The stepping stones to changing the arms trade

Written by Lorey Campese, Oxfam

In the halls of the UN yesterday, countries from every corner of the globe came together again to take action on the Arms Trade Treaty. This time, they passed a resolution that encourages countries to make the ATT’s impact felt as quickly as possible.

The resolution formally urged States that haven’t done so yet to sign and ratify, and also encouraged States to give assistance to countries that need it to make sure they can properly join the ATT as a member of the treaty.

When I was tweeting at different Permanent Missions to make sure they were in the room at the UN to show support for this initiative, someone tweeted back and basically said they’re tired of resolutions and they’re ready for some real action.

Trust me, I think my fellow campaigners from the various organizations that make up Control Arms would agree, we’re ready to.

That said, these sorts of resolutions at the UN are important. It’s not always easy to see, but when the world comes together to agree on a statement like the one made this week, it sends a signal. Yesterday, the signal couldn’t have been more clear: there’s still worldwide momentum and support for the treaty that will reduce gender-based violence, prevent human rights abuses, and save lives.

The truth is, in order for global change to happen, especially on something as massive as the global trade of weapons and ammo, there needs to be stepping stones. We took another step yesterday.

It’s also worth remembering how many stepping stones we’ve already passed. There was a time not that long ago when a resolution like the one passed yesterday would have seemed crazy. Ten years ago, a resolution like that very well may have only had a handful of countries that voted yes. But yesterday, 152 stood together to say that it’s time for the world to take action on the ATT.

Among those 152 “yes” voters was China. They initially abstained when the treaty was first adopted, but are now casting yes votes and saying they are “seriously considering” signing. If that’s not another big stepping stone, I don’t know what is.

There’s that old saying that you have to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.” I think that’s 100% true, BUT you can’t skip the “talk”. The talk is important. It lays the foundation for successful change and ensures that big and small countries, civil society, and all the right people who can help apply the provisions of the ATT have their voices heard.

Yesterday those voices called upon “all States that have not yet done so to sign and, thereafter, according to their respective constitutional processes, ratify, accept or approve the Treaty at the earliest possible date.”

That’s UN-speak for “it’s time to act”.

While this is without a doubt a welcome action by Control Arms and its partners, we’re also looking forward to the likely resolution in next year’s session of the General Assembly. In it, they very well could mention that we’ve crossed another important stepping stone: an ATT that has entered into force and has begun to save lives.

Make no mistake, action is on the horizon and the world is ready to “walk the walk.”

Lorey Campese is a Humanitarian Campaigner at Oxfam, and Communications Lead for the Control Arms Coalition. Follow him on Twitter @MrCampese.

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