Marking a New Dawn – Historic Arms Trade Treaty Signed at U.N


Anna MacDonald of Control Arms speaks at the start of the ceremony for the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty at United Nations headquarters in New York, Jun. 3, 2013. Credit: Keith Bedford/INSIDER IMAGES (UNITED STATES)Anna MacDonald of Control Arms speaks at the start of the ceremony for the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty at United Nations headquarters in New York, Jun. 3, 2013. Credit: Keith Bedford/INSIDER IMAGES (UNITED STATES)

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 4 2013 (IPS) – The United Nations witnessed a historic moment Monday with the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty, first adopted in April by the General Assembly, and the first time the 85-billion-dollar international arms trade has been regulated by a global set of standards.

Negotiations took place between 193 countries, 63 of which signed on Monday. More countries are expected to sign by the end of the week.

“We all know about history, so [the U.S. has] a big responsibility.” — Alex Gálvez of Transitions Foundation of Guatemala

The treaty will regulate all transfers of conventional arms and ban the export of arms if they will be used to commit crimes against humanity.

The treaty also calls for greater transparency and for nations to be held more accountable for their weapons trading. States will undergo rigorous assessment before they move arms overseas and have to provide annual reports on international transfers of weapons.

But some of the world’s major arms importers and exporters, whose inclusion is crucial for the treaty’s success, have abstained or declined to give their signatures. Syria, North Korea and Iran were the only three countries to fully oppose the treaty, while Russia, China and India abstained.

The United States, the world’s largest arms exporter, did not sign, but is expected to by the end of the year. Technicalities in the language of the treaty were the reason for not signing; while U.S. support for the treaty is “strong and genuine,” there were inconsistencies in comparison between the English-language and translated versions of the treaty, said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“All other countries are looking to what the United States does,” Kimball added.

Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said it is “critical” that the United States sign the treaty, which has been “10 years in the making.”

In a statement released by the State Department Monday morning, Secretary John Kerry welcomed the treaty, ensuring that the U.S.’s signing would not infringe on the fiercely debated Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

“We look forward to signing [the treaty] as soon as the process of conforming the official translations is completed satisfactorily,” Kerry’s statement said.

The treaty is a crucial step towards ending the deaths of the 500,000 people Oxfam estimates perish from armed violence each year.

“The most powerful argument for the [treaty] has always been the call of millions who have suffered armed violence around the world,” Anna Macdonald, head of Arms Control, Oxfam, said in a statement. “Their suffering is the reason we have campaigned for more than a decade,” she added.

When asked if the treaty could prevent atrocities like those which have occurred in Syria, Macdonald said she believed it could, if implemented correctly.

With such vast negotiations taking place, disagreements were bound to arise.

“Items [such as] the scope of weapons covered by the treaty and the strength of human rights provisions preventing arms sales in certain circumstances are not as strong as we would have wished,” Jayantha Dhanapala, president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs and former under secretary general for disarmament affairs, told IPS.

Nevertheless, he believes the treaty is a “long overdue step” in realising Article 26 of the U.N. Charter, which calls for the “establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments”.

And considering the treaty was adopted just weeks ago, 63 signatures is an “excellent number,” Macdonald said.

The treaty will go into force after it receives 50 ratifications from states that have signed. This is expected to take up to two years, but some states, including the United Kingdom, have agreed to already start enforcing the rules of the Treaty.

One victim of gun violence was at the U.N. to witness the signing, the first step on the path to the treaty’s ratification.

Alex Gálvez, 36, was 14 years old when he felt a bullet course through his right shoulder, exiting through his left one. Buying sodas for lunch in Guatemala, Gálvez was caught up in a territorial dispute. The bullet perforated his lungs, but Gálvez said he was too young at the time to realise that he was dying.

Gálvez is now executive director of Transitions Foundation of Guatemala, an organisation that helps Guatemalans living with disabilities, many of whom have been injured by small weapons.

“They left a lot of small weapons without control” after three decades of violence in Guatemala, Gálvez told IPS.

“Unfortunately not everyone had had the opportunity to get treated in time, to get educated [about arms],” Gálvez said. “It’s not just Guatemala that is suffering [from armed violence]; many other countries are suffering too.”

While he received his medical treatment in the United States and understands that it’s a complex process, Gálvez would like to see the country sign, especially as it has provided small arms to many countries, including his own.

“We all know about history, so they have a big responsibility,” Gálvez said.

 

UN: Global Arms Trade Treaty a step closer after resounding vote


7 November 2012

The UN vote paves the way for a Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to take place in New York in March 2013.The UN vote paves the way for a Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to take place in New Yorkin March 2013.© Control Arms/ Andrew Kelly

Amnesty International

After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights

Wed, 07/11/2012

A historic treaty to regulate the global arms trade has won the backing of an overwhelming majority of states in a move Amnesty International called a potential victory for human rights worldwide.

In the biggest show of support so far, 157 governments at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament in New York voted on Wednesday in favour of finalizing the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) next March.

Among the “big six” arms-exporting countries, only Russia abstained from voting on Wednesday. China joined France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA in supporting the resolution.

“After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights,” said Brian Wood, Arms Control Manager at Amnesty International.

Even before the vote, 110 states from all world regions put their names on the resolution which was co-authored by seven governments – Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom – and co-sponsored by 103 other governments..

No government voted against the resolution, although Iran tried to alter it to prevent the current draft treaty text from being used as a basis to complete the negotiation – no other government supported such a move.

A long campaign

This is the final leg of a 17-year campaign by Amnesty International and its partners to achieve an arms trade treaty to help protect people on the ground who, time and again, have borne the brunt of human rights violations during armed repression, violence and conflicts around the globe.

This resulted in a historic Arms Trade Treaty Conference which produced the current draft treaty text in July 2012.

Although a handful of countries held up the negotiations and the text’s adoption in July, governments supportive of the treaty are using the delay to hammer out technical issues, such as potential loopholes regarding defence cooperation agreements and the transit of international arms shipments.

“We know sceptics will keep trying to undermine the human rights rules in the final treaty, but Amnesty International and its partners will keep up the pressure to secure the strongest possible text that protects human rights,” said Wood.

Amongst officials at the UN today, hopes are high that a new Obama administration in the USA – by far the world’s largest arms producer and exporter – will support a reasonably strong treaty next March.

But the USA has previously tried to weaken the human rights rules and the scope of the treaty – by excluding ammunition, and by only favouring watered-down rules on key issues covered in the text.

Final conference on the ATT

The UN’s Final Conference on the ATT will be held in New York from 18-28 March 2013.

If the March Conference fails to finally adopt the treaty text, it will almost certainly be tabled by a large majority for adoption by a vote in the UN General Assembly. After being adopted, the ATT is expected to come into force after being ratified by 65 states.

“This treaty won’t be a panacea – unscrupulous governments will try to bend and ignore the new rules, but global civil society and governments supporting the rule of law and human rights will hold them to account and keep working to improve the treaty rules on critical issues, such as sea and air drones and laser weapons,” said Wood.

“The Treaty should not be a frozen tablet. When it enters into force, a robust Arms Trade Treaty could be the starting shot for a new global process that can be further strengthened to really protect people on the ground.”