Nations vote overwhelmingly for first ever Arms Trade Treaty

Campaigns and Advocacy, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 03 Apr 2013

International aid agency Oxfam says today’s landmark vote at the United Nations for the first ever global treaty to control the international arms trade is a significant step in helping to protect people and communities from armed violence.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the new arms treaty will set clear rules for all international transfers of arms and ammunition, and signalled an important win after more than 10 years of campaigning for a treaty to help reduce conflict and suffering.

“At last we have a legally binding international treaty that will regulate the world’s deadliest business,” Dr Szoke said.

“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.

“Conflict and armed violence are major drivers of poverty. Reducing the amount of weapons and bullets that are fuelling conflicts across the world will protect people but also give them a chance to build a better life.”

After six years of diplomatic negotiations, and more than 10 years of campaigning from civil society, governments at the UN voted for the Arms Trade Treaty by a resounding majority (154 yes to 3 no with 23 abstentions).

The vote overnight at the UN General Assembly was held just five days after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked the treaty’s adoption on the last day of the final negotiating conference.

Under the treaty, governments will not be allowed to approve any international transfers of weapons if there is a major risk they would be used to violate human rights or commit war crimes.   This obligation would make a real difference in places like Syria, where imported weapons have played central role in fuelling the conflict that has killed an estimated 70,000 people in the past two years.

Oxfam, a member of the Control Arms Coalition, has commended the Australian Government for its leadership in the treaty negotiations, including its support of important improvements to the treaty text, and its role in a group of 12 countries that made today’s vote in the UN General Assembly possible.

The aid agency is now calling on Australia and other countries that have supported the treaty to prioritise signing and implementing the treaty to the highest possible standards. Oxfam said all governments must commit to passing the necessary national legislation to bring the treaty into force as soon as possible.

“Today’s vote is the first step towards tackling the irresponsible arms trade. The next step will be to translate the words of the treaty into action that makes a real difference for the 1,500 people who die every day as a result of armed violence,” Dr Szoke said.

“Australia has also already committed $1 million towards supporting developing countries to implement their new obligations under this treaty. This is very positive as we all know this treaty will only work to save lives if it is fully implemented.”

Oxfam has also commended the constructive role that Pacific governments played in the negotiations, including countries that have been seriously affected by armed violence such as Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

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