Down but not out: Australia must play critical role in saving the Arms Trade Treaty

Campaigns and Advocacy, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 28 Jul 2012

There is still hope for countries to reach agreement on an Arms Trade Treaty, despite governments failing to reach a consensus agreement in New York, Oxfam Australia said today.

Throughout July, countries have been negotiating for legally-binding regulations for the international weapons trade. In the final hours of negotiations, consensus was blocked by the United States, Russia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, who all asked for more time.

However, Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said despite this setback, momentum was still gathering for an international, legally-binding treaty to bring the arms trade under control.

“Key countries have dropped the ball today and let the rest of world down. But significant progress during the final days of the negotiations shows that we are much closer to a robust and effective Treaty than ever before,” Mr Hewett said.

He said that throughout the negotiations, there was majority support for the Arms Trade Treaty to cover all conventional arms including ammunition, and to be based around tough rules on international human rights and humanitarian law.

He said Australia – one of the co-authors of the original UN resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2006 – had worked hard to stop the negotiations from de-railing.

“Australia showed leadership and flexibility in an attempt to maintain the significant momentum and progress, particularly during the last few days of the negotiations,” Mr Hewett said.

He said that despite the collapse of the talks today, the response of the co-authors – Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Finland, Costa Rica, Argentina and Kenya – and a broad group of supportive countries, showed that there was still overwhelming support for a strong ATT.

“We particularly commend Australia’s leadership in rallying a group of 90 like-minded countries to deliver a statement at the close of the talks, underlining the group’s determination to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible,” Mr Hewett said.

“There is still hope. Governments now have a second chance to make the treaty a reality by taking the text forward to the General Assembly in October.

“But in order for this second chance to succeed, strong leadership is needed to sustain the political will of this large group of states.  Australia, which has invested heavily in the process since 2006, must continue to be one of the key leaders for the Arms Trade Treaty to succeed.

“In particular, we greatly encourage Australia to continue and build on its important partnerships in three regions where the ATT can make a real difference – the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean.

“The voices of those regions affected by armed violence must be front and centre of any efforts to conclude a successful Arms Trade Treaty that truly makes a difference; Australia’s continued support to these regions is crucial.”

Oxfam Australia Humanitarian Advocacy Coordinator Ben Murphy is in New York for the negotiations and also is available for interview.

For further information or interviews please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801