The irresponsible and illegal supply of weaponry and munitions to the warring parties in Côte d’Ivoire has continued for over a decade, despite the 2004 UN arms embargo. These arms have contributed to an escalation of hostilities that fueled a pattern of serious violations of human rights and violent crime, in particular during the 2011 post-electoral crisis.
The violence that followed the disputed presidential election in November 2011 caused the most serious humanitarian and human rights crisis in Côte d’Ivoire since the de facto partition of the country in 2002. All sides to the conflict committed international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hundreds of people were unlawfully killed, women and children were subjected to rape and sexual violence, and people were forced to flee their homes. Yet the weapons kept flowing.
The dire situation in Côte d’Ivoire underscores the urgency for UN member states to finalize an effective Arms Trade Treaty at the March 2013 UN conference. Such a treaty could protect and save lives by containing strong measures requiring all states parties to stop any international transfer of arms which carry a substantial risk of being used to facilitate atrocities or grave abuses of human rights. Preventing the international arms trade from repeatedly shattering such societies requires the application of a global treaty with robust rules based upon respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.
Even a strong arms trade treaty is not the complete answer, but its achievement is an essential part of the global solution to achieve a much more secure world for billions of people.