UN General Assembly to vote on Arms Trade Treaty tomorrow
IPPNW representatives were on the edge of our seats last Thursday afternoon as we anxiously awaited the outcome of the long-deliberated Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations at the UN in New York. So many delegates, NGOs and press attended the final session of the ATT Diplomatic Conference that we spilled over to fill two of the big UN plenary session rooms.
With overwhelming support from the world’s countries, everyone had high hopes for an ATT adoption after the final two weeks of intense discussions took place March 18-28.
But it was not to be. Iran raised its flag to object, followed by Syria and North Korea. Due to the consensus rule, whereby one country could block, this meant that the Treaty could not be approved that day. What a big letdown for the hundreds gathered and the rest of the watching world! By early evening it was clear that the ATT was going to the UN General Assembly, with hopes for a vote in a Tuesday April 2 session.
That has now been confirmed.
Tomorrow is the day.
IPPNW is pleased that we played some part in helping improve the text of the treaty over the years. The fact that the final Treaty includes ammunition and small arms, and requires countries to take into account whether there is a risk of violating humanitarian and human rights, or used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children – all opposed by various countries and factions over the years – reflects huge progress and means a strengthened Treaty that will ultimately keep armaments out of the wrong hands and as stated in the purpose of the Treaty “reduce human suffering.”
Trade prohibitions include in situations “that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes..”
Thousands of IPPNW members around the world have contributed to this successful outcome by writing letters, making phone calls, signing petitions, and speaking with their governments at home and in the UN. As medical professionals, we have consistently provided the public health voice to proceedings at the, national, regional and international levels. As the only health organization in a large and diverse NGO coalition, IPPNW has been a crucial voice.
Our IPPNW delegation was again in the thick of the ATT sessions, meeting with delegates, supporting NGO actions and education, and helping to raise consciousness around the world via social media. Our delegation included Drs. Don Mellman, Cathey Falvo and Shannon Gearhart from the US, Bob Mtonga from Zambia, Emeka Okolo, Omolade Oladejo and Ogebe Onazi from Nigeria, and medical student Vera Gruner from Austria. Many of us had to head home or resume work locally after the final session, but we are following the proceedings closely and supporting the call for signature tomorrow by as many countries as possible.