Proposed Arms Trade Treaty now in the hands of 28 government experts – they must not fail, warn campaigners

Published: 11 February 2008

The Control Arms campaign: Amnesty International, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Oxfam International.

Talks starting today in the UN offer an historic way forward on conventional arms control, say Control Arms campaigners.

The 28 delegates from every continent will sit on the “Group of Governmental Experts in New York, where they will start their first discussions on a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

Hundreds of non-governmental organizations in Control Arms have been campaigning since 2003 for a Treaty which would prohibit arms transfers that fuel conflict, poverty and serious human rights abuses.

While 80% of States broadly support these goals, some sceptical governments wrongly claim that a Treaty would prevent responsible arms transfers for legitimate defence, policing or peacekeeping.

So far there has been huge momentum internationally for the Arms Trade Treaty. The UN overwhelmingly voted to start work on the ATT in 2006 and last year 100 states responded to the Secretary Generals consultation – more than ten times the usual amount.

In addition an array of military leaders, police officers, doctors, parliamentarians, community leaders, human rights workers, celebrities, religious groups, and people forced to flee violence have taken part in Control Arms events and in a Global People’s Consultation to demand tougher controls on the international trade in conventional arms.

Brian Wood, research and policy manager on arms control at Amnesty International said: “Every day we are documenting gross human rights abuses and war crimes perpetrated as a result of the irresponsible trade in conventional arms, including small arms. This Treaty is urgent but it will only be effective if it requires governments to prohibit transfers when there is a clear risk the arms will be used for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

Rebecca Peters, director of IANSA said: “This Treaty will bring about a new level of global cooperation. The uncontrolled commerce of small arms and ammunition devastates human lives and seriously hinders sustainable development. The government experts need to take in to account all aspects of the small arms trade- from production and brokering, to transit and logistics."

Anna MacDonald, head of the Control Arms campaign at Oxfam, said: "These UN arms control talks must not fail. A thousand people each day die from armed violence and many thousands more see their lives destroyed. It is essential we do all we can to reduce these figures. These government experts have an unprecedented opportunity to help prevent armed violence."


Notes to Editors

1. The Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) is appointed by the Secretary General to examine the feasibility, scope and parameters of an Arms Trade Treaty and report back to the UN General Assembly in October 2008. The 28 States with Experts on the GGE are Argentina, Algeria, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, USA, Ukraine, UK.

2. In 2006, 153 states voted in the UN General Assembly to begin work on an Arms Trade Treatyn – 24 states abstained and only the USA voted against.

3. Control Arms has made broad proposals for a global Arms Trade Treaty that would prevent international transfers if it is likely that such equipment will be used for violations of international law, especially international human rights and humanitarian law.

Contact Information

For more information, please call:
Sean Kenny (UK) +44 1865 472 359 or +44 7881 655 715