Playing Dead at the UN

Amnesty International campaigner Ara Marcen Naval blogs from the final negotiations in New York over a global arms trade treaty

As diplomats arrive at the UN in New York today they will be confronted with dozens of corpses in body bags lying outside the gates.

At least this time the people in the bags are only playing dead.  I’ll be one of the campaigners involved in this stunt to remind officials not to forget the human cost of the irresponsible arms trade.

On average one person dies every minute as a result of armed violence, with thousands more abused and injured every day.

I’m in New York as part of the Amnesty International team for the start of the historic final negotiations to agree an Arms Trade Treaty.

Over the next month world leaders have a unique opportunity to help bring to an end the millions of civilians that are killed, injured, raped or forced to flee their homes as a direct result of the irresponsible and poorly regulated trade in arms.

We want to see a treaty with a golden rule on human rights: preventing arms from being sent to those who would most likely use them to commit atrocities and abuses.

The world continues to be scarred with too many examples of the devastation caused to people’s lives where this hasn’t been the case: Colombia, DR Congo, Sri Lanka and Syria to name a few.

Amnesty International has been involved in campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty from the very beginning. In 1995, we joined other Nobel Peace Laureates calling for a set of rules to govern arms transfers.

And now we have reached the final stretch. That we have is down to the millions of people that have put pressure on governments along the way. But it’s by no means a done deal.

We have our legal experts, lobbyists and specialists on the arms trade here and campaigners, like me, working hard to persuade governments to agree a strong treaty.

My role over the coming weeks is to make sure that the voices of millions of people from across the world calling for a treaty that protects human rights are heard inside the gates of the UN.

Forget the political horse-trading that can go at these types of negotiations. This is a treaty about people’s lives. That is the clear message we will be delivering with determination over the next month.

Last Wednesday was an incredible and inspiring day. All over the world Amnesty International supporters took part in creative events for our Global Day of Action on the Arms Trade Treaty.

From Times Square to Tel Aviv, and Morocco to Australia, we saw bananas being handed out in New York (to highlight the differences in the banana trade compared to the arms trade) a tank doing the rounds of several central London embassies, a theatrical display in a market in central Madrid and petition handovers to governments in every region of the world.

Government officials in capitals could not miss what people are calling for: no more arms for atrocities.

Now it’s my job to bring all that energy to New York and make sure the diplomats don’t forget what people expect as soon as they step off the plane.

Tomorrow we will deliver this message straight to the top when along with our partners in Control Arms we present the global petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.  Over half a million people have signed so far and we’re still counting.

Such demonstrations of the strength of support are important as the negotiations are going to be tough. There are a few governments that don’t want to see a strong treaty that protects human rights.

That is why campaigners here in New York along with the thousands of others across the world are going to use all our energy and creativity to increase the pressure on governments over the coming days and weeks.

It’s important our leaders know we are watching them.

They cannot afford to fail. Otherwise it won’t be the fake body bags of campaigners being discussed by diplomats in future but those containing innocent men, women and children, the latest victims of the irresponsible arms trade.