NEW YORK, NY – International relief and development organization Oxfam welcomed today's signing of the Arms Trade Treaty by the United States. As the world's biggest arms exporter, the United States joins more than half of UN member states that have already signed the treaty. This brings the total number of signatures to 91 in the four months since the treaty opened for signature, and that number is expected to top 100 by the end of the day.
Oxfam urged the US to now live up to the spirit of the treaty by not authorizing any transfer of weapons where there is a major risk of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, such as in the current conflict in Syria. Oxfam also called on the US Senate to quickly ratify the Treaty, and released a report outlining the necessary next steps.
"Today's signing of the Arms Trade Treaty by the United States is a significant victory for human rights and development," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "While the Arms Trade Treaty cannot reverse history, it could prevent the further fueling of conflict if states begin living up to its principles immediately and refuse to supply arms to countries where they are likely to be used to commit atrocities or other serious human rights abuses."
The Arms Trade Treaty is the first ever global treaty on the global trade in conventional arms and ammunition, requiring governments to establish common standards for the international trade of weapons. It is the global answer to the inadequate patchwork system of national laws, regional initiatives, and country-specific embargoes that have failed to effectively control the world's deadliest trade up to now.
"The US is the world's foremost arms exporter, and US signature is a powerful step demonstrating the United States' commitment to preventing mass atrocities and protecting civilians from armed conflict," continued Offenheiser. "We hope that the US signing will lead other major exporters to get off the fence and sign the ATT as soon as possible."
The Treaty creates 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.
"Millions of men, women and children have suffered from armed violence around the world, violence that continues today in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and many other countries," said Offenheiser. "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."
Oxfam's report, Saving Lives with Common Sense, lays out the necessary next steps for US ratification. The United States already has in place an extensive arms export and import control system, which in most ways goes beyond the requirements of the Arms Trade Treaty. Because the standards in the treaty can be implemented within existing US law, Administration officials have stated that no implementing legislation would be required to implement the Treaty and no law would be required to be changed.
"President Obama demonstrated strong and conscientious leadership by signing the treaty, and it is now time for the US Senate to do its part and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty," said Offenheiser.