Amnesty International and other major NGOs have called on governments to draw up a new international arms treaty, as talks about control of the arms trade began at the United Nations on Monday.
Negotiators from 192 governments are set to discuss a new treaty that would regulate the arms trade and could save thousands of lives every year.
The Control Arms Campaign, a civil society network including Amnesty International, Oxfam and Instituto Sou da Paz, has called on governments to draft a robust and effective treaty to control the arms trade, covering all weapons, ammunition and related equipment.
There are currently no comprehensive, legally binding international rules governing the trade in conventional arms, with gaps and loopholes in national controls allowing weapons to end up in conflict zones and in the hands of serious human rights abusers.
“The time for delays and excuses is long gone. Every single country must work to achieve the strongest possible deal to stop arms getting into the hands of human rights abusers and warmonger," said Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s Head of the Arms Control Campaign.
"We need clear rules that will oversee how states transfer and regulate the trade in arms; this is a no-brainer. By the end of the next two weeks, member states must have made real progress: and this means delivering a draft text."
One person every minute dies as a result of armed violence, with thousands more injured and abused every day, according to the Control Arms Campaign. 128 armed conflicts since 1989 have resulted in at least 250,000 deaths each year.
Negotiations are starting four years after the United Nations General Assembly agreed by an overwhelming majority to work toward an Arms Trade Treaty to establish international rules and standards to better regulate the trade.
Just four weeks of negotiations – 120 hours of negotiating time – have been allotted by the UN General Assembly to develop the text of the new international instrument before the final negotiating conference in 2012.
The Control Arms Campaign has called for the treaty to have specific criteria based around international human rights and humanitarian law and sustainable development.
“Half of the world’s poorest people live in states that are at risk of, or experiencing, violent conflict. Conventional arms, especially small arms, light weapons and associated ammunition, are used for the majority of grave human rights violations. Now is the time for an Arms Trade Treaty that really protects people, not just states”, said Daniel Mack, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Arms Control, Instituto Sou da Paz, São Paulo.
The vast majority of governments in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Asia have voted in the UN General Assembly since 2006 for the development of the Treaty, In December 2009, 151 of the UN’s 192 states voted to begin formal negotiations. Around 20 states, however, have persistently abstained in the UN votes on the Arms Trade Treaty.
”A small minority of states, however powerful, should not be allowed to stymie progress in New York over the next two weeks." said Brian Wood, Amnesty International's head of arms control. "The world urgently needs a bullet-proof Arms Trade Treaty to save lives, protect livelihoods and safeguard human rights."