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AOAV is not sure what the PoA achieved this year. How about you?

New York in June is, at least according to the late, great Frank Sinatra, a likeable place to be. Perhaps this bucolic view was not shared, however, by those who were in the Big Apple this year to debate the impact of guns around the world. For June saw yet another week of yet more, seemingly endless, discussions at the United Nations. The topic – the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) – a political document intended to create a platform for international action. Action that would help prevent, combat and eradicate the global illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.

The June sun rose and fell on NYC as States spent hours talked around aspects relating to this. In particular they focused on stockpile management, on the tracing and marking of weapons, and on international cooperation and assistance. After many hours, the text of the document was finally agreed upon. But only a sharp eye would pick up on these changes, because, after all the sweat and tears (the ambition to reduce the spilling of blood at least was not broken), the document differs only marginally from PoA documents of previous years.

AOAV was present at the discussions. We were there to remind states and civil society that working on all aspects of illicit trade in weapons must include discussions on those most directly impacted – victims and survivors of armed violence. Survivors of such violence are invited to speak and bring the realities of armed violence closer to the diplomats in New York.

The diplomats want to hear about those realities, but taking concrete steps to address them is a very different matter.

Year after year, survivors and organizations working with survivors, like AOAV, join these processes and discussions in the hope that, maybe this time, maybe this June, states will recognise the missing pieces of the puzzle. One which they consistently ignore.

But year after year, we leave New York disappointed. Because states continue to speak of the need to reduce human suffering and reduce human suffering, but its all conversation and no action.

But we have come to expect this. And we accept that States are slow moving beasts that require much cajoling.

What was even more disturbing, though, is that we left New York disappointed in our own. Disappointed in colleagues from charities and civil society, colleagues who fail to embrace this issue as a substantive point in their lobbying efforts.

So, survivors are welcome to come and speak, but not to ask states to fulfil their obligations toward victims. Which is what happened in New York. And what happens every time.

Maybe our colleagues from Sou da Paz are correct in their assessment of the New York-based advocacy – The need is great. We can’t afford to spend resources on persuading governments to include a couple of words on helping victims here and there in a document. Resources are much better spent on actual projects, targeting actual victims and survivors and helping them to recover and get on with their lives.

But perhaps there is still hope. So we draw a deep breath and renew our call on states not to shy away from real progress that can be done in combating ALL aspects of illicit trade in weapons. By committing to assist victims in their recovery, we are helping build trust in the process. And perhaps paving the way for a brighter June in the future.

 

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