Final text of Arms Trade Treaty needs radical changes

March 25, 2013
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If the Arms Trade Treaty is to save lives, the draft text must be radically changed, Oxfam and other campaigners said Monday.

The text going into the final week of negotiations falls short of what the majority of member states demanded, and looks like a deal cooked up largely by major exporters, the Control Arms coalition said.

Control Arms says the president of the negotiating conference, Ambassador Peter Woolcott, has failed to heed calls for a strong treaty made by scores of states in a bid to get consensus at whatever price.

Oxfam's Lina Holguin says Canada continues to keep a low profile in treaty negotiations. “Canada did sign on to a joint statement calling for strong provisions on gender-based violence, which we welcome.  However, Canada did not join African and Latin American countries in the effort to enhance ammunition provisions.”

While campaigners want to see every member state support a future Treaty, they say this would come at too high a price if the final text still has several glaring loopholes. Under the draft agreed last week, ammunition is still poorly regulated. Too high a threshold has been set for states to use when assessing risk that weapons will be used for human rights abuses. And many weapons are exempt from the treaty.

Weak treaty worse than no treaty

Oxfam's Head of Arms Control Anna Macdonald said: “The Chair of the Conference has a stark choice to make. He can side with a handful of countries watering down the text or with the majority representing countless people suffering each day from the unregulated arms trade.

“The new text is not good enough and fails to reflect the demands of the majority of the member states. Nearly 120 states called on Mr. Woolcott to deliver a robust treaty at the start of the conference, declaring that a weak treaty was worse than no treaty.”

The Control Arms coalition believes the limited scope of the draft future treaty remains a major problem for the majority of countries. The coalition says ammunition is still poorly covered and a long list of weapons and munitions has been left out altogether.

Jonathan Frerichs, Program Executive from the World Council of Churches, says: “Without bullets, the guns fall silent, yet the transfer of ammunition is not fully-covered in the text.

“When you have drones, hand grenades, armored vehicles and even military transport aircraft not covered in a Treaty meant to regulate the arms trade, you know something is not right. It defies belief and means this treaty would not change the situation on the ground but instead maintain the status quo.

Allows secret reporting to UN

The new draft has also failed to fix the concern that too high a threshold has been set for states to use when assessing the risk that weapons will be used for human rights abuses.

Control Arms Campaign Manager Allison Pytlak says: “At the heart of this treaty is a fundamental flaw. This text could actually fail to prevent arms being provided to human rights abusers who commit torture and extra-judicial killings.

“We have four days of negotiations left now. Fixing this problem must be an absolute priority. Those who use irresponsibly-traded weapons to violate human rights have had it too good for too long. They should be stopped in their tracks by this treaty – not given the green light to carry on with business as usual.”

The coalition also says reporting is a major concern. States will be expected to report directly to the UN without making any of their deals public.

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For further information:

Juliet O'Neill
Oxfam Canada media contact



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