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IPPNW participates in Arms Trade Treaty talks

February 14, 2012

By Dr. Ogebe Onazi, IPPNW Nigeria

Members of the IPPNW delegation to the ATT PrepCom (left to right), Shannon Gearhart, Hakeem Ayinde, Chukwuemeka Okolo, Maria Valenti, and Omolade Oladejo.

As a Nigerian doctor active with IPPNW, I am pleased to participate for a second time in twelve months in the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Preparatory Committee talks at the United Nations in New York. I am part of the IPPNW delegation that includes Drs. Robert Mtonga (IPPNW Co-President from Zambia), Vic Sidel, Donald Mellman, Cathey Falvo, Shannon Gearhart, and Hakeem Ayinde (IPPNW USA), Omolade Oladejo and Chukwuemeka “Emeka” Okolo (IPPNW Nigeria), and Maria Valenti (Aiming for Prevention Director).

We are joining with more than 100 civil society participants from all continents to attend the meeting as members of the Control Arms Coalition. IPPNW serves on the steering board of this organization, a major NGO alliance working for a “bulletproof” Arms Trade Treaty that was recently nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. The delegation includes Nobel laureates, parliamentarians, armed violence survivors, lawyers, activists, policy experts, and we health professionals.

The Control Arms Coalition released a statement on February 13 underscoring that recent events in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate the tragic impact of the unregulated arms trade and the urgent need for a strong ATT. A global deal on arms trade would prevent irresponsible arms transfers that cost many innocent lives and fuel internal conflicts such as the one in Syria.

Today in New York, diplomats started the final round of preparatory talks on the ATT, which will be negotiated in July. There is currently no global regulation on the conventional arms trade, making it too easy for arms to end up in the hands of human rights abusers and affect human health worldwide.

This week’s meetings will focus largely on the rules of procedure for the July negotiations, including whether to take a text that countries have vigorously negotiated over the last two years or to start from scratch. Some states, such as Pakistan and China, are now pushing to ignore the Chair’s text as a real basis of negotiations and, instead, to begin drafting a complicated international legal agreement in a few days in July.

“States have an historic opportunity to help save lives and livelihoods by bringing the deadly arms trade under control,” said Jeff Abramson, CAC Secretariat Director “The recent case of Viktor Bout points to the reality that arms dealers have the luxury to operate in a legal vacuum and run their deadly trade with complete impunity. This must come to an end, and the process of the Arms Trade Treaty is our best way to tackle this problem.”

IPPNW will present at the Nobel Peace Laureates side event taking place today (February 14), where a call for a robust criteria, scope and implementation mechanisms for the ATT will be made.

On Wednesday, February 15, IPPNW will present its own side event with a panel addressing “Monitoring an Arms Trade Treaty: The Role of Public Health and Civil Society.” I appreciate the contribution and support IPPNW has received from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zambia for this event. In addition, today, I saw with excitement the nomination of Omolade Oladejo of IPPNW to be a featured speaker in the NGO presentation to States’ delegates later in the day on Wednesday.

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