Global Arms Trade Treaty s first Conference of States Parties

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1 AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS August 2015 Global Arms Trade Treaty s first Conference of States Parties After 20 years of determined lobbying and campaigning by Amnesty International and partner NGOs, the UN General Assembly voted decisively to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) text on 2 April The Treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014, meaning it officially became international law, with the potential to save millions of lives. On August 2015, states will meet at the first annual ATT Conference of States Parties (ATT CSP) in Cancún, Mexico, where they will make important decisions that will inform how the Treaty is implemented. What is the Arms Trade Treaty and how can it make a difference? The ATT is an international Treaty that sets out, for the first time, robust global rules to stop the flow of weapons, munitions and related items to countries when it is known they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes. Each state must also assess if there is a substantial risk that a proposed arms export to another country could be used for, or contribute to, serious human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law, and if so those arms must not be sent. What does the international arms trade look like now? The trade details are often shrouded in secrecy but the value of international transfers of conventional arms is estimated to be approaching US$100 billion annually; in 2010 it was around US$72 billion. And if you add on all the related services, including military and construction for example, it s worth around US$120 billion. The annual authorized trade in small arms and light weapons alone exceeds US$8.5 billion. More than 1,000 companies from nearly 100 countries produce small arms and light weapons. At the moment there are around 40 countries with larger-scale defence production capabilities and another 60 or so countries manufacturing arms on a smaller scale more than half of the 193 UN member states make and supply weapons and military equipment. This trade in deadly or dangerous products is still not controlled strictly and carefully, so millions of people are getting killed, maimed and abused. The ATT is aiming to put a stop to this situation. How many people die each year due to arms? It is estimated that roughly half a million people are killed every year with firearms; in the battlefield, as a result of state repression and by criminal gangs.

2 Many other millions around the world die because they are being denied access to health care, water or food as they are trapped in conflicts fuelled by the poorly controlled flow of arms. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, it is estimated more than five million people died indirectly because of the armed conflict since And for every person who is killed in conflict and armed violence, we have to consider the many more who are injured and tortured, abused, forcibly disappeared, taken hostage or otherwise denied their human rights down the barrel of a gun. The problem is absolutely massive and ongoing as seen now in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and South Sudan. In many parts of the world, irresponsible arms trading can sooner or later destroy every area of people s lives and livelihoods. Who is particularly affected by the uncontrolled flow of arms? Women are greatly affected in ways that often are invisible and not talked about very much. Our researchers have collected stories from conflict affected countries all around the world where women have been raped at gunpoint. It is a widespread problem and in some countries this sort of violence happens on a massive scale. You can also see a disproportionate effect on children, young people and refugees. In some countries, children are recruited into the armed forces or armed groups and forced to fight. Who is responsible for this situation? The five permanent members of the UN Security Council the United States of America, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom are among the world s largest arms traders. Germany, Israel, Italy, Sweden, South Africa, Spain, Belgium and Ukraine are also large arms traders. The largest importers of arms include India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in Asia and the Middle East. What about businesses, aren t they responsible too? It s true that most of the arms trade is carried out by commercial entities manufacturing and trading companies, military service providers, arms brokers and dealers as well as those who transport the arms and finance them. Under the UN Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework for Business and Human Rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies have a responsibility to respect all human rights independently of states own human rights obligations. However, in the case of the arms trade the primary responsibility falls to states which must regulate the trade through granting or refusing licenses, and only states can prohibit certain inhumane types of arms and impose arms embargoes and suspensions.

3 The key problem is that the design and enforcement of arms trade laws have simply not kept pace with global arms markets, and the will of political leaders to address this has been sorely lacking. This unfortunately also affects the responsibility of business actors. Is the Arms Trade Treaty international law? Yes, on 24 December 2014 it became international law. To become legally binding, the Treaty first needed be ratified by at least 50 states. This happened on 25 September 2014, triggering the Treaty s entry into force 90 days later. So far the ATT has been ratified by 72 states, including five out of the top 10 arms exporters: the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. An impressive 130 states have already signed the Treaty, including 58 states that have signed but not yet ratified. Amnesty International will continue to push all governments to ratify or accede to the ATT and effectively implement the Treaty as soon as possible. What is ratification and accession? Ratification is when a state declares its consent to abide by the rules of a Treaty. Usually it is preceded by the signing of a Treaty before the ratification process starts. The ratification process itself runs in two steps. Firstly, the state incorporates the rules of the Treaty into its national laws, which is usually done after parliamentary approval. Secondly, it declares its consent to abide by the rules of the Treaty internationally, by submitting official paperwork to the United Nations. Once both steps have been completed, it becomes a state party to the Treaty. Accession is another way of declaring consent to be bound by a Treaty and is available for international treaties which have already entered into force. The ATT is open for accession by any state after it entered into force on 24 December What does it mean that the ATT entered into force? This is when the rules of the Treaty come into effect, and it becomes binding international law for all countries that have ratified the ATT or acceded to it. Now that the Treaty has entered into force, the challenge will be to ensure proper implementation so that no state authorizes arms transfers to those committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or turns a blind eye to dealers supplying arms likely to be used to commit serious human rights violations. This is why the annual ATT Conference of States Parties (ATT CSP) is so crucial; it is a key to the Treaty s implementation and a vehicle through which civil society will be able to hold governments to account over their international arms transfers. Amnesty International will work hard to make sure the ATT develops into an established global arms control regime that has human rights at its core. What is the ATT Conference of States Parties and what will happen there? The ATT Conference of States Parties (ATT CSP) is an annual meeting that must take place no later than a year after the ATT has entered into force. The first ATT CSP will take place on August in Cancún, Mexico. This meeting is where States can monitor each other s implementation of the Treaty and put pressure on each other act responsibly and in line with the Treaty. Under the Treaty all governments must submit annual reports on their arms trading, and these will be shared and discussed at ATT CSPs.

4 At the first ATT CSP, States will set important rules about how future ATT CSPs should operate. This includes how decisions should be made, the level of participation in the Conference by civil society and industry, how transparent the Conference should be (e.g. if some meetings should closed), how much States should contribute financially to the running ATT CSP, where the ATT Secretariat (the official body that will support the ATT s implementation) should be based and how it should be structured. Decisions will also be made on how much information States share in their annual reports on their arms trading, and if those reports will be public, as well as how they provide information on how they are implementing the Treaty. Why does the ATT Conference of States Parties matter? ATT CSPs are absolutely key for monitoring how the ATT is being implemented and for holding States to account over their application of the Treaty. The first ATT CSP is perhaps the most important one, as it will set important rules on how the Treaty s implementation will be supported and monitored. Three major areas Amnesty International will be pressing for are: transparency in all aspects of the ATT, including comprehensive state reporting on the scale and range of their arms imports and exports; making sure NGOs are allowed to participate meaningfully in all treaty meetings and processes; and putting in place mechanisms to ensure that states honour their treaty obligations by preventing transfers of weapons to anyone who risks using them for serious violations of international law, including war crimes and serious human rights violations. Rules adopted at the first ATT CSP must ensure the Treaty will be implemented robustly and that civil society will be able to hold governments to the highest standards. Who will ensure that governments respect the Treaty? So far the treaty does not have a system for independent verification other than a peer review process, but the treaty can in time be strengthened through amendments. For the first time, the ATT will set an international standard that governments and civil society can use to hold accountable those who sell weapons or munitions irresponsibly. It will also prevent the flow of arms into places plagued by human rights abuses by closing the many loopholes used by arms dealers and unscrupulous governments. What about those states that have yet to sign or ratify the ATT? The campaign doesn t stop here. Amnesty International and its NGO partners are keeping up the pressure on states by exposing cases of blatantly irresponsible arms transfers and pressing governments to bring the ATT rules into their own national laws by ratifying or acceding to the Treaty. Amnesty International will also be ensuring that states effectively and robustly implement the ATT and will monitor how states do this.

5 Have the world s major arms exporters adopted the Treaty in their law? Five of the top 10 arms exporters France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have already ratified the ATT. While the USA and Israel have yet to ratify, they have both signed the Treaty. There has been resistance to ratification from other major arms producers like China, Canada and Russia. While it s crucial that all the world s largest arms exporting countries are part of the Treaty, it is important to stress that well over half of all states have already signed the ATT and over a quarter have ratified the Treaty in little over a year, which is a fast pace for such a global Treaty touching on security and human rights issues. Global civil society and champion governments will continue to pile the pressure on other states to accede to or ratify it too. /ENDS

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