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.
On 16 June, Sweden joined the Race to 50 becoming the 41st country to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty. Sweden was an early signatory, signing last June 3, 2013, alongside sixty six other states.
The instrument of ratification was deposited at the UN Headquarters by H.E. Ambassador Mårten Grunditz, who said:
“This is just the first step. The Parties to the Treaty need to work together to ensure broad adherence to the Treaty, and effective implementation. Sweden intends to be an active and constructive participant in this work.”
After the Swedish government approved the ratification the Minister of Trade, Ewa Björling said:
“I am very pleased that Sweden has now decided to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty. And it’s also especially exciting to see other countries joining faster than we had expected. The treaty will be an important tool to prevent conflicts and violence. These are the first ever legally binding global regulations on arms trade and the first time so many countries have actually committed to control trade”.
Control Arms welcomes Sweden’s ratification and urges all other signatories to join in the Race to 50 as soon as possible.
On the first anniversary of the Arms Trade Treaty’s (ATT) opening for signature and ratification, momentum continued as eight more countries deposited their ATT instruments of ratification. The deposits were made at a special ceremony at UN Headquarters and bring the total number of ratifications to 40, with just 10 more needed to meet the 50 required for entry-into-force.
The eight countries that added their support to the “Race to 50” effort are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Luxembourg, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Samoa. With 40 ratifications and 118 signatures being achieved in the first 12 months, the ATT is now one of the fastest treaties to move toward entry-into-force.
The global support was highlighted by Dr. Robert Mtonga speaking on behalf of Control Arms in the UN ratification ceremony. “The geographic spread of states ratifying today – from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific – shows clearly that this is a treaty with global support. We now need all these states, as well as all others who have signed the ATT, to live up to its aims and implement tough controls on the $85bn arms trade,” Dr. Mtonga said. He made a strong call to African states to join the #Raceto50:
“African determination and African realities helped shape the ATT into a treaty that can save lives and protect people, and reduce the scourge of armed violence. If it were not for Africa, the ATT may not have small arms and light weapons and ammunition included within the range of weapons covered. These are the weapons that cause so much devastation in my continent every day, and yet so few of them are actually produced in Africa. The AK-47 and its derivatives has become the weapon of choice in so many African conflicts, yet we estimate that over 95% of these weapons come from outside of the continent. In my work as a doctor in Africa I have treated patients who have suffered from armed violence, and I have also seen first hand how disruptive and destructive armed violence is to development efforts.
We now need African determination again to help implement the treaty to the highest standards, and to create international norms that will transform the arms trade. I call upon all African states that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.”
Control Arms welcomes the new ratifications, and continues to encourage all UN Member States to act swiftly to ensure that the ATT is implemented to high standards and results in substantial action on the ground.
Control Arms welcomes the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by Japan, which brings the world one step closer to achieving the necessary ratifications for entry into force. However it is disappointing that alongside its ratification of the ATT, Japan has abandoned its long-held ban on arms exports, and intends to start exporting arms and other military equipment.
As the UN Secretary General has recently said “the world is over armed and peace is underfunded,” we urge Japan to put its energies into encouraging all states to sign and implement the ATT, not into promoting their own arms exports.
While the ATT is not a treaty to ban all arms exports, it should also not be used as a legitimization of an increase in the arms trade. The humanitarian goals of the ATT are clear, and we expect all states to strive for these. By ratifying the ATT, states must strengthen, not weaken, their existing national policies.
As the Treaty nears entry-into-force Control Arms will continue to work with Japan and all governments to ensure the effective implementation of the treaty in order to reduce death and suffering that results from the irresponsible trade in arms.
On the first anniversary of the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), 18 countries took a big step forward toward ensuring its rapid entry into force. These governments formally deposited their instruments of ratification at the United Nations as part of a ceremony today, and included Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The additional ratifications bring the total tally to 31. It is also noteworthy that this list includes five of the ten biggest arms exporters (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom).
50 ratifications are needed for the ATT to enter into force and become international law. The event was also attended by high ranking UN officials including the Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson and Deputy High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Virginia Gamba.
Anna Macdonald,speaking on behalf of Control Arms, said “Let us all remember that the purpose of this treaty is to save and protect lives. All of the governments ratifying here today can also act to show that these are not just words on paper, and a photo in the press. This is about change and opportunity. You can change the arms trade and really make a difference to the millions of men, women and children who suffer from armed violence and conflict every day. You have the opportunity now to lead by example.” The full text of her speech is available here.
Ambassadors from every country that ratified joined the Race to 50 campaign by having their photos taken with Control Arms coalition members at the end of the event. These have been shared widely on social media and are available here.
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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.