In July, delegates from across the world met in New York to discuss the details of an arms trade treaty (ATT) – a future treaty that would regulate the trade in conventional arms.
Ema Tagicakibau, a long time ATT campaigner from Fiji, on what the arms trade treaty means for her and why she travelled all the way to New York to advocate for the Pacific region.
Arms control is very critical in my personal life and professional career. I have seen the harm and destruction that the misuse of arms has done to my country Fiji, now into the fifth year of its third coup d’etat. When I was an MP back in 2000, the civilian coup led by George Speight happened. I was held at gunpoint with my colleagues and witnessed the attitude of the soldiers and boys carrying guns.
So to me, it is both a personal and professional commitment to ensure that an effective and strong arms trade treaty takes account of the abuse of power and human rights violations by those legally entrusted to carry arms and respect for the rule of law.
What would an effective arms trade treaty mean for the Pacific region?
It would ensure uniformity of laws to ensure there are no loopholes that allow unscrupulous arms traders to manipulate or exploit gaps that currently exist. An effective ATT would create control mechanisms where they don’t exist, and strengthen existing ones. It would also create transparency and accountability in the regional arms trade and address humanitarian and human rights concerns.
What role must the Pacific play?
July’s negotiations have proven exciting for our region. Governments in the Pacific are getting more and more involved in the negotiations and have sent more experts from their capitals than ever before. This is in no small part thanks to the efforts of local civil society organizations and individuals that have worked for years to raise the profile of the small arms problem in the political arena. To ensure that this work translates into a meaningful treaty that makes a difference in our region, we must continue to work closely with our governments to ensure that this commitment to the arms trade treaty is sustained up to and beyond next year’s negotiating conference.
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