Arms trade needs stronger controls than in current UN treaty draft


A demonstration in Washington, D.C., the capital of the world's largest arms exporter. The WCC-led Ecumenical Campaign for a Strong and Effective Arms Trade Treaty is part of a broader civil society coalition. © Control Arms

Campaigners for the civil society coalition Control Arms say radical changes are still needed in the latest draft of the Arms Trade Treaty under negotiation at the United Nations if the treaty is to save lives. Christian voices joined the criticism of the latest developments at the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty currently underway in New York, United States.


The Control Arms coalition said the latest text, issued on 22 March, falls short of what the majority of member states demanded and reflects too much the more lax positions of the major exporters.


Jonathan Frerichs, the World Council of Churches' programme executive for peace building and disarmament, said, “Without bullets, the guns fall silent, yet still the transfer of ammunition is not fully-covered in the text.”


“When you have drones, hand grenades, armoured vehicles and even military transport aircraft not covered in a treaty meant to regulate the arms trade, you know something is not right. It defies belief and means this treaty would not change the situation on the ground but instead maintain the status quo,” he added.


Control Arms says that, in a bid to get consensus at whatever price, the president of the conference, Ambassador Peter Woolcott, has failed to listen to calls for a stronger treaty made by scores of states.  


While campaigners want to see every member state support a future treaty, they argue that unanimity would come at too high a price if the final text still has several glaring loopholes, said Frerichs. Under the current draft, ammunition is still poorly regulated. The new draft has also failed to fix the concern that too high a threshold has been set for states to use when assessing the risk that weapons will be used for human rights abuses.


Read Control Arms news release of 25 March 2013


Churches hope Arms Trade Treaty process will continue with renewed commitment (WCC news release of 28 July 2012)


Religious leaders say Arms Trade Treaty must regulate ammunition (WCC news release of 20 July 2012)


WCC Arms Trade Treaty campaign