Australia must push for strong arms trade treaty as clock ticks on final negotiations

Campaigns and Advocacy, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 26 Mar 2013

As crucial talks on the world’s first Arms Trade Treaty reach their final days, Oxfam Australia is calling on the Australian Government to push for a strong and effective arms treaty that will save lives.

Oxfam says the newly revised draft treaty on the table at the United Nations talks in New York falls short of what most countries have demanded, and looks like a deal to appease major arms exporters and importers.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said while a final Arms Trade Treaty with the support of all governments was desirable, this would come at too high a price if the final treaty still contained major loopholes.

“Every day, millions of people suffer the consequences of the irresponsible arms trade,” Dr Szoke said. “The world desperately needs a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty that will stop weapons from ending up in the hands of criminals, and help reduce suffering and conflict.”

Last week, Australia joined nearly 120 countries in a statement that declared a weak arms treaty would be worse than no treaty at all.

“Australia should not now settle for a compromise deal on the world’s first ever global rules on the arms trade,” Dr Szoke said.

Under the revised draft text, ammunition, parts and components are still more poorly regulated than other weapons, and exporters are still able to put national security and other interests before human rights concerns when transferring arms.

Oxfam said there had been some improvements to the draft treaty, including clearer language to ban arms transfers when it is known they will be used to commit genocide or crimes against humanity.

The agency commended the Australian Government for signing onto a joint statement yesterday endorsed by 103 countries outlining key areas needing improvement.

With just three days of negotiations left, Oxfam said Australia – as a key player in the talks – must prioritise fixing the loopholes in the current draft treaty.

“Australia is one of seven countries that helped initiate the UN negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty back in 2006, and has long been an advocate for a strong and effective outcome,” Dr Szoke said.

“By championing what is right, rather than what is easy, Australia has a real chance to stop arms from flooding the world and destroying lives. We must stand strong in demanding a deal that reduces human suffering, rather than maintaining the status quo.”

Negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty will finish at the UN in New York on Thursday March 28.

For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or