Resounding Vote In Favor of Historic Global Arms Trade Treaty Is a Potential Victory for Human Rights Worldwide

Press Release
November 7, 2012

Resounding Vote In Favor of Historic Global Arms Trade Treaty Is a Potential Victory for Human Rights Worldwide

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – Amnesty International said today that the overwhelming show of support for a treaty to regulate the global arms trade is a potential victory for human rights worldwide.

One-hundred fifty-seven governments at the U.N. General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament in New York voted on Wednesday in favor of finalizing the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) next March – the greatest show of support the treaty has ever received.

Among the "big six" arms-exporting countries, only Russia abstained from voting. China joined France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA in supporting the resolution.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: "This is an opportune moment for all countries to get behind this life-saving treaty to prevent needless suffering worldwide from the unregulated flow of illegal arms. The support of five of the ‘big six’ arms-exporting countries, including the United States, sends a powerful message: these countries can find the political will to stop the mayhem that weapons are causing around the globe. Today's vote is step one toward a hugely meaningful human rights victory. We will be urging the United States and all other countries to keep today's momentum going towards the final passage of the first arms trade treaty."

Even before the vote, 110 states from all world regions put their names on the resolution, which was co-authored by seven governments – Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom – and co-sponsored by 103 other governments.

No government voted against the resolution, although Iran attempted to alter it to prevent the current draft treaty text from being used as a basis to complete the negotiation. No other government supported such a move.

This is the final leg of a 17-year campaign by Amnesty International and its partners to achieve an arms trade treaty to help protect people on the ground who have repeatedly borne the brunt of human rights violations during armed repression and violent conflicts around the globe. This campaign resulted in a historic Arms Trade Treaty Conference that produced the current draft treaty text in July 2012.

Although a handful of countries held up the negotiations and the text’s adoption in July, governments supportive of the treaty are using the delay to hammer out technical issues, such as potential loopholes regarding defense cooperation agreements and the transit of international arms shipments.

Among officials at the UN today, hopes are high that a new Obama administration in the USA – by far the world’s largest arms producer and exporter – will support a reasonably strong treaty next March.

The United Nations’s Final Conference on the ATT will be held in New York from March 18 to 28, 2013.

If the March Conference fails to finally adopt the treaty text, it will almost certainly be tabled by a large majority for adoption by a vote in the U.N. General Assembly. After being adopted, the ATT is expected to come into force after being ratified by 65 states.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.