Fifty Organizations Urge President Obama to Pursue Robust and Effective Global Arms Trade Treaty

Negotiations at the UN to Begin in July; U.S. Leadership Needed on Key Issues

For Immediate Release: May 24, 2012

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Exec. Director, Arms Control Assoc. (202-463-8270 x107); Skye Wheeler, Press Officer, Oxfam America (617-840-0039).

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—As part of a growing global campaign to build support for an effective and robust international agreement to regulate international arms deals, more than fifty organizations are urging President Barack Obama to “spare no effort to seize the historic opportunity to negotiate a robust, bullet-proof Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).”

In a letter to President Obama, the organizations call on the U.S. government “to play a strong leadership role” in the upcoming July negotiations to secure a treaty “with the highest possible standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.”

The letter was endorsed by leaders representing 51 human rights, development, religious, and security organizations, including: Amnesty International USA; Arms Control Association; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Human Rights Watch; NAACP; Oxfam America; National Association of Evangelicals; and others.

The organizations urge the Obama administration to support positions on the several unresolved, key issues that are critical to an effective treaty:

  • Strong Criteria Explicitly Linked to Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law—“The ATT must prevent states from transferring conventional arms in contravention of UN arms embargoes and when it is determined there is a substantial risk the items will be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.”
  • Comprehensive Coverage—“For the ATT to be effective, the ATT must apply to the broadest range of conventional arms possible—from military aircraft to small arms—as well as all types of international trade, transfers, and transactions in conventional weaponry. The ATT should also specifically require that national laws regulate the activities of international arms brokers and other intermediaries.”
  • Include Ammunition in the Scope of the Treaty—“An ATT that does not regulate ammunition would be like a gun without bullets. The world is already full of guns. It is the constant flows of ammunition that feeds and prolongs conflicts and armed violence. The exclusion of ammunition from the scope of the treaty would greatly reduce its ability to achieve many of its most important goals.”

U.S. officials have said the administration supports the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty. On ammunition, Ann Ganzer, director of the Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction at the Department of State said: “We do not have a problem with the regulation of ammunition. The United States licenses the manufacturing, import, and export of ammunition. The issue comes in with some of the other requirements of the treaty—reporting requirements.”

In the letter, the groups note that: “Thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered each year by weapons that are sold, transferred by governments or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups. The lack of high common international standards in the global arms trade also raises the risks faced by United States military and civilian personnel working around the globe.”

“To be effective, the new Arms Trade Treaty must include legally-binding criteria that states ‘shall not’ transfer weapons or ammunition where there is a substantial risk they will be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian law,” says Scott Stedjan, Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response for Oxfam International USA.

According to a recent report published by Oxfam, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition have been imported since 2000 by countries operating under arms embargoes. The figures show the extent to which states have been flagrantly flouting the 26 UN, regional, or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period.

“No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade,” the NGO letter to the President notes.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons