Minister Carr urged: no backflip on Arms Trade Treaty promise

Minister Carr urged: no backflip on Arms Trade Treaty promise

Efforts to end the irresponsible and poorly-regulated international arms trade are at risk of failure as month-long negotiations at the United Nations enter their final days, campaigners have warned.

Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, is urging the Australian Government to stand firm, alongside the overwhelming majority of states, on its commitment to the strongest possible deal.

“In our work in some of the most conflict-affected communities in the world, Act for Peace sees the human cost of unlawful armed violence every day,” said Alistair Gee, Executive Director of Act for Peace. “This treaty offers the best opportunity in a generation to end the human cost of the irresponsible arms trade and countries like Australia must stand firm to ensure the final treaty is robust.”

Last Friday, a statement outlining the minimum humanitarian principles that must be included in the treaty was supported by 74 states including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Germany, Sierra Leone and scores of Caribbean and African nations. But key players including Australia did not sign.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr wrote in an opinion piece before he left for the negotiations that he would argue at the UN for a strong and effective Arms Treaty that must cover “the full range of conventional arms, including small arms and their munitions. It must ban the export of arms to countries subject to UN embargoes. It must cover ammunition. It must cover the widest range of light arms.”

Act for Peace is calling on Minister Carr to remain committed to this position.

The first draft of a treaty to regulate the $60 billion arms trade has been condemned by campaigners for containing numerous loopholes that will weaken its ability to stop the transfer of arms and ammunitions that fuel conflict, poverty and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

At this vital moment, a clear and unwavering commitment from Australia can have substantial influence on the final outcome and help prevent a watered-down treaty.

The critical focus during the final days of negotiations will be on the steps governments will be required to take before deciding whether an arms transfer should go ahead or not. A small minority of governments refuses to agree that a transfer should be prohibited if there is a substantial risk that it will be used for violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.

Act for Peace is part of the Ecumenical Campaign for a Strong and Effective Arms Trade Treaty, an arms trade control initiative by churches and related organisations in 35 countries. The agency supports effective armed violence reduction programs in conflict-affected countries including Iraq and Somalia.

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