This vote for the first ever global treaty to regulate the international arms trade marks ‘an incredible moment’ signaling the dawn of a new era. The historical agreement sends a clear message to arms dealers who supply war lords and dictators that their time is up. “They will no longer be able to operate and arm themselves with impunity. The world will be watching and will hold them accountable,” said Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control.
After six years of diplomatic negotiations, and more than 10 years of campaigning from civil society, governments at the United Nations voted for the ATT by a resounding majority (154 votes YES, 3 votes NO, 23 Abstentions). The treaty enshrines in new international law a set of clear rules for all global transfers of weapons and ammunitions.
The vote at the UN General Assembly was held just five days after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked the Treaty’s adoption by consensus in a nail-biting session on the last day of the Final Conference on the ATT. After consensus was blocked, states moved swiftly to adopt the treaty by voting: the will of the majority wins out, not the tiny minority of skeptics who were intent on wrecking the process.
The Treaty 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.
“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”, insists the Control Arms coalition, which represents more than 100 civil society groups active in 120 countries.
Governments are now called on to immediately start the signing and ratification process: it is imperative that all those governments who voted in favour of the treaty demonstrate their commitment to setting the highest possible international standards in their implementation of the treaty, 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.
So, the work doesn’t stop yet: it should be made sure that this Treaty actually makes a difference on the ground. “States must move to ratify the ATT now, and make its swift implementation a top priority.”