The Devil is in the Detail

The importance of comprehensive and legally binding criteria for arms transfers

Published: 3 May 2012
Author: 
Deepayan Basu Ray, Policy Advisor on Arms and Development, Oxfam GB

According to new figures, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition have been imported since 2000 by countries operating under arms embargoes. The figures show the extent to which states have been flagrantly flouting the 26 UN, regional or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period.

Oxfam is calling on the international community to put an end to decades of irresponsible arms deals which devastate people’s lives, by agreeing a set of legally-binding laws when diplomats meet to draw up a new Arms Trade Treaty in July. Oxfam wants to see the new treaty place strict, unambiguous and legal obligations on states to control the global trade in arms.

To be effective, the new Arms Trade Treaty must include legally-binding criteria that prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk they will be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian law or undermine development.

Key recommendations

The absence of comprehensive, international legal obligations to prevent irresponsible transfers of arms has resulted in at least $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition being imported by countries under arms embargoes between 2000 and 2010.

  • To have real impact, a prospective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) must include legally binding criteria that prevent arms transfers to abusers of human rights or into situations where there is a substantial risk that they will undermine development or exacerbate armed violence;
  • The ATT can build on existing regional and sub-regional initiatives: as of 2012, 100 countries are already party to various regional agreements that include legally binding criteria to control the trade of arms and ammunition.

Take action

Join our call to government leaders: sign up to support a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty

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