Presentation on Civil Society’s Contribution to the ATT process in the Americas and the Caribbean
By Folade Mutota
At the Regional Seminar for countries in the Americas and the Caribbean on
Supporting the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations through Regional Discussions and Expertise Sharing
April 27-29, 2011
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to our very important discussions
from this podium this morning. My participation on this panel, I hope, signals
intent to continue the engagement with civil society as experts and practitioners
in the fields of human security, gender and development, sociology, security
studies and international relations.
I’ve been asked to apprise you about Civil Society’s Contribution to the ATT
process in the Americas and the Caribbean. As stated on the agenda, I represent
the Caribbean Coalition for Development and the Reduction of Armed Violence
(CDRAV) which is a coalition of NGOs in twelve CARICOM Member States that are
actively researching the causes and impact of armed violence and advocating for
policy measures to alleviate and prevent armed violence across the region.
CDRAV has collaborated with our NGO partners in the Americas on issues related
to armed violence and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Our representatives have
served on the international Arms Trade Treaty Steering Committee and we
contribute to the policy direction of the global movement for an ATT.
Whilst Ambassador Sinclair of the CARICOM Secretariat will address this meeting
in terms of what the ATT means for CARICOM, I wish to state that to date, the
negotiating positions of our governments is aligned to our own thinking on how a
comprehensive ATT can meet the needs of Caribbean people.
Civil society advocacy in the Caribbean has been informed by action oriented
research; policy round tables; consultations and collaboration with several
governments in the region as well as regional authorities such as the CARICOM
Secretariat and CARICOM IMPACS. CARICOM IMPACS is the regional crime and
We have also campaigned to build public awareness about the need for a strong
and robust ATT and about the process of agreeing an ATT in order to encourage
citizens to add their voice to the debate so that governments know what our
For CDRAV, and for civil society in the Americas, the imperatives are clear. A
comprehensive arms trade treaty must be based on the pillars of international
human rights law; international humanitarian law and sustainable development.
From this standpoint we would argue that there is a nexus between security and
development which is as old as the arms trade and further, that the principles of
the United Nations Charter are there to protect and guide us in determining how
we ensure that we do not trade one for the other.
In the Caribbean, we have not begun to count the cost of gun violence in
economic terms or for that matter, the social costs. What we do know, is that this
violence which has invaded our lives is overwhelming us daily and is creating a
blur on our prospects for sustainable peace.
In my country, Trinidad and Tobago, when mothers lament the demise of their
sons they say, somebody’s missing, somebody’s missing here today”. For every
“somebody” who´s missing as a result of gun violence it means the increased
likelihood that women and families will be plunged into poverty. When
somebody is missing, it adds to the burden of care which women are expected to
perform in families and communities and reduces women’s chances for higher
education and career advancement. Gender based violence is becoming more
prevalent fuelled in part by easy access to firearms; impunity and unequal gender
relations. It is unconscionable therefore to continue to rely on women to nurture
families yet not protect women from violence in this treaty.
The scourge of gun violence does not only take the life of the deceased person
but wipes out families as hope and happiness is replaced by despair and anger.
Anger left unresolved will ultimately return to haunt us and therein lies the
recurrent cost to the state. The treaty will be incomplete for the peoples of Latin
America and the Caribbean if armed violence is not addressed.
An arms trade treaty must save lives. It must save our lives, yours and mine.
It is for this reason that civil society has lobbied governments, in the Caribbean
and the Americas to negotiate an arms trade treaty that includes small arms and
light weapons as well as ammunition. They cannot and must not be separated.
Ammunition has proven to be a lethal force in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The scope of this treaty must reflect the dynamism and the promise of our time.
It must also acknowledge that whilst technology holds promise its misuse can
have devastating effects on human development and this treaty gives
governments the opportunity to protect their populations from human error or
corruption by ensuring that technology as well as the parts and components
specially designed or modified for use in conventional arms are embedded in the
arms trade treaty.
The annual trade in arms is well beyond the national budgets of all CARICOM
Member States and many in Latin America. In order to efficiently respond to the
current nightmare of armed violence and the intended implementation of the
arms trade treaty, international cooperation and assistance is vital. This has
proven to be a most effective implementation strategy in other places.
CDRAV has to date collaborated with CARICOM governments in Antigua and
Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago to jointly host three regional meetings to
explore and agree strategies to promote issues of relevance to CARICOM
countries in the debate and negotiations of the arms trade treaty. The fourth
meeting will be held in June 2011.
In 2008, a regional meeting on the ATT and sustainable development was held in
collaboration with the government of Antigua and Barbuda and Oxfam to explore
the relationship between the ATT and sustainable development.
The government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago co-sponsored two
regional workshops on negotiations for the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty in
2010 and 2011 along with the government of Australia.
We support CARICOM’s efforts to do all that is in its power to negotiate a legally
binding robust treaty, including aligning itself with like minded states in Latin
America and elsewhere.
Our collaboration with governments extend beyond our region as we have
formed a partnership with the government of Australia which has provided
technical and financial resources for the meetings held in 2010 and 2011
immediately preceding the UN PrepComs 1 and 2 in New York.
We are of the view that our strategy of research and advocacy has heightened
awareness of the issues which are important to us and the international NGO
In this regard, we wish to point you to our most recent proposal on
implementation of the ATT in which we argue that implementation in its entirety,
including the resourcing, development cooperation, challenges, monitoring and
evaluation, must be thoroughly dissected looking forward and we have proposed
the following strategies in order to do so.
With respect to CARICOM, harmonization of laws is required. We also propose a
national implementation unit and an independent monitoring authority which can
perhaps operate at the regional level. This structure will work in harmony with an
international monitoring agency. Adequate funding and engaging civil society are
equally important elements of the implementation process.
In terms of our advocacy work, it is our view that our efforts to partner with
CARICOM governments to pursue negotiations on an ATT in 2012 has successfully
resulted in all CARICOM Member States supporting the process. We salute our
governments for their vision and resolve.
Civil society organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean have pioneered the
thrust for an international legally binding treaty to control the trade in arms and
in this regard, we wish to acknowledge the leadership of the Arias Foundation and
its founder former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias for the vision and
determination that has brought us here today.
We wish to salute the activists and campaigners in this region for their
commitment to an ideal founded on respect for human rights and dedication to
Our thanks to the organizers of this seminar for acknowledging the contribution
of civil society to the discourse on the arms trade treaty through research, policy
briefs, campaigns, lobbying and facilitating meetings and events.
We wish to thank UNIDIR and the European Union for having the foresight to host
this seminar and our thanks to the Government of Uruguay for graciously hosting.
Our sincere thanks to all of you for choosing to be here.