Arms Trade Treaty: a life-saving gift this Christmas?

By staff writers
December 22, 2014

On 24 December 2014 an international law to regulate the global trade in armaments and ammunition, the newly ratified Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), enters into force.

Along with civil society groups and governments in every region of the world, World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches and partners in some 50 countries campaigned and lobbied for an ATT that would help save lives and protect communities at risk because lethal weapons can be traded with few restrictions.

“Christmas is a season of giving. This new treaty gives states and societies a new instrument to protect human lives and human dignity, which are among God’s great gifts to all people,” the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC said of the ATT’s entry into force.

“Our prayer and expectation is that the ATT must become a treaty that no government and no arms dealer can ignore. The news reminds us almost daily of how many people need protection from armed violence, and it often involves illicit arms,” Tveit said.

The ATT sets new binding standards for the worldwide trade in arms, which is valued at nearly 100 billion US dollars per year. Depending on how it is implemented, the ATT will save some of the 1,000 lives and more which are lost each day to armed violence, for example, in deaths and injuries related to human rights abuse, repressive regimes and organized crime.

Reflecting church experience in conflict-torn countries, the WCC-led ATT campaign concentrated on the criteria that the treaty sets for arms trading. The result is that the treaty denies arms transfers where there is a serious risk of war crimes or widespread human rights violations or endemic gender-based armed violence. The WCC also backed the relatively successful demand that the ATT must cover all types of arms and ammunition.

Church advocates had a hand in securing the ratifications, which are bringing the ATT into force in record time since it was signed in 2013, after nearly ten years of preparatory talks and negotiations.

To date, 60 states have ratified the ATT, including large arms exporters like Germany, France and the UK. 125 states have signed the treaty, including the United States, the world’s largest arms exporter. One hundred and fifty-six states voted for the treaty. States that abstained, including Russia, China and India, will come under pressure to live up to the new common standards that the ATT finally sets.

* WCC: http://www.oikoumene.org/en

* * Christmas truce? Help make it permanent: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21032

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