An international arms trade treaty was adopted at the United Nations in New York on 2 April 2013. The
treaty text recognised
the legitimate political, security, economic and
commercial interests ... in the international trade in conventional arms.
A year later, on 2 April 2014, the UK ratified the treaty. It will enter into force 90 days after the fiftieth state has ratified. Currently just over thirty have.
CAAT remains sceptical
There is no such thing as a
responsible arms trade, so, while other organisations campaigned for an arms trade treaty, CAAT was always sceptical.
While those working for a treaty thought it would do much to prevent the devastating impact of the arms trade, CAAT was unclear how this would happen.
CAAT also worried that it would be used to legitimise arms sales. The UK government, one of the most supportive of the treaty, approves
licences which would be refused under any commonsense interpretation of the UK's current guidelines. Like the arms trade treaty, these latter
include provisions on human rights.
That CAAT was right to be sceptical was confirmed by a letter from
the Arms Export Policy Department of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This says that the treaty recognises states'
in producing, exporting, and importing weapons. International industial collaboration in arms production will be promoted through the introduction of
common standards. The arms companies, which were represented on the UK delegation negotiating the treaty, could not have asked for more.
The UK will continue to arm Saudi Arabia's authoritarian rulers while Russia's weapons supplies to Syria's President Assad will continue unabated. As UK Foreign
Secretary William Hague explained on 16 July 2013, Russia
would argue that they would be within their rights to supply the Assad regime with weapons
and that would not change. The arms trade continues unabated.
Sales are the real priority
Nothing will change while governments, including that of the UK, continue to support and subsidise the arms companies as they go about their deadly business. The real UK government priority is the promotion of arms exports. It pushes and approves sales to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt despite existing controls supposedly banning exports where there is a clear risk of internal repression. If the UK, and other, governments seriously wanted to do something to end the devastation caused by the arms trade they should stop this promotion. The UK government should shut its arms sales unit, currently the UK Trade & Investment Defence and Security Organisation.
There needs to be a change from the mindset that puts helping companies secure lucrative (for them, not the taxpayer) deals before all else. That is why CAAT concentrated its efforts on revealing and opposing Government military export promotion, not campaigning for an arms trade treaty.
An historic and momentous failure by CAAT staff
member Kirk Jackson, 29 April 2013
Wendela de Vries of Campagne tegen Wapenhandel in the Netherlands says
We have an Arms Trade Treaty; and asks
What difference does it make? 23 April 2013
An article by George Gao for the Inter-Press News Service summarises diverse reactions to the adoption of the arms trade treaty, 2 April 2013
A blog by CAAT explains:
an arms trade treaty won't stop the arms trade, 18 March 2013.
An analysis by Dr Neil Cooper:
The Arms Trade Treaty in
the Context of Post-Cold War Conventional Arms Trade Regulation, 10 July 2012
The UK government's position on the arms trade treaty FCO website.
Control Arms, which includes Oxfam and Amnesty International, co-ordinated the campaign for an arms trade treaty.