The United Kingdom has come under pressure for their ongoing arms exports to Saudi Arabia, widely seen as a country with an exceptionally questionable reputation for respecting human rights. Control Arms coalition member Amnesty International has cited examples of excessive use of force, torture, and other serious areas of human rights concern in the country.
Saudi Arabia is the UK’s biggest destination for arms exports with the most recent available annual export totals (2013) amounting to over $2.2 billion. Despite being the top destination for UK arms exports, Saudi Arabia remains a “country of concern” on the Human Rights and Democracy Report published by the UK Foreign Office. By sending arms while acknowledging widespread human rights violations, the United Kingdom is acting at odds with the Arms Trade Treaty which entered into force on 24 December 2014.
Amnesty International UK Programme Director Oliver Sprague said, “for many years, Saudi has been UK’s largest arms customer, with Government reports year on year revealing billions of pounds worth of arms sales including fighter jets , armoured vehicles, small arms. ammunition and policing equipment including tear gas and components for water cannon. It is unclear how these arms sales are in anyway compatible with the UK’s obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty, a Treaty which now requires the UK to stop exporting weapons where this is a very real risk that those weapons could fuel serious human rights violations. The scale of such continued arms sales and the high levels of political support they appear to receive suggest that in these cases, the UK is putting profits before the human rights principles it so strongly championed within the ATT.”
As a major exporter, a champion of the development of the Arms Trade Treaty, and a State Party to the ATT, the United Kingdom has a unique opportunity to begin establishing the norm that the ATT will need to change the way the global arms trade works.
Control Arms welcomes the entry into force of Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on 24 December. The rapidity with which this has occurred – only 21 months since the Treaty opened for signature – demonstrates the global political momentum and importance of this groundbreaking new instrument. The ATT is now international law, and 2015 heralds the chance for States to transform the way the arms trade operates, and help reduce armed violence and conflict.
Control Arms Director Anna Macdonald said: “Campaigners around the world have been fighting pushing for years for this to make this moment happen. This treaty is not just a piece of paper. If robustly implemented, we know it has the potential to save many lives and protect vulnerable civilians around the world.
The ATT will transform the way arms and ammunitions are traded around the world meaning there can be no doubt about who will be their end-user. It will no longer be acceptable to turn a blind eye and look the other way when arms are being transferred into the hands of regimes that will use them to devastate people’s lives and violate human rights.”
Several states have rushed to sign and ratify the treaty over the last two weeks. As of 24 December, there are a total number of 130 signatures and 61 ratifications. Ratifiers include many large arms exporters have ratified (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). Many countries who are heavily affected by armed violence and conflict have also joined such as as Liberia and Mali. Many of these countries played a leading role in the negotiations and pushed for strong Treaty language. This is an encouraging sign for the establishment of a strong global norm for the Treaty, which will be important in ensuring that the ATT has impact.
Kennedy Mabasa, a campaigner from South Africa, the most recent country to ratify said: “African campaigners have waited a long time for this moment. We have experienced first hand the devastation of an arms trade that is out of control, and we owe it now to the survivors of these weapons that we prevent future horrors and pains.”
With this milestone accomplished, work now focuses on Treaty implementation – especially the run up to the first Conference of States Parties (CSP). Two informal preparatory meetings have already been held to discuss the (CSP) and formal Preparatory meetings will now commence, starting in Trinidad and Tobago in February.
Control Arms calls on all States who have not yet done so to join the Treaty, and on existing signatories and ratifiers to ensure it robustly implemented immediately.
Multiple states are signing and ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) this week before it enters into force on 24 December. There are now 128 signatories and 61 ratifications.
Saint Kitts and Nevis, followed by Liechtenstein deposited their instruments of ratification at the UN last week. On Wednesday 17th, Poland became the 58th country to ratify. Ambassador Bogusław Winid deposited the instrument on behalf of his country stating that, “We are proud that Poland is among the co-founders of the ATT and that its provisions will become binding for us on 24 December. Poland hopes that the Treaty will help prevent serious violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law standards related to the reduction of suffering of the civilians in armed conflict. We hope that ATT will play an important role in the fight against international terrorism and organized crime. ”
Upon depositing Lithuania’s instrument of ratification on Thursday, December 17th, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė said, “It is our firm belief that transparency in arms trade is indispensable if we are to achieve the key purpose of the ATT – reducing human suffering. We made this our priority during the negotiations and will continue to strongly advocate for shinning more light on arms trade, in particular, through public reporting and supporting civilian society led monitoring.” The Netherlands deposited on Thursday 18 December. Control Arms members there took the opportunity to congratulate their government and remind them that “words are not enough, now is time for action.”
