For two years I was a dad... then a man started firing

Posted by David Grimason Arms Trade Treaty campaigner

27th Jul 2012

For two years I was a dad. Then a man pulled out an illegal gun and started firing.

My son Alistair was asleep in his pram inside the cafe in Turkey. He wasn't the gunman's target, but a bullet pierced his lung and Alistair died soon after. That single moment nine years ago changed my life forever. 

I wonder every day what Alistair would be like, what he would be doing, who his friends would be. Like me, Alistair was robbed of so much that day. Four weeks ago I arrived at the United Nations in New York. I have been here as the world tries to regulate the flow in conventional arms for the very first time.  It has not been an easy process, bringing about lasting change never is. But I believe there is no stronger argument for a strong treaty than the human cost of the arms trade. 

Over the last month I have been trying to speak out for the victims, like Alistair, who no longer can.To me, an Arms Trade Treaty makes so much sense I find it bizarre we don't have one already. So much time and effort is spent on developing new weapons, yet so little care or attention has been put into making sure they are not abused. 

As the talks reach their conclusion today, negotiators must ensure the final text is not weakened beyond repair.  Worryingly, the draft presented earlier this week was riddled with loopholes. Fundamentally, it excluded many of the world's most lethal items and would allow many transfers of weapons to take place outside of the Treaty's protections.  

Even a strong treaty won't end violence, genocide and human rights abuses, but it will be colossal step in the right direction. For the first time, it will set an international standard that governments and civil society can use to hold accountable those who sell weapons irresponsibly. It will mean governments would have to block the transfer of arms if there is a substantial risk they will be used to violate human rights, humanitarian law, or if they could impede development. It will also help prevent the flow of weapons into lawless areas plagued by conflict, by closing the many loopholes immoral businessmen now use to navigate with impunity. Crucially, a strong treaty must also control the flow of ammunition - failing to do this makes no sense. 

And this isn't just about Alistair. Every day throughout the world around 2,000 people die from armed violence - the majority of these deaths are in countries not at war. These figures are disgusting and unacceptable. Deep down even the opponents of this treaty must know that's the case. 

UK Governments - past and present - have been supportive of this treaty and have pushed for it. At the start of the talks I met with the Foreign office Minister Alistair Burt and he made a personal promise to me that the UK would do all it can to secure the strongest possible treaty.  Since then states such as Iran and Syria who oppose this treaty have been doing everything they can to block progress.
And I am worried the UK will now compromise too far. I demand the UK remains at the forefront of championing a strong treaty and do not let others weaken it. The UK - along with the other countries at these talks - has a responsibility to deliver. It will be shameful if they don't.

Tell the UK to stand firm on the Arms Trade Treaty

Blog post written by David Grimason

Arms Trade Treaty campaigner

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