The Million Faces Petition, which organizers billed as the world’s largest appeal for tougher global controls on the arms trade, was presented to Secretary-General Kofi Annan today in New York by a consortium of international groups as well as the one millionth petitioner – a survivor of gun violence from Kenya.
“I am honoured to receive this petition in recognition of the people in more than 160 countries who have supported it, and given it a million ‘faces,’” Mr. Annan said in accepting the call from the Control Arms Campaign, Amnesty International and Oxfam International, the International Action Network on Small Arms and the young survivor.
The Secretary-General pledged to transmit the petitioners’ call for an international arms trade treaty to the President of the Review Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, which is currently meeting at the UN to review a 2001 plan of action against the scourge. “It will be in their hands to decide the future direction of the initiative.”
Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said the proliferation of small arms “has facilitated some of the most appalling human rights tragedy of our times, including genocide, ethnic cleansing, massacres, mass displacement, torture and ill treatment.” She blamed “hypocrisy, greed, and inaction of governments” for allowing the trade to continue.
Ms. Khan pointed to the effect on women and children. “From the bedroom to the battlefield, whether killed by violent partners or raped at gun point, women and girls have paid a high price for the unregulated trade in small arms. Children as young as eight years of age have been drawn into conflicts as soldiers.”
“Up to 1000 people a day die from gunshot wounds, and thousands more are injured,” the Executive Director of Oxfam, Jeremy Hobbs, said. “And for every person shot, there is a family left to fend for itself; a family left without a child; or a family that must now look after a relative with a serious disability.”
The Million Faces petition is a photo petition from people in more than 160 countries who recognize the small arms issue and have signed and supported the initiative.
Julius Arile, a Kenyan armed violence survivor, presented the Secretary General with the Million Faces Petition showing the many faces on the plaque.
“I used my first AK47 (gun) at the age of 15. Small arms are dangerous. Guns have affected my life, have killed my friends and my brother,” he told the UN News Service. “This petition means a lot to me and the people of Kenya,” added Mr. Arile, whose brother died from gun violence and who has witnessed other numerous crimes caused by small arms.
The armed violence survivor spoke of trading in his weapon in 2004 for money during a local peace agreement, “I am much better now, at that time when I surrendered my AK47, for a price, and then I went down and told my friends that these arms are no good, and to leave those guns.”
In an appeal to delegates, he added: “I would like this UN conference to agree [to] global rules for small arms sales. We owe it to people like me from all over the world.”