It’s July and the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations are about to start in New York. Over the coming weeks, negotiators will seek to determine the scope of the treaty and to reach a consensus. Fingers crossed, guys! The whole thing could go belly up in an instant.
Hundreds of thousands of people suffer every year because of unregulated arms trade. It’s been said that it’s easier to trade in arms than bananas, and I think we could say with a certain degree of confidence that some nations are determined to keep it that way. After all, the global arms trade is estimated to be worth $60-$70bn (£40-50bn) per year.
Once signed, the Treaty may be one of the biggest himan right breakthroughs in modern history, but in order to be effective, it must be comprehensive and not just a hollow law. The proposed Treaty must regulate the sale of ammunition, as well as parts and components being used to maintain or manufacture deadly weapons and military equipment. "Many tanks, aircraft carriers and guns are sold in pieces – just like bookshelves from a furniture store — with no questions asked about how they are going to be used, says Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s head of arms control. “If the sale of parts and components was excluded from the scope of the Arms TradeTreaty, then it would create a loophole large enough to sail an aircraft carrier through. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
For example, let’s take a piece of ready-to-assemble military equipment, the K8 trainer aircraft. Between 2005 and 2006, Zimbabwe bought 12 of these aircrafts, which contained parts from the UK (ejector seats), US (cockpit instrumentation panels), and Ukraine (turbofan engines).
Now, let’s focus on the UK for a second, which is one of the biggest arms exporters in the world. BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms company is also the country’s biggest employer. So how come the coalition government is one of those pushing hardest at the UN for an Arms Trade Treaty? It turns out that Cameron and the Foreign Office are more than happy to support the Treaty as lond as it is aimed at stopping weapons reaching “the hands of terrorists, insurgents and human rights abusers”, In other words, the Treaty they are supporting “is an export control treaty”. That’s bloody marvellous, they say, this could be good for business!
The US Government have their own agenda too. Their stance is that it would be “totally irrational” to exclude ammunition, which accounts for $4bn worth of trade each year, from the planned treaty. Syria, Egypt, Russia, Venezuela and Iran also say that ammunition should not be included. After all, it’s a lucrative high margin product with low set up costs. The price paid in human lives is apparently something they can live with.
There is so much money in the arms trade and so much corruption surrounding the whole thing that securing a meaningful Treaty that will actually save lives rather than legitimise the sale of arms, appears to be the last thing the politicians are after.
Any draft treaty that emerges from these talks, which finish on 27 July, must be approved unanimously - effectively giving all countries the power of veto.
AllRiot has produced a limited edition range of Arms Treaty t-shirts which aim to highlight the importance of the treaty. All money raised will go to Amnesty International UK who’ve been campaigning for this treaty for years.
You can also help by signing the petition here http://www.controlarms.org/home