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Why an Arms Trade Treaty is essential

05-03-2013 Interview

The final Diplomatic Conference to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will take place in New York from 18 to 28 March 2013. The ICRC is pushing for a strong and effective treaty that includes strict transfer criteria and covers a broad range of weapons and activities. Nathalie Weizmann, the ICRC's legal adviser on arms availability, explains.

Why do we need an Arms Trade Treaty?

Every year, because of the widespread availability and misuse of weapons, hundreds of thousands of civilians are displaced, injured, raped or killed. In many parts of the world, weapons are so easy to obtain and armed violence so prevalent that, after a conflict, civilians face many of the same threats that they did during it. The negotiation and eventual implementation of the ATT will create a historic opportunity to reduce the human cost of the widespread and poorly regulated availability of conventional arms.

What are States doing about it?

In July 2012, the UN Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty ended with a draft treaty that will form the basis for a new round of negotiations this month. The Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty will take place in New York from 18 to 28 March 2013.

A large majority of countries remain resolved to pursue negotiations and adopt an ATT as soon as possible. The coming weeks are a crucial time to urge countries to adopt a strong and effective treaty that includes strict transfer criteria and comprehensive coverage of weapons and activities.

What is the ICRC's position on the ATT?

The ATT should require States to assess the likelihood that serious violations of international humanitarian law will be committed with weapons set to be transferred, and not authorize the transfers when a clear risk of serious violations exists. All conventional weapons and their ammunition should be included in the scope of the treaty. In addition, all types of transfer should be subject to strict standards set by the treaty.