States fail to adopt an Arms Trade Treaty

On Friday afternoon, the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiation conference closed without adopting a treaty. During the morning plenary, the United States, followed by Cuba, DPRK, Russia, and Venezuela, declared that negotiations needed to be extended. Thus the six year process to develop an ATT failed to achieve its goal.  

But this setback might only be temporary, as the process continues and the General Assembly will take action on this issue later this year. And despite discouraging behaviour by some states, 90 countries delivered a joint statement on Friday expressing their disappointment. These countries, which included several of the major arms exporters such as Germany and France, indicated that the draft treaty developed by the conference had “the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work.”

"The ATT process demonstrated that there is already an overwhelming norm against transferring arms when there is a risk of violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, including acts of gender-based violence," says Ray Acheson, Project Director of Reaching Critical Will. "

However, it is essential to remember that the draft treaty reached during the negotiations was insufficient to close the gaps in the international arms trade.

"It contained significant loopholes that would have undermined its ability to truly diminish human suffering as a result of the irresponsible arms trade," Ray Acheson said. "Any action taken at the General Assembly this year must aim for a stronger treaty that would go a long way towards diminishing the violent consequences of this trade."

Since the beginning of the ATT process, WILPF has argued that a strong ATT can help build the foundations for not just the regulation but also the reduction of the arms trade, along with the reduction of militarism throughout politics and society, reduction of military spending, and redirection of economic resources. As we pause for reflection in the process to develop an ATT, we should keep this nobler goal in mind.

For more information about Reaching Critical Will's views on the ATT negotiations, please see the ATT Monitor