Nobel Peace Laureates call for robust criteria, scope, and implementation mechanisms in an effective #Armstreaty

February 14 2012, 7:24 AM by Ray Acheson

On February 14, 2012, Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Oscar Arias Sánchez and
representatives of the Nobel Peace Prize winning organizations Amnesty
International and International Physicians for the Prevention of
Nuclear War (IPPNW) will address UN delegates at the fourth meeting of
the Preparatory Committee on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to raise
their voices in support of strong and legally binding regulations for
the international trade in conventional arms.

by Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress

As States embark upon the final Preparatory Committee, Dr. Arias
reflects upon the goals that led him and fellow Nobel Peace Laureates
to call for a Code of Conduct for International Arms Transfers in
1997, noting that, “the challenge before us is not just to get a
document signed. The challenge before us is to do justice to … victims
of violence. The challenge before us is to ensure that our goal
becomes reality. These men and women and children deserve nothing less
than swift and effective action.”

The pace of change in today’s world has grown ever more staggering,
especially when it comes to the increasing complexity of violence.
Terrorism and international crime have replaced inter-State conflicts
as the primary threats to global security, and the dangers we face
appear to evolve and multiply each day. However, the tools of
violence, and its underlying causes, remain essentially unchanged.
There are an estimated 875 million small arms in the world today, 74
percent in the hands of civilians—a threat of “mass destruction” more
lethal than nuclear weapons. Firearms cause almost one-third of a
million deaths each year that are unrelated to armed conflicts.

The unbridled flow of arms to the developing world threatens the
citizens not just of those nations but of all nations, and supports
violators of human rights and repressive regimes. The arms trade also
undermines economic growth: armed violence and conflict exact
tremendous socioeconomic costs by destroying human capital, driving up
defense spending, and diverting public resources away from education,
health care, and social development.

The lack of transparency that often accompanies arms deals further
exacerbates their economic consequences: the US Department of Commerce
estimates that the arms trade accounts for approximately 50 percent of
all bribery allegations.

The Small Arms Survey has reported that the annual authorized trade in
small arms exceeds US$7 billion a year. Moreover, according to the
Congressional Research Service, the value of all international arms
deliveries in 2010 was nearly US$35 billion. Yet national security
interests have shielded the arms trade from basic controls and
safeguards. It is unconscionable that goods whose explicit purpose is
to kill and injure are spared the regulations that govern every other
legitimate industry.

It has long been both possible and convenient for those in control of
this under-regulated trade to ignore its consequences. However, as we
embark upon the final Preparatory Committee before the UN Conference
on the Arms Trade Treaty in July of this year, we must face the
reality that this is no longer the case. The shockwaves of violence
that emanate from the Middle East, from our neighbors in Central
America and Mexico, and in other regions affirm beyond doubt that in
our interconnected world, conflict or human rights violations in one
country pose a significant risk to the stability of others. It is
clearer now than ever before that the unfettered arms trade poses a
threat to all of us, a risk to our global security.

The ATT seeks to establish binding universal standards for the
international trade of conventional arms, to close gaps in existing
arms control policies that too often allow weapons to fall into the
hands of those who would use them to violate international
humanitarian and human rights laws and perpetuate other unacceptable
abuses that destroy lives and livelihoods.
The burgeoning of international support for an ATT is due in large
part to the efforts of civil society organizations, as well as the
leadership of key countries including the initiative’s “co-authors”:
Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Kenya, Japan, and the
United Kingdom. Our challenge now is to muster the political will of
all countries to ensure that the Treaty is not only legally binding,
but also comprehensive enough in the range of weapons and
international transactions that it covers to have a meaningful impact.
Only with the support of major arms-exporting nations as well as
developing and middle-income countries can we prevent some States from
acting as loopholes through which irresponsible arms transfers can
pass unchecked.

In July 2011, 21 global investors, collectively representing assets of
US$1.2 trillion, declared the under-regulated arms trade to be an
unacceptable risk to investment and voiced their support for a strong
and binding ATT. Their call is further evidence that the enduring
political and economic security to which the peoples of our world
aspire is a dividend of peace, not of war.

Security is a goal that cannot be attained as long as conventional
weapons continue to be readily supplied to zones overrun by armed
violence and to States known to systematically violate the human
rights of their citizens.

The vast human suffering caused by the under-regulated global arms
trade is a tragedy and an injustice. It is an unacceptable risk to
global security that will continue to sully our best efforts toward
global peace and development. The time has come for States to invest
in our collective security by supporting the Arms Trade Treaty.

Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress
Facebook: Fundación Arias Costa Rica
Contact: Kirsten Harmon, kirsten@arias.or.cr