Aiming for Prevention: International Initiatives

Aiming For Prevention logoConference Report

UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
New York City
July 2-27, 2012

IPPNW leaders played a key role in bringing a critical health voice to the month-long July 2012 negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations in New York. As the only health member on the Steering Board of the Control Arms NGO coalition, our active participation in meetings with delegates from countries around the world ensured they understood the dire health consequences that result from the unregulated spread of armaments worldwide.

IPPNW doctors and Central Office staff who participated in the negotiations experienced a roller coaster of emotions, from optimism at the outset that a strong and humanitarian treaty was within the world’s grasp, to huge disappointment on the last day of the conference when a number of countries including the United States blocked an agreement and asked for more time to work on the text.

A statement on the last day read by Mexico on behalf of 90 states gave a strong signal that supporters will not allow the treaty process to fail: “we are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible. One that will bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity.” IPPNW’s participation along with others from civil society remains crucial. Ban Ki-moon told us that "Your determination has helped us get this far - and your continued pressure and activism will help make this Treaty a reality."

Efforts are now underway to bring the treaty text to the UN General Assembly this fall. “There is already considerable common ground and States can build on the hard work that has been done during these negotiations,” Ban Ki-moon said at the end of the conference, while also noting that his commitment to the pursuit of “a robust ATT is steadfast.”

IPPNW’s Activities at the ATT Diplomatic Conference, UN, New York City

IPPNW had a strong presence at the opening week of the conference. On Tuesday July 3rd IPPNW Nigeria’s Ogebe Onazi, MD, presented UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with IPPNW’s “Medical Alert for a Strong ATT” with over 1700 physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals’ signatures. Also part of the high level handover ceremony were a Parliamentarian Declaration, representing thousands of parliament members from all over the world, an Interfaith Declaration from the Interfaith Coalition, and a citizen’s petition with over 600,000 signatures worldwide. “It is my honor as a young physician from the once peaceful state of Jos, Nigeria to join the voice of health workers in this civil society appeal for UN Member States to conclude an effective, humanitarian-focused ATT,” said Dr. Onazi. “We are here to appeal to the common humanity of our leaders to take a bold step forward to bringing an end to the unregulated international weapons trade.”

“We must act together. The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded,” said the Secretary General in his remarks following the presentations

Later that week, IPPNW’s July 6 side event sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, A Framework on Global Health and the ATT, was both well-attended and well-received. Dr. Onazi moderated the panel and introduced Mr. Richards Adejola, Minister, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Nigeria, who spoke on the important relationship of the ATT and health. Cathey Falvo, MD MPH (IPPNW/US and president of International Society of Doctors for the Environment) spoke on A Framework on Global Health and the ATT. Diego Zavala, PhD, Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Puerto Rico, spoke on The Latin American Perspective on Health Costs of Armed Violence.  Adebayo Owoeye, MD (IPPNW/Nigeria and Nigerian Doctors for the Welfare of Mankind) told of his research that led to Health Lessons form Terrorist Attacks in Nigeria. Andrew Kanter, MD MPH (President, PSR, and a board member of IPPNW) was the final speaker and discussed the Social and Ecological Costs of Armed Violence. There were good comments and questions from the floor, and the event was attended by a number of state delegates including the US as well as UN agencies.

IPPNW participants held numerous meetings during the month with delegations or state delegates including the US, Nigeria, Ghana, African Union, Japan, Norway, and Austria to name a few. Dr. Mtonga served on the official Zambian delegation.

On July 26th,  IPPNW’s Don Mellman participated in a handover of Medical Alert signatures gathered in Australia to Peter Woolcott, Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva..

IPPNW delegates during the month included Drs. Ogebe Onazi and Adebayo Owoeye from Nigeria, Drs. Shannon Gearhart, Cathey Falvo, Donald Mellman, Andrew Kanter and Shreedhar Paudel from the US, Kay Tyler from the US, Dr. Bob Mtonga from Zambia, and Central Office Aiming for Prevention Director Maria Valenti. IPPNW serves on the Steering Board of the NGO coalition. Please also see the IPPNW blog for some firsthand accounts from IPPNW delegates.

IPPNW members at the UN were also in the news. Bob Mtonga was interviewed for Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, and at least two Nigerians news agencies reported on IPPNW’s Medical Alert for a Strong ATT handover ceremony to Ban Ki-moon including the Voice of Nigeria and the News Agency of Nigeria

Ban Ki-Moon remarks after the Medical Alert for a Strong ATT handover event at the

The Secretary’s remarks were the following:

“Thank you for your initiative and action.

I am very much grateful, moved and encouraged by all that you have done this morning, but not only this morning, but since many many years to make this world better for all, secure and safe for all the people by removing and eliminating all these small arms and light weapons and nuclear weapons. I thank you very much for all your string commitment and leadership.

I always feel honoured when I receive appeals from citizens of the world who are pressing the United Nations, and Member States, to address urgent issues which we are now dealing with.

With your petitions and declarations today, you are reminding the world that we need to act.

I have just opened the United Nations conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. I sincerely hope that the Member States agree to a legally-binding treaty regulating the arms trade. So many people have been killed. So many crimes and abuses of human rights and humanitarian laws [which] have been violated. So I have to work very closely with the Member States. I have urged them to work and agree with this legally-binding treaty by the end of this month.
We need to act now to end the widespread human suffering caused by the unregulated international arms trade.

The absence of common standards to regulate international transfers of arms has made it easier for conventional weapons to fuel armed conflict and crime … to commit acts of terror … and to perpetrate political repression and grave human rights violations.

I am convinced that your strong voices will inspire and motivate the delegates as they work to adopt a robust and meaningful treaty by the end of this month.

You have to raise your voices. You have to watch and supervise how this treaty, once effective, will be implemented. You have the legitimate right as citizens of the world.

We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of victims of armed conflict and violence … to all the children who are deprived of a better future … and to our peacekeepers and humanitarian workers who risk their lives in the field.

I applaud the Members of Parliaments for a coordinated approach in support of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Parliamentarians will play a crucial role in ensuring the swift ratification of the treaty once it is adopted.

Let me also register my special thanks to the leaders of the Control Arms Coalition as well as all those here today, for your vigorous and invaluable efforts.

You represent almost all the spectrum of our life – in terms of gender, in terms of profession, in terms of your belief. I think you represent the whole world and our common efforts to make this world better and safer.

Your determination has helped us get this far – and your continued pressure and activism will help make a Treaty a reality.

As I have said many times, the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded.

Sixty years of United Nations peacekeeping have cost less than six weeks of current military spending. This is unacceptable.

Every day, we at the United Nations confront the human cost of lax controls on the arms trade.

We can change this, and you can help us. Let us make again all together this world better for all. Thank you for leading the way.”

In photo below: IPPNW Drs.Shannon Gearhart and Donald Mellman (far end) meet with North American NGO team to discuss mtg with US delegation.

IPPNW serves on the Steering Board of the Control Arms Coalition. We helped plan NGO activities during the recent ATT sessions and we will continue to participate in NGO leadership and activities in capitals and at the UN on this important ATT treaty. To get involved, or to attend upcoming UN sessions on this and other conventional arms issues, contact Maria Valenti at mvalenti@ippnw.org. For additional information go to the IPPNW blog, Facebook Page and Twitter accounts.