11 March 2013

Africa: Priorities for African States Negotiating for an Arms Trade Treaty

Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN
The availability of arms is cause for concern.


A strong Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is needed because of the poorly regulated international transfer of conventional arms and the current absence of global standards based on human rights and international humanitarian law to control such transfers. This situation will continue to cost hundreds of thousands of lives each year and blight the livelihoods of millions of people in many countries unless the international community takes principled and resolute action to deal with it.

In an attempt to address this issue, all United Nations (UN) member states gathered at the UN Headquarters in New York over the period 2-27 July 2012. Despite an intense four weeks of negotiations, the conference could not reach agreement on a treaty text. The historic lack of action on regulating the international trade in conventional arms is, as the UN Secretary-General has said, rather unfortunate. Ban Ki-moon noted rising military expenditure, armed conflict and human rights violations as requiring concerted, collective action on this issue.

While different entities play different roles in the arms trade, all should be bound by a collective responsibility to uphold what must be the key objective of the treaty: the preservation of human security and the prevention of human suffering. Achieving this treaty will require not only good faith among all participants but an uncompromising dedication to alleviate human suffering. This policy brief aims to provide objective analysis of key aspects of a future ATT that are applicable to Africa in particular. It recommends that African states prioritise several specific areas of text at the upcoming UN conference on the ATT scheduled to take place on 18-28 March 2013.

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