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Arms Trade Treaty enters into force

On the 23rd December 2014 the Arms Trade Treaty entered into force - heralding a new chapter in collective efforts to bring responsibility, accountability and transparency to the global arms trade. As of 23 December, 60 States had ratified the treaty, and 130 had signed it, indicating that they intended to ratify.

“From now on, the States Parties to this important treaty will have a legal obligation to apply the highest common standards to their international transfers of weapons and ammunition,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement in December 2014.

The ATT is the first global agreement to regulate the $85bn annual trade in arms and ammunition. Heavy scrutiny will now be placed on the source of weapons being used in conflicts around the globe, for example in South Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Israel/Palestine. Now that the treaty has entered into force, the next major challenge will be to ensure the treaty – which sets new international law ‐ is implemented robustly.

The campaign for change
Together Act for Peace has campaigned, along with international partners, for the ATT - a treaty that will save lives and prevent further conflict and the abuse of human rights around the globe.
In 2013 hundreds of Act for Peace supporters added their voices to the global campaign, signing a petition calling for the Australian Government to advocate for a strong, effective treaty. 

We have strongly advocated for a Treaty for several years, meeting with our political leaders to discuss the issues, joining public rallies to pressure our government into action and being an active member of a global coalition calling for a strong and effective Treaty. 

“Civilians have been paying too high a price for the lack of global arms controls which have permitted arms and ammunition to be legally transferred into the hands of dictators and warlords. But the game is up now – those days are over. Now governments have the chance to change the arms trade for good, and if rigorously implemented this treaty will save lives.

Each day, around 2000 people are killed by armed violence, with millions more living in fear of violence at the hands of those wielding weapons. As the world’s first legally-binding international arms treaty, nations will be required to assess the risk of weapons and ammunition being misused to commit human rights abuses before authorizing a transfer. This specifically includes weapons such as battle tanks, combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircrafts, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, small arms, and light weapons. If there is a significant risk of the weapons being used to commit human rights abuses, the weapons – under international human rights and humanitarian law – will be denied from being transferred.

Importantly, this will ensure that heavy scrutiny is placed on the source of weapons being used in conflicts around the world, in areas such as Syria, Iraq, and Israel/Palestine. Nations considering exporting weapons to Israel and Syria, or to groups such as Hamas and ISIL, will have to demonstrate that such weapons will not be used by the particular end-user to commit human rights abuses. Additionally, nations will be obligated to submit annual reports on international transfers, thereby improving overall transparency in the global arms trade. Though armed violence won’t be completely eradicated, these measures are a vital step toward gaining greater control over the global arms trade, making it more transparent, and ultimately reducing the impact that armed violence has on millions around the globe.

When it comes to nations and self-defence, the ATT explicitly recognises the right of nations to defend themselves. Nations will still have the freedom to obtain weapons for legitimate security and defence purposes.

Though the ATT cannot completely prevent illegal weapons being sold through the black market, it will reduce the amount being sold through it. As most weapons in the black market originate in the legal trade, the most effective way of tackling the black market is through regulation of the legal global arms trade. The source of weapons entering the black market will be much easier to identify and remove.

In short, the Arms Trade Treaty – implanted effectively – will significantly reduce the supply of weapons getting into the hands of those who use them to commit human rights abuses, thereby saving lives. Control Arms Coalition member Nounou Booto-Meeti, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said,

“We have waited too long for the Arms Trade Treaty but now we have just 90 days to go before it becomes international law. We call on states to show continued commitment and determination and ensure the ATT is robustly implemented so it is used effectively to reduce violence in conflict zones all over the world.”

Find out more about the ATT

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