Arms Trade Treaty within sight though Iran, Syria and North Korea block consensus

March 29, 2013
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Call on Canada to vote for treaty at General Assembly and sign on without delay

Campaigners expressed their ‘immense frustration’ with the consensus process after Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea blocked agreement Friday of the Arms Trade Treaty. Despite a courageous last minute attempt by Mexico, Japan and several other countries to save the process, a consensus could not be achieved at a UN negotiating conference.

The Control Arms Coalition says the historic treaty is still within reach but that the consensus process had delayed proceedings again when a handful of sceptical states used their veto power against the huge majority of states, who want to see the treaty pass.

Kenya read a statement on behalf of 12 states, calling for the UN General Assembly to adopt the Treaty by vote as soon as possible. The earliest this can happen is 2 April, next Tuesday, when the President of the Conference, Ambassador Peter Woolcott, will present his report.

It is widely anticipated the treaty would then pass by majority enshrining in international law for the first time ever a set of rules to regulate the global arms trade.

Canadian Control Arms campaign reaction

Canadian spokespeople in New York for the Control Arms Campaign reacted:

“Today could have been a great victory for the millions of people suffering the effects of armed violence. A handful of recalcitrant countries blocked consensus on the Arms Trade Treaty. However, the issue now moves quickly to the UN General Assembly, where decision is by two-thirds majority vote. We call on Canada to vote in favour of the ATT and then to become the first country to sign and ratify it,” said Lina Holguin of Oxfam.

“We are so very close to an Arms trade Treaty that has the potential to save countless lives and livelihoods. We hope Canada will vote in favour at the General Assembly and soon comply with all measures in the treaty, including the regulation of Canadian arms brokers. We hope also that Canada will adopt even higher standards, for example by reporting on all conventional arms transfers,” said Ken Epps of Project Ploughshares.

Holguin thanked the tens of thousands of Canadians who have supported the Control Arms campaign. “We are almost there! Soon, the lives of future generations will not be blighted by the irresponsible trade in weapons.”

Three countries block global agreement

Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control, said: “The Arms Trade Treaty has been held up by three states. We have known all along that the consensus process was deeply flawed and today has shown that. It is outrageous that countries including Syria should try to block the rest of the world trying to bring the arms trade under control.

“We are determined to ensure this treaty will become a reality – it’s just a matter of time. We believe the fight for an Arms Trade Treaty is almost over and  we are close to the start of a new era. We have a clear message for human rights abusers and gunrunners – your time is nearly up.”

The Control Arms Coalition has broadly welcomed the new draft text though they have criticised areas where there are still gaps in crucial areas. The campaigners are concerned the list of weapons covered in the draft text is still too narrow and the criteria by which governments will assess whether to authorize an arms transfer is ambiguous.  

The coalition is calling on states to see the treaty as a starting point, which sets new international standards. Once passed, they want to see states aim high in their implementation plans and to sign and ratify the treaty as soon as possible.

Control Arms campaign manager Allison Pytlak said: “Of course we are disappointed. Lives are lost each day because there is currently such poor regulation of the arms trade.

“It’s been a long hard road to get to this point but almost all states believe now is the time for a treaty. Agreeing a treaty such as this is a challenge but states are nearly there now. Once the treaty has been passed, the real work of implementing it will start and only then will it actually change people’s lives on the ground.”

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For more information

Juliet O’Neill
Oxfam Canada media contact

Phone: 613-240-3047


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