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Marking a new dawn: the Arms Trade Treaty signing ceremony

The Arms Trade Treaty.  A long time coming.

The Arms Trade Treaty. A long time coming.

Today, June 3rd, the Arms Trade Treaty opens for signature at the UN in New York, after the General Assembly adopted the treaty by an overwhelming majority vote earlier this year.

In the landmark vote on April 2nd, 154 countries voted ‘yes’ in support of the treaty, 23 countries abstained, and three – North Korea, Iran and Syria – voted against the adoption.

Designed to reduce the devastating effect of armed violence – currently responsible for the deaths of more than 520,000, people each year worldwide – the Arms Trade Treaty is the first ever international law to regulate all transfer of weapons and ammunitions.

The treaty includes strong prohibitions on arms transfers that would contribute to genocide or other war crimes, establishes common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorised, and requires states to assess the possibility that transfers could be used to carry out human rights violations, terrorism, organised crime or gender-based violence.

The treaty also requires that all states establish effective, regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts and components. It requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers, which would help improve transparency and public accountability for states’ actions.

Action on Armed Violence was part of the coalition that lobbied to get the Arms Trade Treaty implented. “This is a great day,” said Iain Overton, Director of Policy and Investigations. “It shows an international commitment to stamp out the illicit weapons sales that account for so many deaths, and is a major step forward in reducing armed violence around the world.”

“The signing of the arms trade treaty gives hope to the millions affected by armed violence every day. Gunrunners and dictators have been sent a clear message that their time of easy access to weapons is up. For generations the arms trade has been shrouded in secrecy but from now on it will be open to scrutiny,” said Anna Macdonald, Head of Arms Control at Oxfam.

“This treaty now makes governments take responsibility for every arms transfer that enters or leaves their territory, and requires they put human rights and humanitarian law, not profit, at the heart of every decision. Too many lives have been lost to armed violence – today’s ceremony marks a new dawn.”

The entire signing ceremony will be live-streamed on UNTV: