Arms Trade Treaty: A Victory for African States, Civil Society and Faith Groups


In a landslide UN General Assembly vote last week, representatives of the world’s governments endorsed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which will control the global traffic in conventional weapons, currently so poorly regulated that the international markets in bananas, tomatoes and bubble gum are more restrictive than the trade in AK-47 assault rifles.

“After 15 long years and millions killed, maimed or traumatised by gun violence, we are finally gratified that most of the world’s countries have finally supported a humanitarian-based Arms Trade Treaty”, said Robert Mtonga, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and active participant in the Africa-wide civil society campaign for the ATT. “It is not perfect, but taken as a whole, it is groundbreaking in scope, and we are hopeful the world’s countries will enact it in the most comprehensive way.”

This major development in global policymaking has largely been ignored by the news media here in the US, or focussed on how the treaty managed to bypass objections from gun lobbyists.

An overlooked angle, however, is the role of African states, civil society and faith groups in advocating for a strong ATT. In an article for Think Africa Press today, I examine how African leadership ensured that the final treaty text included provisions on small arms and light weapons, ammunition, parts and component, as well as restrictions on the flow of arms to situations of widespread human rights and humanitarian law violations or gender-based violence.

My article today follows an earlier article for Think Africa Press that examined in more depth the impact of the arms trade on the African continent, which has suffered the majority of deaths from armed violence since 1990. A 2007 investigation by Oxfam, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and SaferWorld found that the cost of armed conflict in Africa – in military expenditures, health costs, reconstruction, lost tax revenue and depressed productivity – is approximately $18 billion a year, on average reducing a state’s economic output by 15%.

Click here to read “The Arms Trade Treaty: A Pan-African Global Policy Victory,” published 8 April 2013.

Click here to read “ATT: ‘Let the World Know that Africa Will Not Agree to a Weak Treaty,'” published 26 March 2013.

~ by Matthew Bolton on 8 April 2013.

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