On 18 August, Montenegro became the 44th country to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty after Ambassador Milorad Šćepanović deposited their instrument of ratification at UN headquarters.
Ambassador Šćepanović stated that ”Montenegro is honoured and proud to have deposited the instrument of ratification for the Arms Trade Treaty today, becoming the 44th country to do so. Our ratification is yet another illustration of firm commitment my country has had towards the ATT and promoting responsible arms trade throughout the world. From the beginning, Montenegro has been active supporter and advocate for ATT. We were among the first to sign the Treaty. Now that we are approaching the entry into force of the ATT, we expect that this instrument will be decisive in putting an end to uncontrolled arms trade which fuels armed conflicts, thus making the real difference in lives, livelihoods and human rights of millions of people worldwide.
Montenegro will be devoted to the full and effective implementation of the ATT as well as to upholding the principles and standards enshrined by the Treaty on a global scale. Our efforts will continue in order to make sure that the Treaty truly becomes the universal one, with as broad and effective application as possible. “
The UN’s second youngest Member State has been a strong supporter of the ATT and was among the first states to sign the agreement when it opened for signature on 3 June 2012. Throughout negotiations, Montenegro took a progressive stance on many of the criteria that made the treaty a strong instrument with the potential to save lives, including on provisions on protecting human rights, ensuring strong reporting, and including ammunition in the treaty text.
Control Arms welcomes Montenegro’s entrance into the Race to 50 and of the renewed momentum in treaty ratifications over past two weeks. Control Arms urges all countries to sign and ratify the ATT as soon as possible.
The world moved two steps closer to winning the Race to 50 in the last two days. On 11 and 12 August, the Dominican Republic and Sierra Leone respectively ratified the Arms Trade Treaty. Their ratifications bring the total number to 43, just seven short of the critical 50 that will trigger entry into force.
The Dominican Republic deposited their instrument of ratification on Monday, the latest state from Latin America and the Caribbean to do so. As a transit hub for weapons and ammunition, the Dominican Republic understands the role the Arms Trade Treaty can play in stymying weapons flows to unauthorized users. The ATT’s criteria on weapons diversion, transit, and transshipment are important to island states such as the Dominican Republic.
The following day, Sierra Leone became the fourth African country to ratify the ATT. As a country that has experienced the ravages of civil war, Sierra Leone knows the devastating impact that unregulated arms can have. Throughout negotiations, Sierra Leone was a staunch support of a treaty that would truly save lives. “If there was an ATT in existence before the outbreak of our civil war in Sierra Leone, an obligation would have compelled some countries to look at the consequences of allowing arms to cross their country borders,” said Ambassador Osman Keh Kamara, Deputy Permanent Representative at the first Diplomatic Conference on the ATT in 2012.
After depositing the instrument of ratification, Ambassador Vandi Chidi Minah said that Sierra Leone “hopes for an arms free world.”
Control Arms welcomes these ratifications and encourages all States to sign and ratify the ATT as soon as possible.
Control Arms members have been campaigning for the protection of civilians in Israel and Gaza, and an end to arms supplies that fuel atrocities. Amnesty International is calling for a UN-imposed comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. In the absence of a UN-imposed arms embargo, Amnesty International is also calling for states to unilaterallysuspend arms transfers to Israel.
Sign their petitions to the UK and US governments.
It is time for a UN-mandated international investigation into violations of international humanitarian law committed by all sides amidst Israel’s invasion of Gaza and indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian armed groups into Israel.
This week, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon called Israeli bombing of a UN school a “criminal act” and a breach of international law. While Israel says it is targeting Hamas, the majority of casualties have been civilians.
All governments have a responsibility to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has clear prohibitions on the transfer of arms and ammunitions where there is knowledge that the weapons will be used for violations of international law, as well as obligations to assess the risk of such violations taking place. All ATT signatories should be putting this into practice, even before the treaty formally enters into force.
Signature of the Arms Trade Treaty must not be an exercise in international public relations. Signatories must adhere to the provisions of the treaty and put an immediate end to all arms transfers that fuel atrocities.
Over the past two weeks, the media has been full of stories of violent conflict escalating in Ukraine, Gaza, South Sudan, Iraq and Syria.
