UN officials call for comprehensive arms trade treaty to improve civilian safety

UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

16 February 2012 – The heads of several United Nations bodies with humanitarian, human rights and development mandates today called for a comprehensive arms trade treaty that will make people across the world safer by reducing the human cost of inadequate controls on weapons transfers.

Speaking ahead of the final preparatory meeting of the UN Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, which will be held in July, the officials took note of efforts at national and regional levels to regulate the trade in conventional weapons, but pointed out that “the current patchwork of controls is simply not adequate.”

“The human cost of such inadequate controls, and the corresponding widespread availability and misuse of weapons, is unacceptably high,” they said in a joint press statement.

The envisaged Arms Trade Treaty should meet the following criteria, according to the group of senior UN officials:

  • It must require States to assess the risk that serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law may be committed with the weapons being transferred.
  • Secondly, it must include within its scope all conventional weapons, including small arms.
  • The treaty must also include ammunition within its scope.
  • It must ensure that there are no loopholes by covering all types of transfers, including activities such as transit, trans-shipment, as wells as loans and leases.

    They pointed out that at end of 2010, an estimated 27.5 million people were internally displaced as a result of conflict, while millions more have sought refuge abroad. In many cases the armed violence that drove them from their homes was fuelled by the widespread availability and misuse of weapons.

    Between 2000 and 2010, more than 780 humanitarian workers were killed in armed attacks and a further 689 were injured, they added.

    The value of the global authorized trade in small arms and light weapons and their ammunition is estimated at over $7 billion per year, according to the officials.

    The statement was issued on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP); António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


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