At Geneva conference, stakeholders raise concerns on global arms trade

Campaigners outside the UN calling upon delegates to the third Conference of States Parties on the Arms Trade Treaty in Geneva to immediately stop arms transfers that violate the treaty and kill and injure thousands of people around the world. PHOTO: RALF SCHLESENER

The international Control Arms Coalition, at its meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which began in Geneva, on Monday, has called on states to desist from engaging in arms transfers that violate the ATT, which put thousands of civilians in danger.

Delegates from the 92 States Parties and 41 Signatories of the ATT are attending the third Conference of States Parties in Geneva from September 11 till September 15, 2017, to report on progress made in implementing the Treaty, as well as address challenges or concerns.

Control Arms’ ATT Monitor, an annual report on the Treaty, that was launched on Monday, stated that 19 state parties and three signatories have supplied arms to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began in 2015, despite overwhelming evidence that they are being used to kill and injure civilians in Yemen, in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. Three of the biggest suppliers are the UK, France and the USA. The UK alone has agreed arms sales to Saudi Arabia worth £3.7bn since the beginning of 2015 when the war began in Yemen.

“Last year, too much time was spent on process and shuffling paper. Meanwhile, thousands of civilians have been killed and injured as a result of irresponsible arms transfers. We must focus on why the Arms Trade Treaty was created in the first place; to save lives and reduce suffering in the world,” said Anna Macdonald, Control Arms Director.

Also speaking, Chairperson of Yemeni NGO Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Radhya Almutawakel, said: “As the bombs rain down on civilians and the blockade imposed by the Saudi regime stop goods coming in, time is running out for people in Yemen. More than 10,000 have been killed, 20 million people are living in desperate need, including those affected by the world’s worst ever outbreak of cholera, and a child dies every ten minutes of disease and hunger. The sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen must stop

Lamenting the continued boost in the trade of arms and the attendant negative consequences which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people globally, Control Arms Coalition called for more efforts aimed towards ensuring that there was active representation at the Arms Trade Treaty Conference, where decisions made could save millions of lives.”

“The Arms Trade Treaty was designed to protect human rights, but arms supplied by States Parties and Signatories are still being used to commit horrific abuses. Whether in Philippines President Duterte’s bloody ‘war on drugs’ or in the brutal conflict in Yemen, people
around the world are suffering every day as a result of reckless arms transfers. There must be consequences for governments who continue to fuel human rights abuses in breach of their obligations under the treaty,” said James Lynch, head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

“States must show more commitment to transparency and accountability; improving governance across the board is essential to enhanced security and economic development; people’s lives and livelihoods depend on it,” said Martin Butcher, Policy Advisor on Arms and Conflict at Oxfam.

Director of the Institute of Church and Society Nigeria, Very Reverend Kolade Fadahunsi, a participant at the ongoing conference, submitted that state parties to the ATT must be courageous towards considering universal implementation and transparency a duty, in order to reduce human suffering in South Sudan and North-East Nigeria.

The 2017 ATT Conference in Geneva, will feature a focused debate on he links between the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ATT.