6 May 2013


For more than ten years NGOs and ordinary citizens, including readers of this bulletin, have lobbied, petitioned and campaigned  in favour of a treaty to regulate the arms trade. For more than six years negotiations have taken place at the international level to bring about such a treaty. At times it seemed as if the initiative was doomed to fail, but last month all of those efforts finally came to fruition.

After the process was blocked by Syria, Iran, and North Korea, the Arms Trade Treaty was moved to the United Nations General Assembly where an overwhelming majority of States voted in favour of adopting an historic agreement that according to Control Arms sends a clear signal to gunrunners and human rights abusers that their time is up.

The Treaty will create binding obligations for governments to assess all arms transfers to ensure that weapons will not be used for human rights abuses, terrorism, transnational organised crime or violations of humanitarian law. It will require governments to refuse any transfers of weapons if there is a risk countries would use them to violate human rights or commit war crimes.

The next step is for States to prioritise signing and ratifying the treaty in order to bring it into force as soon as possible.

Photo shows some of the advocates for the Treaty celebrating following the UN vote. Congratulations to all those who have contributed to making our world a safer place.


In another victory for those advocating for a more fair and just world, three major developments took place last month.

Negotiators in the European Union reached an agreement to adopt groundbreaking new rules require all large EU oil, gas, mining, and timber companies to report all payments made to governments anywhere in the world.

"This agreement is a major victory for anyone who cares about fighting poverty, protecting investors, making markets more efficient, or reducing corruption,” said Global Financial Integrity Director Raymond Baker. "Our research shows that the developing world loses roughly US$1 trillion per year to crime, corruption, and tax evasion. This is a systemic problem caused largely by the opaque, secretive global financial system. For citizens of resource-rich countries, the new EU rules will shine a light in places that need it most."

The next step for the EU will be to pass legislation requiring all multi-national corporations to report their sales, profits, employees, and taxes paid on a country by country basis.

Secondly the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published their investigation into offshore finance and anonymous shell corporations and trusts. In one of the most significant offshore investigations in history, they unveiled data on 120,000 shell corporations in tax havens and their secretive owners.

Thirdly the United Kingdom, joined by France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, announced a new multilateral convention to establish a pilot for automatic exchange of tax information, declaring it, "an important early step in a much wider move towards a new international standard in the automatic exchange of tax information."


Behind the Brands is part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign to help create a world where everyone has enough to eat. Right now, nearly one in eight people on earth go to bed hungry. Sadly, the majority of these people are farmers or farm workers supplying the very food system that is failing them.  Yet there is enough food for everyone. That’s an outrage – but we can be the generation that ends this crazy situation.

While the food system is complex and its problems multi-faceted, the world’s largest food and beverage companies have enormous influence. Their policies drive how food is produced, the way resources are used and the extent to which the benefits trickle down to the marginalised millions at the bottom of their supply chains.

The 'Behind the Brands' campaign aims to provide people who buy and enjoy these products with the information they need to hold the Big 10 to account for what happens in their supply chains.

In putting together a scorecard based entirely on publicly available information on company policies, Oxfam posed the question “what are they doing to clean up their supply chains”?

Visit Behind the Brands to help change the way the food companies that make your favourite brands do business.

UN photo/John Isaac


Changing unjust structures and systems is slow work. It is often difficult to see results for one's efforts - at least in the short term. Sometimes there are encouraging breakthroughs such as those described in the preceding articles, more often change is slow and incremental and at times it even appears to reverse.

The campaign to abolish the death penalty is a good example.

According to Amnesty International the trend toward abolishing the death penalty continues, despite some countries resuming executions in 2012.

Executions in India, Japan, Pakistan, and Gambia were disappointing regressions, Amnesty notes, but elsewhere the death penalty was "becoming a thing of the past," according to secretary-general Salil Shetty.

The five countries carrying out most executions remain China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the USA (although fewer states carried out executions, and last week Maryland became the 18th state to repeal capital punishment).

Overall, there were just two more known executions last year - 682 in all - compared to 2011. And there were fewer newly-imposed death sentences - 1,722 against 1,923 - in fewer countries - 58 against 63.

Also, despite the resumptions of executions in some countries, overall the number of states where they were recorded last year was the same - 21 - as in 2011 and Amnesty International points out that this is down significantly from 28 a decade ago. Latvia last year became the 97th country to abolish capital punishment for all crimes.

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