Stay on Target: Will the UK fight the battle for tough arms controls?

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July 2012 sees the greatest opportunity ever to regulate the global arms trade, as states gather in New York to negotiate an international Arms Trade Treaty. The UK has been crucial in making this happen. Since 2004, it has championed a Treaty that will have a genuine impact on humanitarian and human rights. A strong Arms Trade Treaty will be a triumph for UK diplomacy. In this paper, the Control Arms UK group of NGOs (comprising Oxfam, Amnesty International, Transparency International UK, Article 36, and Saferworld) calls on the UK Government to hold out for a robust Treaty that most of the world wants. Not the watered-down alternative that Syria, Iran and a handful of other governments would prefer.
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  Control Arms UK  briefing paper 25 April 2012 Stay on Target Will the UK fight the battle for tough arms controls?  A 12mm machine gun round dropped by alleged northern PDF (Peoples' Defense Forces) and SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) troops when they attacked Maker Abior village. ©Tim Freccia/ENOUGH Project July 2012 sees the greatest opportunity ever to regulate the global arms trade, as states gather in New York to negotiate an international Arms Trade Treaty. The UK has been crucial in making this happen. Since 2004, it has championed a Treaty that will have a genuine impact on humanitarian and human rights. A strong Arms Trade Treaty will be a triumph for UK diplomacy. That is what the UK must now hold out for  –  a robust Treaty that most of the world wants. Not the watered-down alternative that Syria, Iran and a handful of other governments would prefer.  2 Foreword by Sir John Holmes For too long arms have been falling into the wrong hands due to lax controls.  As UN Emergency Relief Coordinator I saw too often the appalling humanitarian and development consequences of this poorly regulated trade in conventional weapons, particularly small arms: the killing and wounding of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the abuses and sexual violence which accompany conflict, the displacement of whole populations. Armed violence also made it more difficult and dangerous for aid workers to provide the vital humanitarian assistance that was needed. Important national and regional efforts have been made to regulate the trade in conventional weapons, but this patchwork of controls is still not adequate.  An international Arms Trade Treaty is also vitally needed. This year, through that Treaty, the world has a chance to put in place more effective global controls on the arms trade. This is exactly what the UN was set up to do: to protect the vulnerable from the powerful, to make the world a better and safer place.  Agreeing a truly effective Treaty is the most important challenge. The understandable desire for a universal Treaty should not lead us to accept one which is too weak. My years at the UN not only showed me the human cost of the poorly regulated trade in weapons; sometimes it also showed the cost of governments compromising so far that any eventual agreement could have little practical effect. That must not be the fate of the Arms Trade Treaty. I trust that the UK, which has done so much to champion the Treaty, will not let that happen. The Treaty must for example require governments to prevent arms transfers where there is a likelihood of serious violations of human rights or humanitarian law.  A strong Treaty will be only the first step. There must then be the political will and resources to help governments with limited capacity to make it work. The effective control of conventional weapons is a long game, like almost everything worthwhile achieving. The Arms Trade Treaty is not a ‘quick fix’ or an easy solution. But it can make a vital and considerable difference to the ease with which large quantities of weapons fuel armed violence, especially new conflicts. It can thereby save very many lives. Now is the time to redouble efforts to achieve a genuinely tough Treaty which will begin that task. Sir John, a former British diplomat, was UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator between 2007 and 2010. He is currently Director of the Ditchley Foundation and Co-Chair of the International Rescue Committee UK  .  3 Summary A robust global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is desperately needed to stop the irresponsible transfer of arms that fuels: ã   Atrocities   –  like those in Syria, where more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the crackdown on protests began in early 2011; 1   ã   Armed violence and conflicts   –  which is estimated to cost Africa alone $18bn a year; 3   ã   Corruption in the defence industry   –  which costs $20bn a year, 4  and which undermines the competitiveness of UK exporters. That is why the UK government has championed a global Treaty since 2004, supported by non-government organisations and defence com-panies alike. Without such a Treaty, there is a gaping hole in the infra-structure of international law, which has tragic consequences for peo-ple around the world. After years of diplomacy, there is hope that a Treaty may at last be agreed at a UN conference in New York in July 2012. But there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that that Treaty is genuinely worthwhile. Some governments –  including Syria and Iran –  want a watered-down Treaty that will do nothing to limit their ability to sell or buy arms to or from whoever they please. Some of the govern-ments opposed to a strong Treaty are the very same that were in-volved in buying or selling the $2.2bn worth of arms which, in the ab-sence of a Treaty, have gone to countries subject to arms embargoes –  including Iran and North Korea –  between 2000 and 2010. 5  Securing an effective global ATT has been a long-term endeavour. It must not be sacrificed for a weakened Treaty that would do little to protect civilians, uphold human rights, or release desperately needed resources for global development. Recommendations The UK government must hold out for a strong Treaty. It should lobby vigorously for a Treaty that delivers –  protecting people from human rights abuses and armed conflict . It should walk out of July’s conference and seek to establish an alternative process, rather than support a weakened Treaty. The government should do everything possible to secure a global ATT that: ã   Unambiguously requires that states shall not transfer arms where there is a substantial risk that they will be used to: „There are so many weapons here that each person makes his own law. There is  practically complete impunity. Anyone who holds a weapon has authority over anyone and can threaten anyone.‟ Jean-Charles, humanitarian officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bukavu, South Kivu 2   „  Across the world, 60 per cent of human rights violations documented by mnesty International involve small arms and light weapons. ‟    Amnesty International, 2010 6    4 ã   Commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law –  including gender-based violence, such as rape and other forms of sexual violence; ã   Divert an unreasonable level of resources from sustainable development; or where: ã   An arms transfer involves corrupt practices or corruption at any stage of the transfer. ã   Covers a comprehensive scope of equipment to control: ã   All conventional weapons, related articles, and equipment used in military and internal security operations; ã   Parts and components, technologies, technical expertise and equipment for making, developing and maintaining those articles. ã   Includes all types of international trade, transfers, and transactions, including imports, exports, re-exports, transits, transhipments, commercial sales, state to state tranfers, loans and gifts, brokering, transport, and finance. ã   Provides for robust mechanisms for (a) prior risk assessment; (b) end-use assurances; (c) brokering controls; and (d) criminal sanctions for activities not authorised in accordance with the Treaty. ã   Requires that all states keep records of authorised transfers for at least 20 years. ã   Ensures transparency through annual public reports by states on all transfers and on how they have implemented their obligations under the Treaty. ã   Ensures that the existing rights of victims of armed violence are recognised, including that states commit to providing them with assistance for recovery, rehabilitation, justice, and inclusion. „ Uncontrolled arms transfers fuel crimes against civilians during armed conflicts, including the tens of thousands of people forced to flee Joseph Kony‟s Lord‟s Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011. ‟   Oxfam International, 2011 7   
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