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On February 27, civil society organizations and member states from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meet in Abuja, Nigeria to discuss the coming Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Final Diplomatic Conference in March. At the meeting, ECOWAS member states agreed to push for an ATT that strongly support international humanitarian law, human rights, sustainable development and gender consideration. The 15 member states also agreed to coordinate with other regions with similar interests in order to secure as strong an ATT as possible. Another outcome from the meeting was the creation of an ‘Ideal Team’ and the agreement to take advantage of the ATT Legal Response Network. This network of international lawyers provides pro-bono legal support to states and civil society on issues relating to the ATT. This meeting was organized by The West Africa Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) – Nigeria.
Leaders of non-governmental organizations encouraged President Obama to support and play a leading role in negotiations to conclude an effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Negotiations are set to resume during the 18th to the 28th of March. In a letter delivered to the White House last week, NGO leaders argued that an ATT is a necessary step to reduce the enormous human suffering cause by irresponsible international arms trade and brokering. The United States is largest weapons supplier in the world.
“The United States, as the world’s leading arms supplier, has a special responsibility to provide the leadership needed for an ATT with the highest possible standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition,” they write.
The letter was endorsed by leaders representing 36 human rights, development, religious, and security organizations, including: Amnesty International USA; Arms Control Association; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Oxfam America; National Association of Evangelicals, among others.
In the letter, the organizations highlighted two key issues upon which Obama’s leadership is particularly important. These include a stronger human rights risk assessment previous to a weapons transfer and including ammunition in the scope of the treaty.
Members of the global Control Arms coalition are actively preparing for the upcoming Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations scheduled to begin at the United Nations on 18 March. This conference is the follow-up to the negotiating conference that took place in July 2012 at which states came close to adopting a treaty.
Our aim over the following weeks will be to ensure that governments agree to a stronger, improved version of the draft treaty text in March. To help make that happen, many members have been participating at various regional meetings for government representatives by providing expertise on legal and thematic issues. Others are organizing nationally focused lobby or campaign actions. On the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers some members spoke out about the relationship between the flow of weapons and recruitment of child soldiers. There is also a strong parliamentary and faith-based advocacy effort underway and several US-based groups took advantage ofValentine’s Day to ask their government to show some love for the ATT.
In New York, members and staff met with the President-designate of the future conference, Ambassador Woolcott, during an NGO consultative session. This came on the heels of an open Protection of Civilians Debate in the Security Council, where 14 countries and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made references to the Arms Trade Treaty.
Control Arms will release a toolkit to support its members as they plan for theGlobal Week of Action that will take place from 11 – 17 March. The theme of the week will be the “missing pieces” that are still needed to make the draft ATT strong and complete, and there will be multiple ways for supporters to get involved with online and offline actions.
A sense of determination and focused energy were evident during a recent campaign advisory meeting for the Africa region that took place in Nairobi last week. It was organized by the World Council of Churches, in cooperation with Norwegian Church Aid, as part of their on-going Ecumenical Campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty.
The meeting was an opportunity to assess the outcomes of July’s Diplomatic Conference and identify next steps for the campaign in Africa. Discussion between participants revealed that the subject of ammunition remains a concern for many governments in the region. Special attention was also given to the subject of gender-based violence within the treaty. A representative of the African Union (AU) met with participants for a session that focused on furthering an AU Common Position on the ATT. As well, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya joined meeting participants for a formal dinner where he expressed his government’s continued support for the ATT.
Participants have resolved to continue outreach not only to their national governments but also to regional and sub-regional bodies, especially ECOWAS and the AU. Internationally, the Ecumenical Campaign will emphasize the need to protect and improve the draft treaty text as the overall ATT process moves forward.