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The "Race to 50" is won!

Peace & Health Blog

by Maria Valenti


At a special ceremony today at the United Nations in New York, several states, including the Bahamas, St Lucia, Portugal, Senegal, and Uruguay ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), helping to exceed the magic number of 50 required for the treaty to enter into force. This will now take place in 90 days, or on December 24th.

“This is a victory for health and humanity,” said Dr. Robert Mtonga, IPPNW/Zambia, and past co-president of IPPNW, who has been active in leading IPPNW advocacy for a humanitarian-based ATT. He joined others in IPPNW today and in the Control Arms Coalition to express his joy in today’s accomplishment. IPPNW doctors and medical students worldwide have been working for years in their countries, as well as at U.N. meetings, to advocate for the ATT as a health imperative. Last year, IPPNW delivered a Medical Alert for a Stong ATT petition with signatures from 58 countries to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Dr. Mtonga participated at last month’s Meeting of States Parties on the ATT in Mexico, where he said “With so many crises evident today, and a rise, not a decrease, in the number of casualties from armed violence, we need effective implementation of the treaty right now. Each day delayed portends further humanitarian suffering.”

Campaigners from the Control Arms Coalition, of which IPPNW has been a leader for many years, hailed today as a historic moment. However, they cautioned that the ATT must be implemented to the highest possible standard and that a new, very strong, global norm be established that makes it extremely clear that arms transfers that violate the Treaty’s provisions are unacceptable.

Director of the Control Arms Coalition Anna Macdonald said: “Momentum behind the Arms Trade Treaty is continuing at a rapid pace now as we approach the moment the treaty will enter into force. The ATT will enshrine into international law much-needed controls on the multi-billion-dollar arms trade for the very first time.”

The ATT is the first global agreement to regulate the more than $70 billion annual trade in arms and ammunition. Every day, over 1000 people are killed by armed violence and millions more are injured or maimed or live in fear of rape, assault and displacement caused by weapons getting into the wrong hands. Figures released by the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR showed more than 50 million people were forced to flee their homes across the world during 2013.

Under the ATT, states must assess the risks of weapons and ammunition being misused to commit human rights abuses or violations of humanitarian law, before they can authorize transfer.

Once the treaty enters into force, the next major challenge will be to ensure the treaty is implemented robustly.

Important operational questions over the implementation of the treaty have yet to be finalised and the Control Arms Coalition is calling on all States who have ratified the Treaty to make fast progress on the mechanics of how the treaty will be applied in real- life situations.

The debate continues on where the ATT’s official Secretariat will be based – with the governments of Austria, Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago all having made a bid to host it.

Details on the ATT include the following:

• The ATT opened for signature on June 3 2013. Since then, 118 countries have signed
• On 2 April 2013 the ATT was adopted by majority vote at the General Assembly – 154 states voted for, three voted against and 23 abstained.
• The ATT will come into force 90 days after the 50th signatory state deposits its instrument of ratification with the UN.
• By signing the ATT states commit to:
o Properly regulate all transfers of conventional arms, ammunition or parts and components.
o Ban the export of conventional arms, ammunition, or parts and components where there is knowledge the weapons would be used to perpetrate war crimes, genocide, attacks against civilians, and other grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
o Comprehensively assess the risk of any transfer contributing to or undermine peace and security or to facilitate serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, terrorism, organised crime, gender-based violence or violence against women and children.
o Consider the risk that arms might be re-directed from the original recipient to another user – known as “diversion”.
o Submit annual reports on its international transfers and national implementation activities to the other States Parties, improving transparency in the global arms trade.


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click to watch the video in IPPNW's youtube channel