International Arms Trade Treaty essential for world peoples ─ UN tries again
Civilian populations trapped in armed violence in settings of crime and conflict, in conditions of poverty, deprivation, extreme inequality suffer most in a world of unregulated arms ─ ATT essential
Editing, re-reporting, brief comment by Carolyn Bennett
Unfortunately, the United States of America (my country) together with its arms industry ─ while leading the world in global arms transfers (sales, exports, trafficking) ─ obstructs progress. As it tried to do with the cluster bomb treaty and the convention on the rights of the child, the United States is standing in the way of the United Nations international Arms Trade Treaty.
A March 2013 United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs paper “The impact of poorly regulated Arms transfers on the work of the United Nations” lays out the essentiality of the treaty. The paper leads:
The poorly regulated arms trade has devastating, multifaceted effect. These include fueling violence and armed conflict, hindering efforts to promote socioeconomic development and creating a permanent atmosphere of fear and instability in conflict settings.
While millions of civilians have paid the high price of the lack of legally binding rules in the area of arms trade, women and children are among the most vulnerable groups affected by this gap.
Flows of arms into conflict and post-conflict situations, not only impede the ability of the United Nations to discharge its mandates and assist the governments and populations that it is called to assist; but flows of arms also pose a direct threat to United Nations personnel and assets.
The ready availability of weapons and ammunition in all parts of the world has led to human suffering, political repression, crime and terror among civilian populations. Irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons can destabilize security in (geographical or geopolitical) region(s); enable the violation of Security Council arms embargoes and contribute to human rights abuses. Investment is discouraged and development disrupted in countries experiencing conflict and high levels of violence. The situation also affects countries’ ability to attain the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Eight UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development
Many areas of world trade are covered by regulations that bind countries into agreed conduct. An eclectic set of national and regional control measures and a few global instruments on arms transfers exist. But there is no global set of rules governing the trade in conventional weapons; and the absence of a global framework regulating the international trade in all conventional arms has obscured transparency, comparability and accountability.
Contrary to propaganda, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs notes, will not:
1. Interfere with the domestic arms trade and the way a country regulates civilian possession
2. Ban or prohibit the export of any type of weapons
3. Impair States’ legitimate right to self-defense
4. Lower arms regulation standards in countries where these are already at a high level
Why Arms Trade Treaty matters
The writers of the UNODA paper continue, “Most present-day international challenges—from global warming and the financial crisis to terrorism and underdevelopment— have complex origins. Similarly, there is no (single) relationship between the poorly regulated arms trade on the one hand, and conflict, crime and insecurity, armed violence and grave human rights abuses on the other. Often, however, connections can be established between the misuse of arms by national armed and security forces and the poor judgment ─ or lack of responsibility ─ on the part of the original providers of such arms.
Similarly, one can establish a link between massive amounts of illicit arms and ammunition in circulation and lax national controls.
Weapons are force multipliers and thus enable the user to enhance the ability to project power and to exercise coercive control within and across borders. With every transfer it authorizes, a government deciding on exporting weapons must realize the profound international responsibility of that decision. And, conversely, an importing government must ensure that it will use these weapons only to provide for the safety and security of its citizens and that it has the capacity to safeguard all weapons within its possession throughout their life cycle.
Working to improve lives and livelihoods around the world, the United Nations system is directly confronted with the consequences stemming from the often brutal repression of political dissent, armed conflict, rampant crime or armed violence and the widespread human suffering that they cause.
Whether it is maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, providing humanitarian aid, promoting social and economic development, conducting peacekeeping, assisting in crime prevention and criminal justice, promoting women’s empowerment, protecting children, improving public health or building safer cities, all too often armed insecurity fueled by poorly regulated arms transfers prevents [the UN] from reaching the goals laid out by Member States. In these contexts, United Nations personnel also face security risks on an unprecedented scale—from drivers of trucks transporting food aid, peacekeepers on patrol, United Nations personnel running refugee camps to international and local staff working at United Nations compounds.
Civil society organizations concerned about the misuse of weaponry around the world mobilized governments and parliamentarians to call for the global regulation of the conventional arms trade. Countries have discussed this matter within the UN since 2006. The UN Department for Disarmament Affairs extends as far back as the 1980s.
The first round of UN negotiations on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty held in July of 2012 produced no agreement on treaty text. The Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty is being held this week and next (March 18-28) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In statements leading into this year’s conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled that armed violence every year in the world kills 66,000 women and girls, a total of more than half a million people.
