The Arms Trade Treaty has come to its end but states parties fail to adopt an agreement.

By Angeline Annesteus

The UN conference on the Arms Trade Treaty comes to its end but as always a lot can happen in the last minutes of the negotiations. Yesterday, the chair of the negotiations released a new draft text but it is full of potential loopholes. Many different areas of the text would need to be reconsidered in order for the treaty to meet its overall goal and objective: a robust, comprehensive treaty with the highest possible common standards

One of the most serious loopholes is in article 5.2 of the text which states that implementation of this treaty shall not be cited as grounds for voiding contractual obligations under defense cooperation agreements concluded by States Parties to this Treaty.

This is just one of the many drafting challenges that would for instance allow exporters, according to this article, to continue to sell weapons to governments even in instances where the weapons will likely violate International Human Rights and Humanitarian Laws.

Key blockers

The key blockers are USA, India, Russia, the African States, CARICOM and China. Each blocker presents a different issue but this time China is apparently trying to avoid a great escape. Article 2 B (3) of the consolidated text states "this Treaty shall apply to those activities of the international trade in conventional arms….. under the scope of this Treaty". According to China and many other delegates, the article provides a serious gasp because states can evade control of weapons through gifting weapons or military assistance programs.

The African states, did not allow for a consensus to be reached because of the exclusions of ammunition under scope and the lack of full inclusion of gender-based armed violence under the treaty. The concerns of the African states are legitimate. For decades, the continent has suffered from armed violence, civil wars, and human right abuses including lack of socio-economic development due to illicit and irresponsible arms transfer.

Similarly, conflict in and around Africa has made military spending a necessity in the region where almost all countries have focused on securing their territories instead of working to mitigate poverty. The Stockholm International Peace Research (SIPRI) acknowledges that in 2008, $ 20.4 billion has spent in military spending in Africa with Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia accounting for 40% of it. Rapidly growing revenues or emerging countries in the region, including South Africa, have been made considerable investments in purchasing arms for security purposes as well.

The clock is ticking and the ATT is at a high risk a failure but Africa cannot stand for a weak ATT in the name of consensus. They are the most affected by the direct and indirect consequences of the irresponsible arms trade that causes the lost of millions of lives and holds back socio-economical development. The world, but most particularly Africa, needs a strong and robust ATT with the highest common standards possible.

We lost an historic opportunity today but the battle will continue. Governments will have a second chance to make the treaty a reality by taking the text forward to the General Assembly in the fall. 

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