The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Louis Belanger - Media Officer - Oxfam International
Tel +1 212 687 2678

US Joins Arms Trade Treaty Talks, but at High Price

NGOs welcome US support but warn that proposal to give any Member State veto power would weaken not strengthen future Treaty


Today's announcement by
the US of support for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was welcomed by Oxfam
International and Amnesty International, warning that Washington's
support comes at a very high price.

The shift in position by the world's biggest arms exporter is a
major breakthrough in launching formal negotiations at the United
Nations in order irresponsible arms transfers. It shows that the Obama
administration is serious about reducing the affects caused by the
uncontrolled trade in conventional weapons. The US government, under
the Bush Administration, is the only government to vote against the UN
process toward an ATT in the past.

As part of its support the US government has given the condition
that future negotiations include a veto clause, by stipulating that
decisions must be taken by consensus. This, Oxfam and Amnesty
International say, could fatally weaken a final deal.

"The world has waited a long time for the USA to come on board to
support global arms trade negotiations. Its involvement is vital for an
effective agreement. Governments must resist any US demands to give any
single state the power to veto the treaty as this could hold the
process hostage during the course of negotiations. We call on all
governments to reject such a veto clause." said Oxfam International's
policy adviser Debbie Hillier.

Governments are meeting this month in New York in a make-or-break meeting to kick start formal negotiations for a global ATT.

The two international organisations say that new international
standards on arms transfers must be agreed in order to prohibit the
transfer of arms likely to be used to commit serious violations of
international humanitarian or human rights law or to undermine
sustainable development.

"At long last the US government says that it wants a strong and
robust Arms Trade Treaty with the highest possible standards", said
Brian Wood of Amnesty International. "But by giving every single
government the right to scupper the UN Conference in 2012, the US
position could hugely weaken or delay agreement to tackle irresponsible
arms transfers that shatter countless lives worldwide."

Notes to editors

UN began work on an Arms Trade Treaty to control the conventional trade
in arms following a landslide vote in 2006. The USA was then the only
state to vote against the Resolution which started this work. 153
states voted in favour.

Lead governments on the ATT are UK, Argentina, Finland, Costa Rica, Japan, Kenya and Finland.

There is currently no global regulation on the conventional arms trade.
Armed violence claims 2000 deaths per day, and NGOs have calculated the
cost to Africa alone of armed violence is 19 billion dollars per day.

The Arms Trade Treaty would require states to authorize any
international arms transfer that originated, or passed through their
territory. It would not impinge on states legitimate right to purchase
and acquire weapons for self defence. It would also not affect civilian
ownership, as it would regulate international arms transfers only.

Read more

Watch the video: Dying for Action - Why we need an Arms Trade Treaty

Follow our ConflictVoice team tweeting from the UN Arms Trade Talks

Control Arms campaign

Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.