The Arms Trade Treaty further complements and supplements existing international tools from the Program of Action on Small Arms to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and beyond, he said; and it “will strengthen the rule of law by contributing to the development of an emerging network of international norms against trafficking, misuse, and the illicit proliferation of weapons and ammunition.”
Last year’s conference in New York, the Secretary-General said, “came close to reaching an agreement on a draft treaty text.
We must now build on this work and conclude our historic journey over the next nine days.
Now is the time to overcome past setbacks and deliver.
Now is the time for the focus and political will to negotiate the final details of the treaty and arrive at a consensus outcome by the 28th March.
UNODA’s March paper concludes, “Unlike other areas of world trade, which are covered by rules that bind countries into agreed conduct, the transfer of weapons is currently not covered by binding global rules other than Security Council arms embargoes. The absence of a global framework regulating the international trade in conventional arms makes it easier for weapons and ammunition to fall into the wrong hands.
“Those suffering most are civilian populations trapped in situations of armed violence in settings of both crime and conflict, often in conditions of poverty, deprivation and extreme inequality, where they are all too frequently on the receiving end of the misuse of arms by State armed and security forces, non-State armed groups and organized criminal groups, many of which are subject to United Nations Security Council sanctions. Small arms are the weapons of choice in modern-day intra-State armed conflict and armed violence.
“Civilian populations, including children, bear the brunt of armed conflict more than ever. But there is plenty of evidence of heavier categories of weapons being used against civilians as well. Therefore, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) should cover all conventional arms. But regulation of the international arms trade should not be limited to regulating transfers of weapons.
“While arms can have a lifespan of decades and are often recycled from conflict to conflict, their value and the ability to sustain armed conflict or violence depend on the availability of an uninterrupted supply of ammunition. Thus, for the ATT to be effective, it should also regulate the international trade in ammunition.”
We in the United States of America must finally grow up. Cease in our self-inflicted crisis and attendant paranoia, and destructive self-centeredness. Courageously join the world in nonviolence, in cooperation, in mutual coexistence for the good of all.
Sources and notes
UNODA Occasional Papers, No. 23, March 2013, THE IMPACT OF POORLY REGULATED
ARMS TRANSFERS ON THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS, United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) 2013,
This paper aims to develop a coherent United Nations approach to support the international community’s efforts to improve the regulation of international transfers of conventional arms. It records the United Nations Organization’s advocacy over the past years of a robust and comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty that covers the full array of conventional weapons as well as ammunition and that includes provisions that arms not be transferred where there is a clear risk that they will be used to commit violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law or seriously undermine development.
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA)
The Department for Disarmament Affairs was originally established in 1982 upon the recommendation of the General Assembly’s second special session on disarmament (SSOD II). In 1992, its name was changed to Centre for Disarmament Affairs, under the Department of Political Affairs. At the end of 1997, it was renamed Department for Disarmament Affairs
In January 1998 UNODA was established as the Department for Disarmament Affairs, part of the Secretary-General’s program for reform in accordance with his report to the General Assembly (A/51/950), the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). In 2007, it became the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs promotes:
Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation
Strengthening of the disarmament regimes in respect to other weapons of mass destruction, and chemical and biological weapons
Disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, especially landmines and small arms, which are the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts
“UNODA supports the development and implementation of practical disarmament measures after a conflict, such as disarming and demobilizing former combatants and helping them to reintegrate in civil society.”
Secretary-General’s remarks to Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) (UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon), New York, March18, 2013 - http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=6662
UN chief voices support for arms trade treaty ahead of upcoming conference
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will not:
Interfere with the domestic arms trade and the way a country regulates civilian possession
Ban, or prohibit the export of, any type of weapons
Impair States’ legitimate right to self-defense
Lower arms regulation standards in countries where these are already at a high level
An Arms Trade Treaty will aim to create a level playing field for international arms transfers by requiring all States to abide by a set of standards for transfer controls, which will ultimately benefit the safety and security of people everywhere in the world.
The Millennium Development Goals
In September of the year 2000, leaders of 189 countries met at the United Nations in New York and endorsed the Millennium Declaration, a commitment to work together to build a safer, more prosperous and equitable world.
The Declaration was translated into a roadmap setting out eight time-bound and measurable goals to be reached by 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals, http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview.html
For more information, please visit: www.un.org/millenniumgoals
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Labels: Arms Trade Treaty, Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, Millennium Development Goals, U.S. obstructionism, U.S. v. UN, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, UNODA