Historic British Achievements of 2012: Let a Strong Arms Trade Treaty be One of Them

25/07/2012 08:15 BST | Updated 23/09/2012 10:12 BST

With Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France this weekend - the first time ever for a Brit, and Andy Murray reaching the Wimbledon Final earlier this month - another first for a Brit since 1938, one thing is certain: UK athletes are making 2012 a year to remember. And that is even before the London Olympics has begun.

I am eagerly hoping then that this appetite for success is rubbing off on the UK delegates over at the United Nations in New York where in just four days' time, they too could be on the verge of making history.

As Ministers Burt and Duncan recently pointed out here, the UK Government has long been a key player in calling for a robust and effective international Arms Trade Treaty. From 2006 until now, successive UK Governments have recognised that a poorly regulated international arms trade is giving way to weapons being transferred where they are being used to commit some of the worst human rights violations, and where gunrunners and illicit arms brokers are being able to operate with ease causing untold devastation.

Which is why in these final days of UN negotiations, we need the UK Government to be one of the loudest champions in the room for a strong Arms Trade Treaty.

Entering into the final week of these month-long talks, countries that are sceptical of a strong Arms Trade Treaty are digging in their heels. For example, China is doing its best to persuade other states that small arms and light weapons do not need to be included in the Treaty, while the US, China, Egypt and Iran are determined that the Treaty does not include ammunition within its scope. The US is also pushing for 'national security' considerations to prevail over human rights, a call that could allow any country to simply sidestep the Treaty and continue to supply weapons, despite there being a substantial risk such weapons will be used to facilitate serious human rights violations.

The UK voice in the midst of this critical din must remain strong. It cannot afford to falter now we're on the cusp of history being made. Ministers Burt and Duncan have indicated that there are committed to ensuring the Treaty contains the highest possible standards. And today Foreign Secretary William's commitment that the UK will not sign a weak Arms Trade Treaty text is extremely encouraging. We welcome this and urge the UK Government to remain firm. At this stage of the game, there can be no compromise. Put quite simply: thousands of lives depend on the decisions taken by the United Nations this Friday.

Now we're on the home stretch, I'm calling on the UK to deliver on this vision. Six years ago the UK Government had courage in their conviction to demand a robust Arms Trade Treaty. At that time, they were one of a handful of states banging that drum. Six years on, the UK Government must again raise a loud cry for an effective Treaty. It cannot apply compromise and cordiality at the expense of enshrining key human rights and humanitarian law principles into this important piece of global legislation.

Now really is the time for the UK to deliver. This Friday, the UK has a once-in a lifetime opportunity to make successful history - both in east London as it unveils its first London-hosted Olympics since 1948, and in New York when the world may agree to the first international Arms Trade Treaty, ever.