As governments meet in New York today for the first day of month-long talks at the United Nations on arms control, more than 30 high-profile Oxfam and Amnesty International supporters, including Keira Knightley, Yoko Ono, Scarlett Johansson, members of Coldplay, Tim Roth, Annie Lennox and Kevin Spacey, joined forces to demand governments take immediate action to help improve regulation of the international arms trade.
In a joint letter sent by Oxfam and Amnesty International to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the artists urge governments to deliver a strong treaty that will save lives. The letter was also signed by Paul Conroy, the British war photographer injured in the mortar attack that killed London Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and French photo journalist Remi Ochlik in Syria, earlier this year (see full list of signatories below).
“Under the current system, there are less global controls on the sales of ammunition and guns than on bananas and bottled water,” the letter states.
“As supporters of Oxfam and Amnesty International, we urge governments to step forward and deliver a robust, effective treaty that protects human rights. A treaty that puts a stop to the needless deaths and injuries which occur every day as a result of armed violence and conflict. The decisions taken around this treaty really are a matter of life and death,” continues the letter.
The deadly and poorly regulated trade in arms leads to serious human rights abuses, armed violence, conflict, poverty and organized crime around the world. The lack of clear binding principles governing decisions on international arms transfers combined with patchy diverse and poorly implemented national regulations are inadequate to deal with the increasingly globalised nature of the arms trade. As a result, irresponsible users are allowed to violate international humanitarian and human rights law.
"In Colombia, for decades civilians have been victims of armed conflict. Displacement and violence are everyday occurrences,” said the members of Colombian rock band Aterciopelados who signed the letter. "The ceaseless flow of arms fuels this terrible reality. But this isn't just the story of our country. It's vital that leaders implement a strong Arms Trade Treaty. It is urgently needed that they control arms to protect human rights."
"This impressive range of public figures from many walks of life urging governments to sign-up to a robust treaty this month underlines the importance of the treaty negotiations,” said Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s head of Control Arms. "This is a critical moment. The world has never before agreed to have a set of international rules on the arms trade. This is a chance of a lifetime, a chance of a generation, to make a difference by stopping the trade flows of arms going into the wrong hands. "
An effective arms trade treaty needs a "Golden Rule:" if there is a substantial risk that arms exported to another country are likely to be used for serious human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law, or to undermine sustainable development, those arms supplies must be stopped.
"These are big voices echoing a global civil society message to world leaders that is clear: seize this historic opportunity to agree a Golden Rule to make a strong arms trade treaty that can stamp out irresponsible arms trading, stop shattering the lives of millions and help protect everyone's human rights," said Brian Wood, Amnesty International's manager of Arms Control, Security Trade and Human Rights.
Notes to Editors:
The letter is available here.
The full list of signatories includes:
Gillian Anderson Actor, USA.
Los Aterciopelados Musicians, Colombia.
Harry Belafonte Singer, songwriter, actor and social activist, USA.
Gael Garcia Bernal Actor, Mexico.
Paul Bettany Actor, UK.
Jane Birkin Actor/Singer, UK.
Miguel Bose Singer, Spain.
Rahul Bose Actor, India.
Helena Christensen Photographer and model, Denmark.
Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion Members of Coldplay – Rock band, UK.
Jennifer Connelly Actor, USA.
Paul Conroy War photographer, UK.
Sophie Dahl Writer and model, UK.
Kristin Davis Actor, USA.
Andrea Echiverri Musician, singer and guitarist, Colombia.
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs Musicians, Argentina.
Livia Firth Film Producer and Eco-Age Creative Director, UK.
Anjelica Huston Actor, USA.
Eddie Izzard Comedian, actor and writer, UK.
Bianca Jagger Chair of Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, UK.
Emmanuel Jal Musician and activist, South Sudan
Scarlett Johansson Actor, USA.
Angelique Kidjo Singer, Benin.
Keira Knightley Actor, UK.
Annie Lennox Singer/songwriter, UK.
Baaba Maal Singer/musician, Senegal.
Bill Nighy Actor, UK.
Yoko Ono Artist, author and peace activist, Japan.
Emma Pooley Olympic cyclist, UK.
Tim Roth Actor and director, UK.
Kevin Spacey Actor, director and producer, US.
Dave Stewart Musician and record producer, UK.
Imelda Staunton Actor, UK.
Vivienne Westwood Fashion designer, UK