Arms Trade Treaty must regulate ammunition

United Nations, 20 July 2012

Time is running out for governments negotiating the first global Arms Trade Treaty on a July 27 deadline. With thousands of people around the world killed or injured in armed violence each day, the governments’ work will be judged by how many lives the treaty helps save.

Text on the negotiating table would ban arms sales for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorist acts and grave human rights violations. Almost all of the 194 states involved recognize that the arms and ammunition most often used in these crimes must therefore be included in the treaty.

Yet if a few major countries do not change their negotiating positions, the proposed treaty will not include the ammunition or arms most often used to commit such crimes.

This small minority says they are not in favour of a treaty that regulates ammunition. That result would leave the door open for selling ammunition to those who commit such crimes—as it is now.

Churches and their members witness the human costs of unlawful armed violence every day. The women, children and men who are brought to church hospitals and church graveyards in different parts of the world usually have one thing in common. They have been struck down by ammunition.

The Arms Trade Treaty must regulate the projectiles that strike them down. There is no way ammunition can be omitted from the long-overdue regulation of a trade that has brought such suffering and death to millions of people. Existing national laws regulate ammunition with some success. The global Arms Trade Treaty needs to build on that success by doing the same and by cutting off the supply of bullets to illicit weapons already in use.  

For people of goodwill and of faith, protecting human dignity and the sanctity of life are the real test of the Arms Trade Treaty. A strong and effective treaty can protect people from the insecurity, deprivation, fear and death caused by the unregulated and irresponsible trade in arms – but not if that treaty fails to regulate ammunition.

We support the majority of governments that want ammunition in the Arms Trade Treaty. We call for the few governments who oppose this common-sense treaty provision to join them and do their part for the common good.


Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator, World Council of Churches

Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general, World Evangelical Alliance

Dr Marie Dennis, co-president, Pax Christi International

Ambassador (ret.) Didier Destremau, disarmament spokesperson, Caritas