28 July 2012

Africa: Battle for an Arms Trade Treaty Continues As Governments Opt to Delay Final Deal

Photo: Iason Foounten
A crowd of demonstrators protest the ongoing use of weapons by rebel militias inside of Tripoli (file photo).

press release

The fight to end the illegal and irresponsible arms trade goes on after delegates at the United Nations failed to reach consensus and agree an Arms Trade Treaty, say campaigners. The Control Arms coalition says the lack of agreement on a final text was disappointing but not the end of the story.

They say, in spite of today's lack of agreement, momentum is gathering for an international and legally-binding treaty to bring the arms trade under control. Governments now have a second chance to make the treaty a reality by taking the text forward to the General Assembly, in the fall.

A group of over 90 states gave a joint statement, read out by Mexico, saying they "are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible. One that will bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity."

Throughout the month there was majority support for the Arms Trade Treaty to cover all conventional arms including ammunition, and to be based around tough rules on international human rights and humanitarian law. In the final hours of negotiations consensus was procedurally blocked by the United States, Russia, DPRK, Cuba and Venezuela who all asked for more time.

The General Assembly must now act quickly to improve the text and establish a process for its agreement.

Jeff Abramson, director of the Control Arms Secretariat, said:

"We have been fighting for more than 10 years for a robust Arms Trade Treaty and the fight continues. We will not give up, until a new, strong treaty is a reality. Not reaching consensus at this conference is of course a massive setback, but the vast majority of countries appeared ready to agree to prevent selling arms to human rights abusers - now they just need to finalise the detail on how it will be done."

Oxfam's Head of Arms Control Anna Macdonald said:

"Key countries have dropped the ball today and let the rest of the world down. Today was the day for political courage - not delays and dithering. Some 50,000 people lost their lives through armed violence during the course of these month-long negotiations. The out-of-control arms trade must - and will - be stopped.

"The majority of governments in the world have agreed that we need tough rules based around international human rights and humanitarian law to bring the arms trade under control. They've made a statement today confirming their intent to see a treaty realized. It's not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. We will continue campaigning to secure a treaty that will save lives."

Brian Wood, Arms Control Manager at Amnesty International, said:

"A powerful few countries, China, Russia and the US, failed to live up to their responsibilities today. This delay is a missed opportunity to bring to an end to the human suffering caused by the reckless arms trade.

A historic agreement was close and a majority of governments around the world still want to see a robust Arms Trade Treaty that protects human rights. We remain confident that if these governments keep up the pressure a strong deal can still be reached in the General Assembly later this year."

On the USA:

Scott Stedjan, senior policy advisor at Oxfam America said:

"Today the United States did not grab the golden ring: an international arms treaty that would have bolstered our country's reputation as a leader on human rights. The White House's failure of courage to press this treaty to conclusion today and is a loss for hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians that die each year from armed violence fueled by the unregulated transfer of arms. Moving forward President Obama must show the political courage required to make a strong treaty that contains strong rules on human rights a reality. It was this courage that was missing from this week."

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