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Arms Trade Treaty campaigning in 2013

Posted by Holly Taylor Campaign Project Officer

9th Jan 2014

The Control Arms tank in London

Why did we campaign on the Arms Trade Treaty? 

One person dies every minute as a result of armed violence, with millions more seeing their lives and livelihoods destroyed. There is a strong link between conflict and poverty, with many of the worlds most impoverished communities living every day in fear of armed violence. 

The supply of weapons for these conflicts is what the Arms Trade Treaty hoped to address.While there exists treaties to regulate the movement and transfer of many seemingly innocuous products, like bananas and postage stamps, there was no global agreement to control deadly weapons, like tanks and machine guns, in the same way. 

The patchy system of arms control created gaps which were easily exploited by unscrupulous traders, and consequently weapons often fell into the hands of those who would do harm, prolonging conflict and fuelling poverty. This was a global problem that required a global solution.

What did we do? 

More than a decade ago, Oxfam, along with a coalition of partners, began working as Control Arms - a group which campaigned and lobbied for a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which would save lives. Since then, the work of activists has been inspirational, with so many highlights it's almost impossible to show them all. 

What was achieved? 

In April 2013 we welcomed a truly remarkable achievement, with the adoption of the ATT by an overwhelming majority at the UN General Assembly. The treaty opened for signatures from June 2013, with 71 states signing on the first day and more joining every week, including the UK and the USA - the world's biggest exporter of arms. 

The ATT is the first international agreement to regulate the trade in conventional arms and ammunition. The treaty requires governments to authorise or deny arms transfers against a list of criteria including international human rights and humanitarian law, and factors including gender based violence. 

What is the impact? 

This treaty sends a clear message to unscrupulous arms dealers, dictators and human rights abusers - your days of easy access to weapons and ammunition are over. The world is watching, and the world will hold you to account. This treaty now makes governments take responsibility for every arms transfer that enters or leaves their territory, and requires that they put human rights and humanitarian law, not profit, at the heart of every decision. The ATT should protect millions living in daily fear of armed violence and at risk of rape, assault, displacement and death.

Blog post written by Holly Taylor

Campaign Project Officer

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Holly Taylor