The fight to end the illegal and irresponsible arms trade goes on after delegates at the United Nations failed to reach consensus and agree an Arms Trade Treaty last week.
Some 50,000 people lost their lives through armed violence during the course of the month-long negotiations. The delay is a missed opportunity to bring to an end to the human suffering caused by the out-of-control arms trade.
Key countries let the rest of the world down. The US, followed by Russia and China, said they needed more time to consider the issues. In the final hours of negotiations, consensus was procedurally blocked by the US, Russia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Cuba and Venezuela who all asked for more time.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was disappointed at the failure to agree on a treaty and called it “a setback”, but was encouraged that countries had agreed to continue pursuing a treaty and pledged his “robust” support.
The lack of agreement was disappointing but is not the end of the story. The unregulated arms trade must – and will – be stopped. In spite of the lack of agreement, momentum is gathering for an international and legally-binding treaty to bring the arms trade under control.
A group of over 90 states gave a joint statement, read out by Mexico, saying they “are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible. One that will bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity.” A clear majority of governments around the world have thus declared their desire to see a robust Arms Trade Treaty that protects human rights. These governments, including the UK, must keep up the pressure for strong deal in the UN General Assembly in October
The draft treaty contained many loopholes – agreement to close these was well on track until the negotiations were halted.
There is much in the revised text which signifies real progress, including strong criteria around international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as sustainable development, anti-corruption measures and gender-based violence.
The human cost of delay is huge. Illicit weapons kill some 750,000 people each year. The global arms trade is estimated to be worth between $60bn and $70bn (£40-50bn) per year.
We are ready for one last push at the UN General Assembly in October. Control Arms Campaigners have been working for more than 10 years for a robust Arms Trade Treaty. Support the campaign, we will not give up, until a new, strong treaty is a reality.
Roger James is a campaigner for Oxfam South West in Bristol