Leaders, celebrities and journalists call on governments to deliver life-saving Arms Trade Treaty

Apr. 24, 2007

NEW YORK — Three leading female advocates of the campaign to control the international arms trade – Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren; and former Irish President, Mary Robinson – together with 20 prominent journalists, today called on governments to deliver a tough Arms Trade Treaty rooted in international human rights and humanitarian law to stop arms transfers that fuel global violence and conflict.

Governments officially have until the end of the month to submit their blueprints for the Treaty to the UN Secretary General. If these proposals do not explicitly call for a ban on arms transfers that fuel conflict, poverty and human rights abuses, there is a serious risk that the resulting treaty will not save lives, warn campaigners. There are fears that sceptical governments, such as the United States, may attempt to block a tough treaty.

Actress, Helen Mirren, said: From Kenya to Brazil to Sri Lanka, there are more weapons than ever before, and they are easier and cheaper to obtain. In December 2006, 80 per cent of the worlds governments voted to start work on developing an international Arms Trade Treaty. All governments now have a responsibility to make an effective Arms Trade Treaty a reality.

Today governments, including Australia and Finland, are launching their proposals for the treaty at the United Nations in New York. Campaigners urged other states to follow suit.

Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, said: For us to succeed in stopping arms transfers that fuel serious human rights abuses, conflict and poverty, the opportunity is now. I plead with the governments of the world, arms manufacturers, arms brokers and arms traders not to deny Liberia and every other country, now and in the future, this great chance to consolidate peace for our children and ourselves.

Today, the Control Arms campaign, spearheaded by Oxfam International, Amnesty International and IANSA, is holding a global day of action to put pressure on governments to deliver a strong Treaty. To mark the day, 20 prominent former and current journalists who have reported from war zones have issued a joint letter. Christiane Amanpour, Jon Lee Anderson, Martin Bell, Janine Di Giovanni, Sebastian Junger, Don McCullin, Paul Moreira, Sorious Samura and Charles Wheeler are among the journalists and photographers who have signed the letter, which says:

It is time that all governments took responsibility for the individual tragedies perpetrated with the weapons they supply: the woman raped at gunpoint, the young man crushed under the tracks of a battle tank, the child forced to become a soldier.

Campaigners across the world will also be holding events today in support of the treaty. In countries including Canada, Guyana, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, activists will be taking part in the Peoples Consultation. Organized by the Control Arms campaign in more than 60 countries over the next three months, the Consultation will enable ordinary people, many of whom are directly affected by the arms trade, to say what they want the treaty to deliver. It is running in parallel to the official process of collecting input from governments led by the UN Secretary General. The results of the Peoples Consultation will be presented at the United Nations in New York in October.

Mary Robinson, former Irish President and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “The irresponsible arms trade is a global horror story and it requires a global solution: the Arms Trade Treaty. Governments must deliver agreement on a strict, life-saving treaty for the sake of the millions of people living at risk of armed violence around the world.”

Joseph Dube, spokesperson for the Control Arms campaign, said: There is a very real risk that sceptical governments, such as the United States, could seek to water down the treaty, rendering it too weak to save lives. The over a million people around the world who support this treaty will not allow that to happen.

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