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”.

Three purposes are identified under these objectives:

  1. Contributing to international and regional peace, security and stability;
  2. Reducing human suffering;
  3. Promoting cooperation, transparency and responsible action by States Parties in the international trade in conventional arms, thereby building confidence among States Parties.

The ATT is strongly founded on humanitarian principles. A proportion of the global arms trade, which is estimated to be worth up to $100-billion annually, is known to enable the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, to sustain autocratic regimes, to exacerbate armed conflict, and to be a factor for regional instability.

Rather than proscribe transfers of any one category of conventional weapons, the ATT delineates the circumstances under which arms exports would be prohibited, for example, in violation of UN Security Council sanctions or arms embargoes. Central to the rationale for the ATT is the nexus between the end-use or end-user of arms exports and the risk of their misuse.

In simple terms, exporting states ought not to authorize arms exports when there is a risk that they may be misused.

While the ATT specifically prohibits certain arms transfers when a risk of misuse is identified, it is understood to be an arms control regime, not a disarmament one. In fact, the Treaty explicitly recognizes the licit trade in conventional weapons as a legitimate pursuit for arms exporting states and focuses its restrictions on illicit, irresponsible and/or unscrupulous arms transfers.

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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.

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!”

Stop Arming Saudi.jpg

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!

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.