Andorra, Israel, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, and Zimbabwe are among the newest signatories to the ATT. Once the Treaty enters into force it will no longer be possible for governments to sign and instead they will be required to accede, a two-step process. The Treaty’s entry into force is a significant milestone. Its provisions will now become legally binding. Occurring just eighteen months after it opened for signature means that the ATT is one of the fastest multilateral arms agreements to enter into force. Control Arms congratulates all governments who have signed and ratified the Treaty so far and looks forward to welcoming others.
A second round of informal consultations on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) First Conference of States Parties (1CSP), hosted by the German Federal Foreign Office, took place in Berlin 27-28 November. The meeting, attended by over 70 signatory and ratifying governments, plus civil society and UN agencies represented the next step in a preparatory process toward the first CSP.
The consultations built on discussions that began in Mexico City in September with a first round of informal meetings, as well as the ideas outlined in a series of non-papers developed by several states in the interim. This facilitated decision-making on a few key points. The timeline for future preparatory meetings has been agreed, with the first CSP now scheduled for late August/early September 2015. Mexico’s role as the Provisional Secretariat has been confirmed, and a “Friends of the Chair” group will be formed to help manage the process through to the CSP. An Open-Ended Working Group to develop a reporting template has been established under Sweden’s guidance, while Ghana will facilitate further discussion on financing mechanisms. There is also growing agreement on decision-making procedures although differences of opinion still exist.
Unresolved, however, were questions regarding the participation of non-signatories and in particular civil society at the CSP. Several governments, most notably from Europe, indicated that they favour expanding civil society participation to include organisations that are openly opposed to the Treaty. In an apparent acknowledgement that this may work against the smooth-running of Treaty institutions, this was accompanied by calls, again principally from European states, to limit the nature and extent of participation of all non-state organisations. Other delegations, however, challenged these proposals. Some argued that only non-state organisations that supported the ATT’s object, purpose and implementation should be welcome in formal Treaty processes. With no agreement reached, the issue has been passed to Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago, the next meeting host, to resolve.
A Control Arms delegation with participants from all regions attended the Berlin meeting and contributed ideas and perspectives. Interventions were delivered on all the major agenda areas, including participation, rules of procedure, and reporting.
A new resource by ATT Legal that surveys the financing mechanisms used in other treaties was included in the meeting papers. Prior to the meeting, Control Arms organized a public action that reinforced the coalition’s call to governments that they have a “#chance2change” the arms trade if they implement the ATT strongly and effectively.
States will meet again in Trinidad and Tobago on 23-24 February 2015 for the first formal Preparatory Meeting for the CSP to resume discussions, although much work needs to be done in the interim period. The ATT enters into force on 24 December 2014.
It was a strong week for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) as three more states signed or ratified the instrument at UN headquarters in New York. Cameroon became the 124th state to sign when H.E. Mr. Michel Tommo Monthe, deposited the instrument on 3 December. Ms Karen Tan, Ambassador of Singapore, signed the ATT on her country’s behalf on 5 December shortly after H.E. Mr. Milan Milanović deposited Serbia’s instrument of ratification. Serbia is now the 55th country to ratify the ATT.
Control Arms welcomes new signatories Singapore and Cameroon. Singapore is a growing arms exporter and significant importer as well. They are the eighth country from the Asia region to sign.
Cameroon becomes the 29th African State to sign the ATT. Porous borders in Central Africa have facilitated illicit arms flows within the region, fuelling violence and crime. The ATT, which has also been signed by Cameroon’s neighbor Chad, will help to align the arms transfer policies and practices of the countries in the sub-region.
“This is a wonderful stride from Cameroon,” said Eugine Nyuydine Ngalim, Director of Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace, a Control Arms member. “But they have one more step to take – ratification of the ATT. Ratifying the Treaty will seriously contribute to reducing arms proliferation, especially urgent given the situation of the Boko Haram and the Séléka rebel incursions from the North and Eastern regions of Cameroon.”
With entry-into-force just a few weeks away, on 24 December, it’s anticipated that other states will sign the Treaty this month. After the 24th, states wishing to join will have to follow a process of accession. Control Arms looks forward to welcoming these new signatures and encourages those states that have begun the ratification process to conclude it swiftly.
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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.