Another day at the office, pushing for a global Arms Trade Treaty

Anna MacDonald

Blog post by Anna MacDonald

Oxfam International, Head of Arms Control
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"What do you actually do all day over there?"

That’s a question a friend back home skyped me on Wednesday. I’ve been working on the Arms Trade Treaty for a long time now, and spent a lot of time at the various UN meetings. But what actually happens? What do we do all day? I thought I’d have a go at writing it down.

Here are  my notes for Thursday 21st March – Day 4 of the negotiations:

  • 7am - Check emails that have come in overnight, there are always loads from Europe with the time difference.
  • 8am - Leadership Team meeting – the Control Arms Coalition has over 150 colleagues at the DipCon, and we organize ourselves through a team structure – Regional Lobby Teams and functional teams like Media, Policy Analysis and Communications. I chair the Leadership team that brings all the team leads together, and we run through the schedule and key lobby messages for today.
  • 830am - Dash over to UN for start of the Coalition Briefing Meeting – the whole coalition meets to run through the objectives for the day,discuss feedback from yesterday and get everything organized for the day ahead
  • 9am - Go over the road to the Japanese Mission to meet the Co-authors – the 7 states that kicked off the ATT process in the UN by tabling the Resolutions on the treaty. We have worked with them since 2006, and discuss what is going well in the negotiations, and where we think there are problems
  • 10am - Brief the press by teleconference with US colleague Nathalie – they are mostly interested in the hot topic of ammunition, Nathalie does a great job in explaining why US objections don’t stack up.
  • 1030 - Meeting with the UK delegation, along with six other coalition colleagues. We do a lot of bilateral meetings like this through the day, meeting in small groups with key governments
  • 1100 - Sign off on the Control Arms Coalition statements for this afternoon’s NGO session.
  • 1200 - Julius Arile, an armed violence survivor from Kenya, our Millionth Supporter, and now a marathon runner does a Twitter Takeover for 30 minutes. My colleague and digital wizz Lorey, helps him tweet his views from @controlarms on the negotiations and what he wants from an ATT
  • 1230 - Quick chat with Iceland – they are really active on the issue of Gender Based Violence in the treaty, and have written a statement that is gathering a lot of signatures from states - its up to 80 states now. Mobilising large groups of states on key issues is a main tactic for the negotiations.
  • 1300 - Meet with the Pacific region. Quite a few of us are on government delegations. It’s a way we can offer support to smaller delegations on technical issues, and it also means we then have access to all of the meetings that go on. 
  • 1320 - Do a phone interview with one of the UN wires. They are interested in the gathering support for ensuring that gender based violence criteria is included, and what the latest state of play on ammunition is.
  • 1335 - Get out of the UN for 20 minutes with fellow Control Arms Coaltion co-chair, Roy from Saferworld for a sandwich and to plan for a group meeting we are having with progressive states.
  • 1400 - Informal meetings on Scope start in the main room, with the focus again on ammunition – the US are not budging at the moment, but Nigeria asks why when 300 million Africans needs ammo to be covered is it not there?  Meet with a few African states on this issue, and on the improvements needed on Criteria in the text
  • 1500 - The Main Plenary starts again
  • 1515 - Meet with a group of ATT supporter states, talking about ways to improve the text further, and plan ahead to meet up to share analysis of the next treaty text expected tomorrow. Going to be a busy weekend too!
  • 1540 - Back into the plenary to follow the negotiations, and a few bilateral chats with delegations on the important Prohibitions section of the treaty.
  • 1700 - UN Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos gives a statement on behalf of the UN Agencies. It is strong, and makes the case of why the treaty must have human rights, development and humanitarian law up front and centre.
  • 1715 - The NGO statements. We get one session within the negotiations given over to NGOs to present their views. 5 colleagues from across the Control Arms Coalition go through our points on what needs to change in the text, reacting to yesterday’s new paper, and emphasizing what must be in the treaty for it to be robust. After us, there is a short session where the pro-gun lobby – all Americans – also get to speak. Their points are irrelevant – the Arms Trade Treaty will not affect domestic gun ownership in the US, and delegates in the room start chatting with each other again as the same points get made again and again.
  • 1800 - Session breaks. Roy and myself have a quick meeting with ATT President Ambassador  Peter Woolcott, while other colleagues go to informal sessions on Transit and Transhipment, and others rush out to get food before the evening session re-starts
  • 1900 - The formal plenary resumes, and I get to listen to a few statements before another journalist rings.
  • 2045 - The plenary finishes early – was scheduled to go to 10, but all eyes are on Friday’s expected text, and so are holding back a bit on interventions.
  • 2200 - Informal session on Diversion begins, run by Mexico, another key lead government in this process.
  • 2300 - Join some colleagues in nearby bar Pressbox, for a quick drink and chat about media plans for next day.
  • 2400 - Crash!

A long day, but I’m certainly not the only one. So many people here – diplomats and NGOs are working really hard all hours, giving it their all to try and get this Treaty!

Join the call for a global Arms Trade Treaty now.