While these conflicts have many causes, in all cases the presence of irresponsibly or illegally traded weapons is fuelling an appalling cycle of violence. These arms prolong and deepen conflicts; they are used to kill and injure civilians, to perpetrate sexual violence, and to coerce children to become soldiers. And at the base of these problems is the irresponsible trade in arms.
In Ukraine, while separatists have sourced many of their arms from Ukraine own massive stockpiles, they have also been supplied by Russia. These items not only include assault rifles and ammunition, but also tanks and heavy artillery that have been sent across the border to aid the rebellion. Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 may have been shot down by a Buk missile system supplied to the rebels by Russia.
In Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories civilians are bearing the brunt of the current conflict; in Gaza they make up 75% of all casualties. There is an urgent need for the end of the conflict, as well as an end to the steady stream of arms flowing to the area. While the reasons for the most recent upsurge of violence and the steps that could lead to a lasting peace are many and complex, a continued flow of arms to the region is definitely not the answer and is highly likely to lead to further civilian deaths.
While the situations in the Ukraine, Gaza, and Syria dominate the headlines, fighting continues in many places in Africa as well. From Libya and Nigeria to the Central African Republic and South Sudan, weapons and ammunition transfers continue at alarming rates to fragile states where the risk of human rights abuses and the escalation of conflict are all but inevitable. The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, is on the brink of collapse. Severe hunger, mass displacement, and human rights violations are all visible in this conflict-riddled state, and while peace talks are set to resume, the shipments of millions of dollars of weapons such as grenade launchers, machine guns, and anti-tank missiles undermine efforts to stabilize the conflict.
These are examples on a long list where the irresponsible trade of weapons continues to take a heavy toll on civilian lives throughout the world. But this can change.
Just over a year ago, 154 nations voted at the UN in favour of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), recognizing at last that controls over the global arms trade based on international humanitarian and human rights law could save many thousands of lives a year, and reduce the humanitarian harm caused by irresponsible arms transfers. Already 118 countries have signed, and 41 have ratified this important agreement.
Control Arms calls for all countries that have not already done so to sign and ratify the ATT as soon as possible. With only nine more countries required to ratify for the instrument to enter into force, the implementation of this lifesaving milestone is within reach.
In one of the areas of the world hit hardest by the scourge of the irresponsible weapons trade, the Great Lakes Region of Africa appears to be primed for a shift toward more responsible arms transfer policies. From 9-11 June, CEDAC, the leading Control Arms Coalition member in Burundi, held a regional workshop to discuss the way forward for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in the region. About 60 participants from governments and civil society gathered in Bujumbura, Burundi for the workshop that focused ratification and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty.
The aim of the meeting was to deepen understanding of the Arms Trade Treaty, and to share knowledge and expertise necessary for its ratification by Burundi. The meeting was a great success, preparing the way for a Burundian government meeting in July on ATT ratification, which it is hoped will follow soon after; and discussing needs in the Great Lakes region for ratification and implementation of the ATT. The meeting was informed by first Secretary Mziza of the Rwandan Embassy that Rwanda will complete its ratification process in coming weeks. CEDAC Director, Eric Niragira, announced the formation of a committee to monitor and promote ratification and robust implementation of the ATT throughout the Great Lakes region.
“By the end of the workshop, it was clear that participants had a clear knowledge of what the treaty is, what are the ratification processes along the way, and what should be done in the region to have the treaty ratified for the enforcement of peace in the region,” said Mr. Niragira.
Speakers and participants included Honorable Felicien Nduwuburundi, vice-President of the Defence Commission of the Burundian National Assembly, Brigadier General Deo of the Burundian Army; First Secretary Mziza of the Rwandan Embassy; Martin Butcher, Arms Policy Advisor at Oxfam; Julie Claveau, Burundi Director for Action on Armed Violence; as well as members of Burundian and Congolese NGOs active in the fields of disarmament, conflict resolution, armed violence reduction and peacebuilding.
African countries played a vital role in the negotiations of the ATT, not least of which was ensuring ammunition was included within the treaty’s provisions. Control Arms welcomes the continued progress being exhibited by governments within the Great Lakes region and urges other African states to follow this example and work toward ratification as soon as possible.
Click here for more stories from the Control Arms campaign!
The United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs has just released a publication titled “Arms Trade Treaty: Signature and Ratification.” This brochure acts as a step by step guide that describes the procedures that States must follow in order to sign, ratify, accept, approve, or accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. Click here to read the full brochure.