The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) agreement sends a clear message to arms dealers who supply warlords and dictators that their time is up, Oxfam head of arms control Anna MacDonald said yesterday, as the international civil society fraternity and anti-guns campaigners celebrated the first ever global treaty to regulate the international arms trade adopted this week in New York.
“This is an incredible moment. For the first time ever, we have a legally binding international treaty that will regulate the world’s deadliest business,” Macdonald said in a statement.
“Arms dealers who supply warlords will no longer be able to operate and arm themselves with impunity. The world will be watching and will hold them accountable,” she added.
Campaigners said ATT 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,” MacDonald explained.
ATT, which is said to have taken six years of diplomatic negotiations, and more than 10 years of campaigning from civil society, was overwhelmingly voted at the UN General Assembly, with 154 votes for yes, three votes for no and 23 abstentions.
Rogue states Iran, North Korea and Syria who tried earlier on to block the treaty’s adoption by consensus failed miserably, campaigners said.
The treaty enshrines in new international law a set of clear rules for all global transfers of weapons and ammunitions.
“From the streets of Latin America, to the camps in eastern Congo, to the valleys of Afghanistan, communities living in fear of attacks because of the unregulated arms trade can now hope for a safer future. The world will be a more secure place to live once the Treaty is in place,” Oxfam said.
However, it remains unclear whether the treaty will ever be respected, as it is the case for many international treaties signed by governments, and ignored and overlooked by the same signatories.
The Control Arms coalition warned against making a U-turn on the treaty, calling on governments who voted yes to demonstrate their commitment by setting the highest possible international standards in their implementation of the treaty.
“Governments can start by including all conventional arms in their national control lists, and making it explicit that they will always refuse arms transfers when there is a substantial risk of human rights and humanitarian law violations,” the coalition said.
Arms trade has been described by experts as the world’s dangerous but lucrative business.
In the US, where more than 100 million handguns are privately owned, at least 81 people are killed every day by guns, while 649 unintentional shootings and 16 750 suicides from guns occur every year, according to independent statistics.
*Photo by Free Republic