Congratulations! After ten very long years of campaigning, passion and unbelievable determination from Oxfam supporters in the UK, yesterday the world voted overwhelmingly for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate the global arms trade for the first time. I sat at the back of the UN General Assembly Hall, watching the electronic voting board start to light up and, seconds later, the result flashed up for everyone to see: 154 ‘yes’ votes as the world overwhelmingly agreed an Arms Trade Treaty.
A loud cheer erupted from the Control Arms team, this has been a long time coming. Oxfam was one of the three founding members of Control Arms and your endless email actions, meetings with hundreds of MPs and petitions over the past decade helped ensure that in the UK, our government never lost sight of the public demand for a robust ATT that would save lives.
We simply would not be celebrating this success without your help. It has taken ten years since the launch of the Control Arms campaign, including six years of UN negotiations to reach this historic moment. And there have been endless obstacles put in the way of our progress to bring the irresponsible arms trade under control. But we joined in solidarity with millions of people from around the world and never stopped believing that an ATT could become a reality.
Arms control campaigners celebrate outside the UN buildings in New York
The Treaty text is not perfect, but it was significantly strengthened during the past two weeks. And after consensus was blocked last week by Iran, Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, momentum pushed governments to take the treaty to the UN General Assembly to be adopted by vote instead. The world has now listened to the majority of countries who want an ATT, not the tiny minority who wanted to wreck the process.
This is just the start. In two months time the treaty will open for signature, and we want as many as possible to sign. And once 50 countries have ratified the treaty it will “enter into force”, and become international law. And then we need to ensure that it all governments ratify the Treaty so that the standards become universal.
But for now, we must celebrate. Celebrate that an idea from NGOs that was first supported by just three countries has now been overwhelmingly agreed by 154 countries. And celebrate that people living in countries devastated by conflict and armed violence will now be better protected from the irresponsible arms trade.
Campaigning works – and wins don’t get much bigger than this!