Australia ratifies arms treaty to save lives, more countries must follow: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 04 Jun 2014

Australia’s formal ratification of the historic Arms Trade Treaty last night is a welcome step towards saving lives by stopping the flow of arms to conflict affected countries like Syria and South Sudan, Oxfam said.

The treaty, ratified at an official ceremony at the United Nations in New York, establishes international standards for the trade in arms, including firearms, tanks and missiles, and prohibits arms transfers that violate human rights or breach existing international law.

Speaking from New York, Oxfam Humanitarian Advocacy Officer Ben Murphy welcomed Australia’s ratification and acknowledged its leadership in the negotiation of the Treaty. However, Mr Murphy said more work was needed to help to reduce armed violence, which claims the life of one person every minute.

“By ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty today, Australia has taken a critical step in translating its long term diplomatic commitment into real action on arms control,” Mr Murphy said.

“Now the real work begins to ensure the treaty is implemented to the highest possible standards around the globe.”

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Samoa, and St Vincent and the Grenandines ratified during the ceremony at 3pm Tuesday (EDT), bringing the total number of ratifications to 40. A minimum of 50 ratifications are needed for the treaty to be entered into force.

Poorly regulated transfers of arms continue to fuel conflicts around the globe in countries such as Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. There is ongoing need for leadership from countries like Australia to ensure the Treaty takes effect as soon as possible.

“The reality is that every day that this treaty is not implemented lives are lost,” Mr Murphy said.

“Leadership from countries like Australia must continue to push those countries that have not yet signed and ratified to join, in order to close the current loopholes in the international system that allow unscrupulous arms dealers to continue operating.”

Mr Murphy said Australia should also use its role in international forums like the UN Security Council to take a stand against arms transfers that would breach the Treaty.

“If the Arms Trade Treaty is to start its life as an effective treaty, supportive governments like Australia need to send a clear message that impunity for irresponsible arms transfers will no longer be tolerated,” Mr Murphy said.

Oxfam was a founding member of the global Control Arms coalition that spearheaded the decade-long campaign for the treaty, which will be one of the fastest UN treaties to be entered into force if the 50 ratifications are achieved this year.

For interviews or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or