United Nations Member States Meet to Discuss Arms Trade Treaty

July 11, 2011

By Leon Ratz, Amnesty’s thematic specialist on the Arms Trade Treaty

© YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

This week, delegates from UN Member States are gathering in New York for the next round of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The treaty talks aim to establish the highest possible common standards for the export, import, and transfer of conventional weapons. If the negotiations prove successful, the treaty may have huge positive implications for human rights and human security around the world.

Currently, the multi-billion dollar global arms trade is often irresponsible, or even unregulated, resulting in weapons often reaching the hands of those who use them to commit serious abuses of human rights.  From the Sudan to the DRC to Myanmar, Amnesty International has documented how arms transfers have directly fueled serious abuses of human rights.

Moreover, the devastating impact of irresponsible arms transfers is most directly felt in developing countries, where the unrestrained flow and misuse of weapons significantly impedes poverty reduction efforts and sustainable development.

Since the 1980s, Amnesty International has called on governments to adopt responsible international standards and strict controls on the global trade in conventional weapons, and with other Nobel Laureates led by Dr. Oscar Arias and NGO partners, developed the first proposals for a global treaty on arms transfers. After a successful advocacy push by Amnesty International and other NGOs in 2006, the United Nations launched formal intergovernmental discussions on the Arms Trade Treaty in New York.

The negotiations are now about to enter their final phase, with the United Nations talks set to conclude in the summer of 2012. Amnesty International representatives are at the UN working with other NGOs to fight for a strong and principled treaty text.

In particular, we call on governments to adopt a comprehensive scope with respect to the equipment that the treaty will cover—especially the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty text—and the inclusion of criteria that would prevent States Parties from authorizing a transfer of equipment in cases where there is a substantial risk that the transfer would facilitate serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. The treaty should also require transparent reporting by States on their trade and transfers, and robust provisions for enforcement.

This week, diplomats will focus in on the implementation and enforcement proposals for the treaty text. I will be blogging from the UN all week to provide you with an overview of the major issues under discussion and to keep you informed of the latest progress of the negotiations.  I hope you’ll enjoy following all the action happening at the UN this week.