“The world has finally put an end to the ‘free-for-all’ nature of international weapons transfers” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his statement at the United Nations High Level Arms Trade Treaty Panel event, “Towards Universal Participation and Implementation” which took place on September 25th. He also noted that the Treaty “will make it harder for weapons to be diverted into the illicit market, to reach warlords, pirates, terrorists and criminals or to be used to commit grave human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law”. And indeed, as of September 26th, more than half the countries in the world have now signed the Arms Trade Treaty, thus sending a strong message regarding the importance of the ATT.

Honduras, Colombia, Peru and Barbados were among the 22 countries that recently signed the Treaty during the UN General Assembly, leaving only Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela as the only countries absent in the Treaty from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Honduras Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Merieya Aguero de Corrales, signed the Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of her country on 25 September, 2013. The Chancellor stated that with the signing of the Treaty, Honduras wishes to “demonstrate its full intention to be an integrative part of it, and to support national and international peace and security”. A report published by the the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005, showed that Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world, considering that there are no civil or external wars, with a 55% rate in homicides per 100, 000 inhabitants, 48% of which were committed with a firearm. Honduras is only surpassed, in the region, by Colombia which had a 65% rate in homicides. Therefore, the signing of the ATT represents important progress in the fight for the reduction in the level of crime and a possible shift towards more peace and national stability.

As stated above, Colombia is also one of the Latin American countries plagued by high levels of homicides; most often due to gang or rebel group related crimes. In fact, President Juan Manuel Santos’ visit at the UN had a dual purpose: signing of the ATT on 25 September, and gathering international support for Colombia’s ongoing peace talks with the FARC rebel group. As such, the Treaty could have tremendous impact not only on reducing the homicide rates but also in the fight against drug cartels, which would be weakened should their access to weapons be curtailed. Alvaro Jiménez Millán, director of the Colombian Campaign against Landmines (CCCM) and Control Arms member welcomed the signing of the Treaty by stating:

“With this, Colombia joins the countries that have pledged to fight global arms trade, and places the world a step closer to end this lethal trade that has brought misery to millions of people around the world.”

Peru has been supportive of the development of the ATT as evidenced by a statement made in July 2012, by the Peru’s Ambassador to the UN, Hon. Enrique Roman-Morey, who specifically demanded that the scope of the Treaty is extended not only to small and light weapons but also to ammunition. Furthermore, claiming that “it takes two to tango”, Ambassador Roman-Morey mentioned that the ATT should ensure that both exporters and importers are held accountable to the same standards and regulations.

The signing of the Treaty by the Peruvian Minister of Foreign Relations, Hon. Eda Rivas Franchini, was welcomed with enthusiasm both by state representatives and then non-governmental community. For instance, Congressman Yonhy Lescano is proud that his country has signed the ATT since it offers the best opportunity to prevent further violence and further loss of lives and urges his government to “move quickly to ratify it so that we can be among the first 50 UN Member States that do so and that is required for the ATT to enter into force.” Ana Maria Watson from the Instituto de Seguridad y Derechos Humanos (ISDH) expressed the same sentiment of pride and encourages her government to “move fast to ensure that this treaty’s life-changing effects can really make a difference to the people who really need it.”

Barbados, one of only two Caribbean countries present during this round of high level events, signed the ATT on 25 September at the UN Headquarters. The Coordinator of the Caribbean Coalition for Development and the Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV), Folade Mutota stated:

“By joining the chorus of voices in support of strong measures to control the global trade in conventional arms, Barbados is representing the wishes of Caribbean people to live a life free from fear and eventually return to the peace, security and stability that have been the hallmark of Caribbean life.”

Trinidad and Tobago was also present at the UNGA High Level event during which the Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, ratified the Treaty.

The ATT can have a tremendous impact in the reduction of conflicts, violence and the illicit trade of weapons. As a representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons once said, “Weapons that have been outlawed, increasingly become seen as illegitimate”. Therefore, by creating standards and regulation regarding the trade of arms and ammunition, a clear message is being sent that it is no longer acceptable for weapons to be sold to groups that will use the to generate instability, and cause pain and suffering to innocent civilians. Once this idea is internalized around the world, we will be able to see a reduction in the illegal trade of arms and ammunition.

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