Africa cautious on Arms Trade Treaty


Africa and the African Union (AU) are cautious about a proposed United Nations (UN) Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), fearing it will undermine the curbing of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW).

The Institute for Security Studies in a new study entitled Africa and an arms trade treaty finds that despite several declarations and agreements “highlighting the importance of appropriate and effective controls over arms transfers, there has been little bilateral discussion between states on the development of an ATT.”

The paper notes there “has also been little engagement by the AU.”

Despite this “African countries have for the most part shown considerable support for an ATT.”

The ISS argues that given that “Africa is one of the regions that could be substantially impacted by an ATT, African countries might consider developing a more unified approach, or even a common position, to highlight their issues and concerns on the development of an ATT.

It is envisaged that the ATT will establish “common universal standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons and in doing so ensure more responsible trade in arms by preventing weapons transfers to conflict zones where they might contribute to further instability and human rights abuses.

The research paper adds that the current initiative to regulate the legal arms trade began in 1995, when a group of Nobel Peace Laureates and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) proposed the establishment of a set of criteria to guide conventional weapons transfers.

In 1997 the process was taken a step further when the ‘Nobel Peace Laureates International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers` was draft ed. “This draft, to a large extent, guided later discussions on an ATT.”

The ISS adds that although illicit SALW remain the most commonly used weapons in African conflicts, “trade in other conventional weapons to conflict zones has been recognised as a contributory factor to the escalation of local and regional conflicts and human rights violations.

It is therefore argued that an ATT arises from a need for an agreement pertaining to all conventional weapons including, but not limited to SALW, as is the case with the (2001) UN PoA (Programme of Action)” on SALW.


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