There were strong words from Control Arms partners at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) this week, as governments were called upon to live up to their legal and moral obligations, and stop arms transfers that fuel humanitarian suffering. Speaking at a High Level Roundtable for Ministers and Heads of State, Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima expressed her frustration with States violating a Treaty they had previously championed, through arms sales that are fueling suffering in Yemen (see Control Arms report here). The ICRC also spoke powerfully on the erosion of respect for international humanitarian law, a sentiment echoed throughout the World Humanitarian Summit by civil society.
In plenary sessions and side events, there were repeated calls for governments to fully implement the ATT. A side event, co-sponsored by Control Arms with Oxfam, the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs and the governments of Finland, Mexico and Nigeria, highlighted the strong links between arms flows and humanitarian crises, and stressed the importance of the ATT’s universalization and implementation. Control Arms and Oxfam speakers emphasized the urgent need to stop arms transfers that are fueling humanitarian suffering (see Control Arms report here), while Finnish Trade Minister Lenita Toivakka stressed how transparency was key to effective implementation.
Stopping the harm caused by explosive weapons was also a topic referred to by governments and civil society throughout the Summit. Kimberly Brown from the International Network on Explosive Weapons called on States to develop a political declaration to prevent harm from explosive weapons in populated areas, both addressing the High Level Roundtable, and in a side event hosted by Austria. Support for such a declaration is clearly growing.
Anna Macdonald also addressed the plenary session with a call to action for States to robustly implement the ATT.
Positively, Georgia and Zambia both ratified the Treaty while the Summit was on, bringing those that have ratified to 85. Chile and Guatemala also pledged to ratify in coming months. Zambia has been an outspoken proponent of the Treaty for many years and was among the first group of countries to sign when it opened for signature. “Zambia has finally taken her pride of place by ratifying the ATT,” says Dr. Robert Mtonga of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Control Arms member. “This means Zambia can now encourage all her neighbors that haven’t joined the Treaty to do so, from a higher moral pedestal.” Georgia’s ratification is significant in that it increases the number of States Parties from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. They recently co-hosted a two day workshop on treaty implementation for other countries in the region.
As the WHS just closing this evening, it remains to be seen what concrete outcomes will emerge, but the link between arms control and the role it plays in preventing humanitarian crises has been made.