States vote overwhelmingly for first ever Arms Trade Treaty

By jforres

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New York, NY -- Campaigners today say the vote for the first ever global treaty to bring the international arms trade under control marks ‘an incredible moment’. International aid agency Oxfam, a leading member of the Control Arms Coalition, says the landmark vote sends a clear signal to gunrunners and unscrupulous governments who supply human rights abusers that their time is up.

“The Arms Trade Treaty provides a powerful alternative to the body bag approach currently used to respond to humanitarian crises and mass loss of life,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “Over the long-term, the Arms Trade Treaty will change how countries engage in the arms trade by requiring exporters to take human rights seriously.”

After six years of diplomatic negotiations, and more than 10 years of campaigning from civil society, governments at the United Nations voted for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by a resounding majority (154 votes YES – 3 votes NO, 23 Abstentions). The treaty enshrines in new international law a set of clear rules for all international transfers of arms and ammunitions.

“At last we have a legally binding international treaty that will regulate the world’s deadliest business,” said Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control. “The agreement of the Arms Trade Treaty sends a clear message to arms dealers who supply war lords and dictators that their time is up. They will no longer be able to operate and arm themselves with impunity.”

The vote at the UN General Assembly was held just five days after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked the Treaty’s adoption by consensus in a tense session on the last day of the Final Conference on the ATT.

The Treaty will create binding obligations for governments to assess all arms transfers against the risk that weapons will be used for human rights abuses, terrorism, transnational organized crime or violations of humanitarian law. It will require governments to refuse any transfers of weapons if there is a major risk countries would use them to violate human rights or commit war crimes.

"The Obama administration deserves a lot of credit for ensuring throughout the negotiations that the treaty completely bans all arms transfers that exporters know will be used for genocide and other human rights crimes," said Offenheiser. "The President must now lead by example by signing this treaty as soon as it opens for signature in June."

Oxfam is calling on all states that have supported the treaty to prioritize signing and implementing the treaty to the highest possible standards. The agency said that all governments must commit to passing the necessary national legislation in order to bring the treaty into force as soon as possible.

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