Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thing a week 04 - What politics?

Well, it’s happened. A mere four weeks into my thing a week project and I can’t think of anything to write about. If only there was some great historical event in the news today. How I wish that every media source ever invented by humanity would scream at me a single message in a billion voices. Why oh why can’t some monumental change come into the world?

I jest of course, as you may have guessed from the title this blog will be about politics, however I will try and mention the American election result as little as possible. I’ll just say thank you to any Americans reading this for electing Barack Obama as your president. From the rest of the world in general. Thank you. Of the rich privileged lawyers who were running for president he was by far the better choice.

What I will do for this forth blog is ask you for a favour. I know it might be too soon in this little project to be asking for things, too early in this relationship to be making demands, so I’ll demand nothing. I simply place this before you and humbly ask that you consider taking action.

In 2006 at the United Nations 153 governments voted to develop an arms trade treaty to implement international control of the hideous and evil international arms trade. That is a massive amount of congruity for the United Nations. 153 countries agreeing on something is outstanding. There’s only 192 member states in the club, all out for themselves, so for that many of them to agree on something is nearly miraculous.

So, 2 years later, you might be confused as to why nothing’s happened. I am. If you’d like some background info, here’s an extract from an Amnesty UK article.

Every year, millions of people suffer as a result of the irresponsible global arms trade. In 2006, 153 governments voted overwhelmingly at the United Nations to develop an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to control this deadly trade. Two years on, we are still watching and waiting for governments to honour this promise to deliver a treaty.

The ATT is due to be debated again at this year’s United Nations General Assembly in October 2008. At this meeting, we need governments to commit to start formal negotiations for the ATT and for them to ensure that it is delivered within the shortest possible time frame necessary to help bring an end the current arms crisis. 1000 people a day die as a result of armed violence caused by small arms alone (rifles, machine guns and pistols), and millions more suffer from the consequences of armed violence.

Throughout 2008, a group of experts from 28 countries has been meeting to discuss the content of the treaty. Now is the time to turn words into action and deliver an Arms Trade Treaty strong enough to save lives and stop irresponsible arms sales.

A small minority of governments is opposed to international controls on the arms trade and are determined to block, derail and delay any further progress on the treaty. As a key supporter of the ATT, the UK government must take further action to ensure they do not succeed. 

Despite the suffering and poverty fuelled by irresponsible arms transfers, there is still no comprehensive, binding international treaty on the trade in conventional arms. By contrast, there are international treaties governing the trade in, for example, Dinosaur bones and postage stamps.

Since 2003, the Control Arms Campaign has been calling for a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) based upon all government’s obligations under international law. If properly implemented, such an ATT would reduce the human cost associated with the proliferation and misuse of conventional weapons, by ensuring that all importers and exporters or arms are abiding by the same high standards regarding the use, management and transfer of military equipment.

The UK government announced its support for an ATT in September 2004, following a prolonged period of intensive campaigning by Amnesty International, Oxfam and others. Since then, the UK has been a crucial champion of the ATT, working with a core group of like-minded governments to help drive the process forward.

Well the arms trade treaty is on the cards to be debated again at this years UN general assembly in October. I’d ask you to do one small thing for me. I’m not asking that you join Campaign Against the Arms Trade, though it would be nice if you did. I’m not asking you to move your pension into an ethical investment policy, but you could take a look at what your fund is invested in as a large percentage do invest in arms companies because they are seen as “safe”. All I’m asking is that you write a letter or an email asking the people in charge to do something they promised they would because, well, they promised they would. If you can’t think what to write, here’s the sample letter from Amnesty.

Dear ......,

I am writing to urge you to take swift and decisive action to deliver an effective international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The continuing loss of life and tremendous human suffering caused by extremely poor regulation of the international arms trade makes it vital for the UK government to redouble its efforts and mobilise international support to ensure that an effective treaty is negotiated as quickly as possible.

Two years ago, 153 governments voted overwhelmingly at the United Nations to start work on developing an ATT. I am delighted that the UK’s support for this initiative has been central in moving it forward. However, two years on from this vote we have yet to see governments commit themselves to negotiating the treaty. It is imperative that the ATT is not allowed to slip from the international agenda. Considerable efforts are now required by supportive governments over the coming months and years if the goal of an effective ATT is to be realised.

I also wish to thank you for your work in securing the new landmark international treaty to ban cluster bombs, agreed in Dublin in May 2008. That this robust treaty was agreed after just an 18-month discussion period shows what can be done when governments unite with a common purpose. We must now see the same political will brought to bear on the ATT process.

The UK’s strong role in supporting an international Arms Trade Treaty demonstrates a deep commitment to preventing irresponsible arms transfers that risk contributing to serious abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to armed conflict and poverty. A small minority of governments remains opposed to tough international arms controls, and will continue a concerted effort to block and delay progress towards an ATT. I urge you to do all you can to prevent any attempts to undermine these humanitarian aspirations.


If you’re in the UK the best person to send it to would be David Miliband at the Foreign Office. His address is
David Miliband - Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH

or you can email him at

It would also be good if you could contact your local MP and ask them to put some pressure on. If you don’t know who that is you can find out at They Work For You. It’s a great site for pestering our elected representatives in actually representing us.

If you don’t live in the UK I’m sure you can find your own politicians to mither, maybe you have a new president you want to test out.

Anyway, think about it. Please and thank you.

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