Tao Tao! Together Together! People People!
Written by Zoya Craig, Control Arms
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Participants from 12 countries, the UN, and civil society trickled into the room in the morning, most suffering from some jet lag after long journeys to Siem Reap, but all were ready to discuss the ATT and how to promote signatures and ratifications in the Asia Pacific region. The locale was meaningful – Cambodia was one of the first three States, along with Costa Rica and Mali, to voice its support for an Arms Trade Treaty more than 10 years ago.
Ross Robertson, Deputy Speaker of New Zealand’s Parliament, and current president of Parliamentarians for Global Actions, enthusiastically welcomed everyone in both Maori and English. Invoking words of peace by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr, Robertson stressed how important the Treaty is in saving lives, reducing human suffering, and how far we have come in this process. “Tao tao!” he exclaimed. “Together together!” is the rough translation, and that’s why we all came to Siem Reap this week.
Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Chheang Vun joined us from Phnom Penh to officially open the workshop, reinforcing Cambodia’s commitment to a strong ATT. He was proud to be hosting us and hoped for a strong outcome leading to more signatures and ratifications in the region.
Each participant shared their experiences with the ATT and those less familiar with the Treaty took advantage of the opportunity to learn from those who have already signed, ratified, or are closer to signature. A map conveyed the stark reality of how much more we can do in the region, showing only 3 countries who had ratified and 12 more who had signed. There was excitement for achieving entry into force soon though, and New Zealand especially hopes to be joining the Race to 50 very soon!
There is a cost to doing nothing.
The workshop ended successfully, complete with road maps drawn up for each country’s next steps, and participants adopting a Plan of Action to promote engagement with their respective governments. Civil society was recognized for its ability to provide information to governments thst they may not otherwise have learned. Everyone called for more collaboration across sectors to promote cooperation and effective implementation of the Treaty.
Fred Lubang, Regional Representative of Nonviolence International Southeast Asia, also began his closing remarks with “Tao tao!” noting that in Tagalog it means “People people!” and it really underscored why we all gathered this week. We advocate for the ATT in the name of peace, reducing suffering, saving lives, and creating a better world. “There is a cost to doing nothing” one of our participants said, and they’re right.
We all hope to do something and working together on this historic Treaty is a step in that direction.
Zoya Craig is the Operations and Finance Manager at Control Arms, based out of New York. Follow her on Twitter @ohboyaitszoya
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