(Updated 4 June)
The new, global and potentially life-saving Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), years in the making, is showing record progress toward coming into effect. Given the lives shattered by illicit weapons each day in places like Syria and South Sudan, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and member churches are part of a concerted effort by civil society groups and governments to have the treaty ratified as soon as possible.
Ten countries were slated to ratify the treaty on Tuesday 3 June at the United Nations in New York, raising the total to 42 ratifications just one year after the agreement was opened for signatures. When 50 countries ratify, the long-awaited treaty comes into effect.
Zambia, Australia and Jamaica were among the governments scheduled to ratify the treaty on 3 June in a ceremony at UN headquarters. Ecumenical campaigners have been in contact with them and more than 20 other governments to encourage this and earlier steps.
By the end of the day Tuesday, eight states ratified the treaty bringing the total ratifications to 40 just one year after the treaty opened for signatures. Unfortunately, Zambia did not ratify as was expected.
“African governments, civil society groups and churches worked hard to make this treaty strong. We call on them to ratify it now,” said Joseph Dube of the WCC’s Ecumenical Campaign for a Strong and Effective Arms Trade Treaty, who is based in South Africa.
Treaties related to armaments usually wait years to be ratified. The speed of action on the ATT is a sign of the broad political will behind this historic treaty, according to Control Arms, the civil society coalition which includes the WCC.
“During the ATT negotiations, Africa made sure the treaty included small arms, light weapons and ammunition – the weapons that kill and injure hundreds of thousands of people each year including many in Africa,” Dube noted. “Now it is time to ratify the ATT and put it to work saving lives and protecting communities.”
Once the ATT is in force, the first legally binding controls of the global arms trade can be implemented.
The WCC campaign is promoting ratification in some 25 countries, half the number needed to bring the ATT into force. Of these, Mexico, Nigeria, Finland, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom have ratified already. Three more were expected to sign on 3 June. Lobbying continues with regard to Ghana, Malawi, Togo, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Philippines, South Korea, Sweden, Canada, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.