Published On: Fri, Feb 24th, 2012 at 4:45pm

Working together towards a bulletproof future

By Susannah Radford

On the day that the week long International Arms Trade Treaty conference began in New York, three charities in Glasgow presented a united front in the same battle supporting regulated arms control.  Amnesty Scotland launched their campaign for a global Arms Trade Treaty  at Glasgow University arm in arm with Oxfam Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council.

In front of the media and a group of activists, Amnesty Scotland launched their Arms Trade Treaty Briefing document.  With 1500 people dying each day as a result of armed violence and enough bullets produced each year to kill every person on the planet twice, Amnesty Scotland is keen to ensure that talks underway at the UN this week contribute to a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty.  They encourage all Scots to take part by writing to UK leaders, urging them to show ‘strong leadership in Arms Trade Treaty negotiations.’

Joining Amnesty Scotland today in a panel discussion were Scottish arms control campaigner David Grimason, Head of Oxfam Scotland Judith Robertson and Head of Policy and Communications at the Scottish Refugee Council Gary Christie.

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty in Scotland was pleased with the event.  “I thought today was a very successful event in terms of bringing together various voices in support of an International Arms Trade Treaty.  It demonstrates that there is a lot of interest out there, there’s a lot of support out there and we’re all calling for the same action at the end of the day which is a robust Arms Trade Treaty with Human Rights at the heart of it.”

The links between the various groups were made in 2003 when the Control Arms campaign was set up, Mustapha said. “I felt that it was absolutely vital that we didn’t exclude those [other] voices just because it’s an Amnesty Event.  And I thought they all contributed fantastically to today’s event.  Judith talked about poverty and suffering around the world from an Oxfam perspective.  Scottish Refugee Council talked about having had to pick up the human consequences of, for example, the harrowing story that was being described today of women being raped at gunpoint overseas and then coming here to seek asylum and refugee status.

“And also we’re delighted,” Mustapha continued, “that David Grimason, a parent himself, who lost a child who was shot dead while on holiday in Turkey – he’s backing our campaign and it’s very much from a human perspective.  It’s coming from the heart and we’re all calling for the same message at the end of the day.”

Oxfam Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council illustrated how the current arms trade set up impacts on the work they do.  “Because of the unregulated supply of arms in communities all over the world people are not able to engage in basic life sustaining activities,” said Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland.  “People are frightened to go to the fields.  They aren’t able to trade properly.  When there are too many arms in an area that people’s lives are very vulnerable and subject to violence, then people don’t take part in what would be considered normal everyday activities.  Their livelihoods suffer, what happens in their lives takes on a very different perspective.”  The poverty and misery this causes people is the reason Oxfam is involved.

Like Amnesty, Oxfam too is lobbying the government to take a strong leadership role in current negotiations.  “Our interest,” said Robertson “is in ensuring that the UK government’s leadership is maintained in the issue.  We’re concerned that they are weakening their position and their commitment.”  Oxfam and its partners have representatives in New York this week who will be there Robertson said, “trying to lobby an issue that the interests of people in developing countries are held up at the talks to make a legally binding treaty.”

Both Amnesty Scotland and Oxfam Scotland have launched an e-action or e-petition to call on the UK’s party leaders to show strong leadership.  Ed Miliband, who has received over 7000 emails on the subject, recently wrote a statement in support of a ‘robust and effective global Arms Trade Treaty’.

The Glasgow University Amnesty International (GUAI) group, will also be supporting the Scottish campaign.  Catherine Wright from GUAI plans to use this event as a springboard to further campaigning.  “To have something like this, to have it launched on campus gives us a really good basis to then use it for our campaigns in the next couple of weeks.”  In addition to a visual campaign including gravestones with statistic about the arms trade, they will be collecting petitions on campus.

Following this week’s meetings in New York, the UN will meet again in July 2012 to finalise the treaty.  Mustapha today emphasised the importance of this week’s negotiations.  “If you’re not going to get the parameters right this week you’re not going to get the right treaty at the end of July, so this week is very crucial.”

To take part in Amnesty Scotland’s e-action click here

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