Christmas Eve marked the coming into force of the UN backed Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which has been signed or ratified by more than half the world’s countries.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the speed with which the ATT came into force, less than two years since its adoption by the UN General Assembly, was testimony to the commitment of States, international organisations and civil society to stop irresponsible arms transfers.
“Ultimately, it attests to our collective determination to reduce human suffering by preventing the transfer or diversion of weapons to areas afflicted by armed conflict and violence and to warlords, human rights abusers, terrorists and criminal organisations.”
According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), 130 states had signed the ATT by December 24 and 61 have ratified it. Calling it a landmark treaty, UNODA said it regulates the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships.
Ki-moon said promotion of continued universal participation in the ATT was critical.
“This must be done by encouraging all states, particularly major arms exporters and importers, to join the Treaty.”
His thoughts have been echoed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which said in a statement that states that have ratified or signed the ATT have shown commitment to ICRC’s humanitarian goal of reducing human suffering through strict controls on the international trade in conventional arms.
“If faithfully and consistently applied, the ATT will ensure weapons do not end up in the hands of those who would use them to commit war crimes of serious violations of human rights law,” the ICRC said.
Briefing the 139-member UN General Assembly earlier this week, Moon said he saw 2015 as a chance for major advances across the three inter-connected pillars of the world body’s work. These are: development, peace and human rights.
He welcomed the entry into force of the ATT, adding that peace and security was not achievable in a world where nuclear weapons were available, urging states to fulfil their responsibilities in terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
He also spotlighted the impacts of war in Syria, Ukraine, the Central African Republic (CAR), northern Mali and elsewhere pointing out there were other countries at the risk of conflict because of their domestic situations.
“In several countries, electoral processes and constitutional amendments seem designed to prolong incumbencies instead of strengthening democracy,” he said, calling for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and urging responses to “brutality and extremism” not limited to military action but which included efforts to address the underlying conditions giving rise to extremism.