By Hilary Gridley
It’s hard to believe that some countries may have a tougher time acquiring bananas than bullets, but that’s the state of the current global weapons market, valued at more than $60 billion a year. The UN gathered in New York yesterday to begin treaty negotiations to address this issue, and while the victims of the lax ammunition regulations largely go unspoken for, prominent supporters of Oxfam and Amnesty International are using their musical stardom to give them a voice.
The group of celebrities, which includes such heavy hitters as Coldplay, Yoko Ono and singer/songwriter Annie Lennox, sent a letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon urging governments to forge a strong and effective treaty to protect citizens around the world by preventing the flow of arms to irresponsible users. They join other notable actors and artists such as Scarlett Johansson and Kiera Knightly in showing their support for Amnesty International and Oxfam’s human rights work.
The letter highlights the sad state of current weapons regulation, noting, “Every year an average of two bullets for every person on this planet is produced. With so few global rules governing the arms trade, no one really knows where all those bullets will end up – or whose lives they will tear apart. Under the current system, there are less global controls on the sales of ammunition and guns than on bananas and bottled water. It’s a ridiculous situation.”
Arms regulation clearly affects the citizens of every country, and the diverse group of signatories on the letter reflects the scale of the issue. In addition to Lennox, Coldplay, and a handful of other British celebrities, musicians from Spain, Colombia, Argentina, USA, South Sudan, Benin and Senegal added their name in support of a strong, human rights-focused treaty.
For many, the issue hits close to home; members of the Colombian rock band Aterciopelados speak for several people in their country and around the world when they say, “In Colombia…displacement and violence are everyday occurrences…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.”
Amnesty International and Oxfam have been working together in support of a “Golden Rule” arms trade treaty, meaning weapons must be stopped from crossing country borders whenever there is a substantial risk that the weapons will be used for serious human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law, or to undermine sustainable development.
Other musical advocates endorsing the letter include singer/songwriter Harry Belafonte, Miguel Bose, Emmanuel Jal, and the band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. The UN will continue talks throughout July and aim to unveil the first-ever binding treaty to regulate international arms trade at the end of the month.