ATT candle vigil in India. Credit: Control Arms.
Momentum builds for Arms Trade Treaty

Arms Trade Treaty: campaigners call for show of unity on arms vote

“An overwhelming UN vote by governments to move forward and develop the Arms Trade Treaty will give the world new hope”
Brian Wood
Amnesty International
Published: 29 October 2008

Momentum builds for Arms Trade Treaty as nations prepare for key UN vote.

As the world’s governments prepare for a crucial vote at the United Nations on the future of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), taking place either today [Wednesday] or tomorrow [Thursday], the Control Arms campaign, representing campaigners from around the world, urged all states to back the resolution on the ATT, and move forward rapidly to develop the treaty to end irresponsible arms transfers.

Every day at the current horrific rate, over one thousand people are killed by firearms and many thousands more die indirectly as a consequence of armed violence or are driven from their homes, forced off their land, raped, tortured or maimed. The irresponsible arms trade fuels conflict, poverty and grave human rights abuses.

Over the last two weeks, overwhelming momentum has built amongst governments in favor of the treaty. Over 2,000 Parliamentarians from 125 countries have pledged their support, a group of high-ranking military officers who have worked in some of the world’s worst conflict zones have come to the UN to back the treaty, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent a powerful message to every nation calling on them to back the treaty and to ‘end the slaughter’.  In addition over 100 states have ‘co-sponsored’ the resolution on the treaty, indicating their strong support that the resolution should pass.

Commenting in advance of the vote, Anna Macdonald, from Oxfam International, said:

“This is the chance for the nations of the world to come together, say that the carnage from the irresponsible use of weapons must stop, and actually do something about it by voting to take forward an Arms Trade Treaty.”

Mark Marge, from the International Action Network on Small Arms, said:

“An Arms Trade Treaty can’t come soon enough. It is a matter of extreme urgency and we need every country to show that they want to end the useless waste of life we see every day around the world because of the misuse of arms.”

Brian Wood, from Amnesty International said:

“An overwhelming UN vote by governments to move forward and develop the Arms Trade Treaty will give the world new hope, despite the spoiling tactics of a few. No one at the UN wants to jeopardize the right of states to acquire arms legitimately, so the basic issue is whether world leaders will concede the argument and now commit themselves urgently to prevent irresponsible arms transfers that contribute to massive violations of human rights.”

Notes to Editors

Why is the ATT vote this October so important?

The resolution to be tabled by the co-authors is the critical next step to widen and deepen discussions amongst all states to enable stronger regulation of the global arms trade. It will set out the next stage in the process towards agreeing the framework, scope and principles of a legally binding treaty to bring the arms trade under much stricter control by states.

  1. The Control Arms campaign is made up of Amnesty International, the International Action Network on Small Arms and Oxfam International. You can find out more on the Control Arms campaign and the Arms Trade Treaty at www.controlarms.org
  2. Photographs linked to the Control Arms campaign can be downloaded here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/controlarms/ 
  3. You can watch the video message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, here: http://www.controlarms.org/en/events/first-comm-2008/an-urgent-message-from-archbishop-desmond-tutu
  4. Further background briefing material, plus a graphic suitable for use in the media, which shows the story so far of the arms trade treaty, are available on request.
  5. Background to the ATT process.
  • In 2006 the resolution ‘Towards an Arms Trade Treaty’ was co-authored by Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom and tabled for voting at the UN General Assembly.
  • The Resolution was passed at the UN First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) in October 2006. 139 countries voted for the Resolution, 24 abstained and only the United States voted against it.
  • The Resolution then went to vote at the General Assembly in December 2006. The number of Yes votes there increased to 153; the number of abstentions was unchanged (24) and again only the US voted No.
  • The massive December 2006 vote set in motion a UN process to consider the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for an ATT during 2007 through submissions of views by states (over 100 submitted views, which was unprecedented) and during 2008 though examination by a UN Group of Governmental Experts. The latter Group reported back to the UN in August 2008 identifying some points of consensus and some differing views.
  • The vote this month (October 2008) at the UN First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) is the next major step towards an Arms Trade Treaty. It seeks to enable early progress towards an effective ATT to prevent irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons and munitions.