A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
After over 10 years of campaigning for this treaty, lobbying governments again and again, and the campaigning actions from supporters all over the world we finally have the world’s first Arms Trade Treaty!
I have worked on this treaty for a long time, back from before we launched the Control Arms campaign with our partners in Amnesty and IANSA in 2003. It's been a long journey, and success has been measured in all the incremental steps along they way. Getting our supporters engaged in the idea that we could change the arms trade; getting the first governments to publicly support the idea of a treaty to control the arms trade; the first ATT resolution that kicked off work inside the UN in 2006; getting support on specific elements of a possible text – the case for ammunition, the case for human rights, etc.
For Oxfam, the strong link with armed violence and conflict and poverty is the reason we have been fought so hard for this treaty. I have been to many Oxfam programs in all regions of the world, and wherever I have been, I have met people who have told me how armed violence has torn apart their lives. How conflict prevents development from taking place, and how fear and instability blites communities.
Kenya is a country where I have spent a lot of time in particular, and our ‘Millionth Supporter” Julius Arile typifies the problems of an arms trade out of control. Julius became involved in armed cattle raiding as a very young man after his brother was killed in a raid on his own village, and wanting to retaliate. But then he saw his best friend shot and die in front of him, and he gave up his gun and became a runner and peace activist instead, persuading other young people against a life of violence. The easy availability of arms and ammunition flooding into Africa replicates this problem all over the continent, and it is no surprise that African states were among the treaty’s strongest advocates.
I called Julius this morning on a crackly line to West Pokot, the rural part of Kenya where he lives. “We did it!” he said back to me, “I will tell all my people, they will be very happy.”
And indeed we did. This is a massive campaign victory and we should all celebrate, be happy, and know that with enough will and effort, change can, and does happen.
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