Nei hæ! Ray Acheson

Ray Acheson, umsjónarkona námsstofunnar Banning the bomb: A new campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, kom í „Nei hæ!“. Enginn ætti að láta framlag þessarar kanadísk-bandarísku baráttukonu til Róttæka sumarháskólans fram hjá sér fara. Námsstofa hennar er ein af þremur sem fara fram á ensku, og einnig ein af þremur sem fjalla um friðar- og afvopnunarmál. Ray svaraði m.a. spurningu Egils Arnarsonar um vopnasölusáttmála Sameinuðu þjóðanna.

Name, age, location?

“Ray Acheson, 31, New York City.”

Another activist or thinker which gives you inspiration?

“In no particular order, some of the many people and groups that inspire me include Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Naomi Klein; the Idle No More movement in Canada; the activists protesting the construction of a naval base at Jeju Island, ROK and the start up of the nuclear reactor at Kudankulam, India.”

Is there anything from recent news or popular discourse that has made you think especially strongly about the need for radical social change?

“In the US, where I live, everything influences my desire for social change, including the destruction of social services coupled with the continued extravagant investments in militarism (including nuclear weapons); the corporate takeover of everything; the war on whistleblowers; the growing socioeconomic inequalities; the continuation of racism and sexism as seen through the Trayvon Martin verdict and legislation against women’s rights. In Canada, where I’m from, I’m particularly concerned with the aggressive swing to the right of the federal government, which is actively constructing a petrol police state while dismantling our social structures and identity.”

A question for you from Egill Arnarsson, another instructor at this year’s Radical Summer University: “From the recently adopted UN Arms Trade Treaty – do you expect great things?”

“The Arms Trade Treaty is the first international agreement among governments with legally-binding rules for the arms trade. In this sense, it’s an historic achievement. However, it was negotiated under conditions that allowed the major arms exporters to more or less determine the end result. This means that the treaty contains substantial limitations and loopholes. Its scope is narrow, providing only for consideration of a limited number of weapon systems and transfer activities. It does not legally obligate states to increase transparency in the international arms trade and even allows them to keep some information secret. The treaty’s language in some areas even suggests that political and economic interests could ‘override’ the requirement for importing states to comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law. It’s also an imbalanced treaty. Exporting states are required to assess the risk that the weapons requested for transfer might be used to violate human rights or IHL, for example. But the treaty does not reciprocally address concerns that major exporters themselves sometimes use arms to engage in violations of human rights. In addition, arms transfers are not prohibited to states engaged in foreign occupation or acts of aggression. The treaty also doesn’t address problems of overproduction and overaccumulation of conventional weapons.

So the treaty could be subject to political manipulation and abuse if it is not implemented with the foremost priority of preventing and reducing human suffering. Some of the major arms producing and exporting countries have already suggested that this treaty will not affect their export process. They do not see the ATT as an instrument that could be used to diminish their arms sales or to affect their own acquisition or accumulation of weapons. They view the treaty as a tool to bring the rest of the world up to “their standards”. But of course, the reason this treaty was negotiated is because current standards are not good enough to prevent the atrocities we see daily around the world.

Many governments and civil society organizations are celebrating the treaty as a first step towards better regulation of the international arms trade. The bottom line is that there will still be too much death, destruction, and suffering as a consequence of the overproduction, irresponsible transfer, and misuse of conventional weapons. When major industrial economies rely so much on weapons production and sale, it can hardly be expected that a treaty like this one can make a decisive impact on these problems. But we have to start somewhere.”

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