s iBookstore, where the book will be free to download until the treaty negotiations end on July 27.

Wednesday was the day for NGOs from both the gun lobby and Control Arms to express their views to delegates on what the treaty must include. Watch Oxfam’s delegate – Deep Basu Ray of Toronto. Also on Wednesday, outside the UN, photographer Nick Stern recreated two of Banksy’s most famous works using lookalikes in support of the ATT. What do you think of the photos?

Oxfam spoke at a side event on the need to control parts and components of arms in the ATT, and introduced Oxfam’s report Piecing it all Together at a well attended meeting where around 50 delegates discussed how without such controls the treaty would contain a loophole “large enough to sail an aircraft carrier through.”

Thursday Oxfam worked closely with the government of Liberia to produce a powerful video statement from Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, delivered to all delegates, urging states to make history. She was the only Head of State to address the conference. She quoted Oxfam’s reports to demonstrate the negative effect of arms on development. Thursday afternoon saw the plenary dominated by Africans, including Nigeria, Kenya, DRC, Mali, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, instead of the skeptics. Ten UN agencies, represented by UN Assistant Secretary-General Catherine Bragg of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, also called on States “to place human rights, humanitarian and development concerns at the forefront of their discussions.”

Control Arms also ran a “Women in Black” action to highlight how the uncontrolled arms trade contributes to the epidemic of violence against women. Campaigners dressed in black asked delegates to put women at the heart of the treaty and handed “Forget-Me-Not” flowers to supporting states. Online supporters were asked to share this excellent image.

Friday We released a “Short Film about Guns“. The film features four experts on arms trafficking recounting first-hand experiences of how the irresponsible trade in arms fuels conflict, and human suffering around the world. The film will be screened inside the UN on July 20 at an event hosted by Belgium and Oxfam, featuring Ishmael Beah and Kathi Lynn Austin. Friday night we held an informal Reception, which was attended by the President of the conference and many Heads of Delegations, and enabled good informal discussions with delegates. Bilateral meetings with key heads of delegations continued over the weekend, to talk strategy for week three.

Monday July 16 was the “10 days left” mark in the negotiations. Campaigners handed out postcards with a strong “It’s Time to Act” info-graphic and a message for diplomats: “It’s time for a text, it’s time for a treaty”.

For more information, see our Arms Trade Treaty page.