5. All states shall ratify and fully implement the Arms Trade Treaty

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Rapporteur: César Jaramillo

The Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a multilateral, legally binding agreement, aimed at regulating the global trade in conventional weapons. Illicit and irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons are widely recognized to be a significant factor in human suffering worldwide, fueling armed violence in all its forms. The ATT intends to develop a universal framework for responsible decision-making at the national level on the transfer of conventional weapons.

The two primary objectives of the ATT are to “Establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms” and to “Prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion”.

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Will The Arms Merchants Comply?

The Arms Trade Treaty limits what weapons a country can sell to other countries, especially if the weapons are likely to be used to attack others. So is there any evidence so far that it is working? Has any country actually changed its plans and refrained from selling weapons just because it signed the treaty? I’m trying not to be cynical in asking. I’d prefer to hear good news.

Two Cheers for China!

We can’t be sure which countries would have sold arms if they hadn’t signed the treaty. However, there is some REALLY good news: China has just signed the Arms Trade Treaty! That is one reason why its influence is growing at the United Nations, while the US is losing influence. China declared that it allows arms exports only to sovereign states and not to non-state actors. The Treaty was adopted by the UN in 2013. Obama endorsed it, but Trump says he will revoke the US signature. I hope it slips his mind until he is ousted from office this fall (knock on wood).

Is China More Reliable Than Canada?

Let’s hope that China is better at keeping its treaty commitments than Canada, which signed the treaty in September 2019, but nevertheless is forging ahead with a plan to sell light armed personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia. The treaty is designed to prohibit the export of arms that could be used to perpetrate war crimes, genocide and other grave violations of international law.

What Will Biden Do?

It is true, as Ruth Needham says, that we cannot know why any country refrains from anything. But we can infer something about motives by looking at the list of countries that did not sign the Arms Trade Treaty right away. The nations that initially abstained included the world’s leaders in weapon exports–notably China and Russia, but also Cuba, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. That means it’s a wonderful sign that China has now signed. Obama did too, but it was never ratified. I wonder whether the US would (will) ratify it when the Democrats get back into power in Congress and the White House.

We, the People, have to Demand Compliance

There’s a vigorous campaign going on now called “Campaign Against the Arms Trade.” And one of their specific objectives is to “stop arming Saudi Arabia!”

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Haven’t heard a Peep. Have you?

Has any official in Ottawa said a word within the last six months about really cancelling the sale of those machines to the Saudis? We know what the public wants but it doesn’t seem to bother the government officials in democratic societies. Keep pushing, Cesar Jaramillo!

Canadian Doubletalk

The last time I heard any publicity about it was in April (almost three months ago), when Global Affairs Canada declared that Canada had improved the terms of the light armoured vehicles contract to strengthen the review process for the permits. That is double-talk for “Yes, we are going ahead with the sale.” Yuck.

It’s Not Only the Billionaires’ Fault

Canadian politicians claim they are continuing the sale because the contract with Saudi Arabia had been signed BEFORE Canada signed the Arms Trade Treaty, but that they won’t sign such a thing in the future. Of course, we know the real reason: The deal is worth $15 billion, and Ottawa doesn’t want to lose manufacturing jobs. WE “progressive” types don’t like to talk about this fact: It’s not just billionaires’ interests that are at stake, but the income of people who do the manual labor. I think jobs are as important a political factor as the profits of huge corporations.

Wish the ATT Could Stop Mass Shootings

The Arms Trade Treaty would not solve the US problems about mass shootings, since it only regulates the transfer of weapons between countries. But it would prevent such things as the current Canadian sale of armoured personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia, a country not known for its humanitarian actions.

Saudis vs Houthis = Dead Civilians

“Not known for its humanitarian actions” is quite an understatement. The war in Yemen was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world (at least until the Covid pandemic struck). Three million people have fled from their homes and there have been over 17,500 civilian casualties. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s population required aid. It was Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that led the coalition of states in Yemen against the Houthi forces. Most of the deaths were caused by Saudi air strikes.