Social media have picked up on Amnesty International’s online plea to support a first ever bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty being negotiated by world leaders to help keep weapons out of the hands of rapists, warlords and human rights abusers.
The plea mentions that millions of women and girls are kidnapped, forced into sex slavery, raped and killed every year at gunpoint, and the ease with which weapons and ammunition are transferred across borders contributes to the frequency and severity of these human rights abuses.
According to social video analyzer Visible Measures, Invisible Children’s 29-minute video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army has been watched by more than 112 million people so far. The video achieved this feat in just six days, making it the most viral video of all time.
Child victims, child soldiers
It did a good job of focusing on the victimization of children who are among the millions displaced, subjected to sexual and other violence and forcibly recruited into this armed group in Uganda.
Amnesty International estimates, however, that there are tens of thousands of children being used as soldiers in 18 other countries. While many people now know about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, fewer people know about recruitment of child soldiers by Bosco Ntaganda, a commander of the FPLC armed group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Fewer still realize that the armed groups that have taken control of the northern part of Mali as well as the Malian army are also using child soldiers. The link between the use of children in Uganda, the DRC and Mali is attributed to the easy access of small arms.
Easily accessible arms also contribute to the impunity with which both armed groups and the governments fighting them use these weapons to victimize children by turning them into combatants, porters and sex slaves.
Time to speak out
This uncontrolled free-for-all needs to be stopped. Human rights safeguards are not in place all over the world. Citizens in countries enjoying freedom have the responsibility to stand up and speak up for those without a voice.
According to the most complete index of human freedom yet available (recently released by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank) Canada ranks fourth overall for its level of personal freedoms. The index measures the degree to which people are free to enjoy classic civil liberties – freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, association and assembly. It also looks at indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women’s freedoms.
Canada must, in her prominent, trusted, eloquent voice, support and champion the highest possible human rights standards within a new Arms Trade Treaty, including ensuring that arms transfers shall not be permitted where there is a substantial risk that those arms are likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights.
It is time to stop paying so much attention to the shenanigans of Kardashians, of royals, of who the next Pope will be. Canadians’ freedom of voice should be heard loud and clear in papers, on TV, radio and social networks to help ensure that a broad scope of weapons, all types of arms transfers, as well as ammunition be included in the scope of the treaty.
We need a bullet proof treaty and we need every free voice to remind and support Stephen Harper, Barack Obama and the other leaders of the 193 United Nations members voting on the Arms Trade Treaty.
LATEST UPDATE: The Arms Trade Treaty passed with a resounding majority of 154 of the United Nation’s 193 countries. Twenty-three countries abstained from the vote, and Syria, Iran and North Korea voted against the pact.