In a passionate appeal to governments negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations until the 27th July, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia called on them to "make history in the next few days and change the world for the better."
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate reminded delegates via a video message to the main plenary of the importance and urgency to agree on a strong treaty as it represents "a once in a lifetime opportunity to agree tough controls on the arms trade."
President Sirleaf has been a longtime advocate, alongside international agency Oxfam and the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA), for the Arms Trade Treaty. "The Liberian experience and other experiences in Africa and other parts of the world show that without such a treaty, armed violence and wars will continue to be fueled by irresponsible arms transfers."
Expressing his support for the sentiments shared by President Sirleaf, Baffour Amoa, President of WAANSA said: "We welcome President Sirleaf's efforts and support. The victims of irresponsible arms transfers would have died in vain should the Diplomatic Conference end without an Arms Trade Treaty."
Oxfam and WAANSA along with other members of the civil society are calling for a strong treaty that would be based on a simple principle: no transfers of weapons when there is a substantial risk that they may be used for serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.
Oxfam Country Director in Liberia Mamudu Salifu said: "The West Africa region has been flooded with weapons for decades, slowing the pace of development and tearing apart the lives of ordinary people. President Sirleaf has demonstrated leadership by addressing delegates directly and we call on all states to urgently negotiate a strong treaty that will save lives and livelihoods."
By Louis Belanger, Humanitarian Media Officer at Oxfam International, reporting from New York.