Growing support for including armed violence in the #ArmsTreaty

July 23 2012, 6:23 AM  by Oistein Thorsen

In the past ten days of negotiations at the Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, we have seen many UN member states recognizing and acknowledging the devastating human consequences of the unregulated arms trade.

This has also been highlighted by the growing support towards the inclusion of armed violence into key aspects of the treaty including Goals and Objectives, Principles and Preamble, and Parameters and Criteria. Countries have stressed that the uncontrolled arms trade kills and injures people, fuels armed violence, including conflict and gender-based violence, and hampers socio-economic development.

An analysis of the oral statements made by delegations during the negotiations shows that there has been a strong positive shift towards the inclusion of a specific reference to armed violence in various sections of the treaty. Overall, more than 70 delegations, including member states of ASEAN, CARICOM, the European Union and ECOWAS, have spoken up for the inclusion of armed violence. Their interventions can be classified into four types of support:

First, there are the states that for the first time ask for armed violence to be mentioned in the treaty. Samoa said that the objective of a treaty must be to prevent armed conflict and armed violence (Goals and Objectives, 11 July). South Sudan put forward treaty language for the Goals and Objectives, which includes armed violence, and reinforced their position by a statement calling for the addition of armed violence into the text (18 July).

States such as Kazakhstan (5 July), Myanmar on behalf of ASEAN (5 July) and Colombia (10 July) used the term of armed violence in their statements to describe the negative effects of inflows of arms on their countries.

Then there are the states who have implicitly but not very actively supported the inclusion of armed violence in the past, and who have now become much more vocal. Several European states such as Denmark (Goals and Objectives, 13 July), Sweden (Goals and Objectives, 13 July; Criteria, 16 July; Preamble and Principles, 17 July), France (Preamble and Principles, 9 July), Hungary (Goals and Objectives, 11 July), and Ireland (Goals and Objectives, 13 July) as well as the European Union (Goals and Objectives, 13 July) are calling for the inclusion of armed violence under the Goals and Objectives or the Preamble and Principles of the Treaty, while the Dominican Republic (Criteria, 6 July), Kenya (Criteria, 12 July), Peru (Criteria, 20 July), Costa Rica (Criteria, 20 July), Uruguay on behalf of Colombia, Guatemala, and El Salvador (Criteria, 20 July) and CARICOM and ECOWAS (Criteria, 19, 20 July) are actively calling for armed violence as criteria for transfers.

The third category are the long standing advocates for the inclusion of armed violence into the Arms Trade Treaty, including Norway, Mexico, Switzerland, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and the United Kingdom who keep actively and frequently demanding to have armed violence in the treaty. Finally, and maybe most importantly, there is little objection to the inclusion of armed violence into the treaty.

The only recorded intervention opposing the term of armed violence has come from the Indian delegation (20 July). These oral statements show that armed violence is a key concern to many delegations and must therefore be included in the final treaty text. As the Swedish Delegation rightly pointed out on 17 July, armed violence is an “established concept” with a broad and comprehensive coverage. It must be included in the treaty text as part of the Preamble and the Objectives, but also under Criteria to ensure that in the future no arms transfers will increase human suffering in countries already strongly affected by violence.