Meeting of Governmental Experts 2 (MGE2), June 1-5, 2015

Day 2 June 2, 2015

By: Joseph Hartley Cavallaro, Vision GRAM-International

IMG_0287On the second day of the MGE2 on small arms and light weapons, country delegates and weapons experts continued to exchange their questions and ideas concerning the international regulation of light weapons. The majority of the debate today was dominated by the reality that 3D weapons are going to become more widely available in coming years. One expert claimed that 3D printers would be available at the consumer level within the next twenty years. Many of the concerns over 3D weapons stem from their lack of detectability in metal detectors and their availability to criminals who may be able to print weapons at home.

Delegates also discussed the importance of finding an effective way to mark weapons so that they can be tracked when the need arises, because modern weapons are being manufactured with new materials, some of which are hard to mark. There were also brief mentions towards the end of the day about the need to secure shipments and stockpiles of firearms and ammunition in order to reduce the risk of diversion. It was emphasized by one NGO that regulating ammunition globally is impossible and that it would be like trying to track grains of rice. Another NGO stressed that weapons should be only marked on the receiver of a weapon because it is the hardest part of the weapon to illegally reproduce, yet the easiest to mark.

The Canadian Arms Association briefly expressed their concerns about governmental confiscation of weapons. In Addition, IANSA representatives spoke about gun violence in Philadelphia. One of these representatives, a woman from Nigeria, also spoke about the plight of gun violence on her country and the cost of treating victims of gun violence. Another woman from Kenya spoke about the Westgate shopping mall attack, during which she lost an uncle in the mall. Her cousin was also shot in the head last week in the same town. In total, about 147 people had been killed in Garissa, Kenya. These representatives expressed their strong support for the implementation of the PoA.

WP_20150602_068Victor AMISI, executive director of Vision GRAM- International, discussed how he fled his country due to gun violence, as weapon companies flooded Africa with weapons after the Cold War. He stresses that all member states should regulate new weapons, mark and trace all weapons. States should meet all commitments to the PoA as well as to the ITI in order to combat arms trafficking and the diversion of small arms to non-state actors. “States should apply new technologies to improve information exchange et the national, regional and international levels to combat arms trafficking and prevent diversion to unauthorized recipients”, he added11327860_10152816546056227_2086986436_o.

June 2nd was also the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Many UN staff wore orange in support. The event commemorated the death of Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot dead in 2013. The Hashtag #WearingOrange was used in order to publicize the event. Many celebrities also showed their support.


Further ratifications show wide global support for Arms Trade Treaty

ImageUrgent call from campaigners for extra push from states – especially African countries – to ratify and help treaty enter into force and save lives

New York, June 3 2014: Campaigners say the Arms Trade Treaty which will control the poorly-regulated trade in weapons and ammunition is more urgent now than ever before as the death toll in conflicts across the globe mounts inexorably.

It is now exactly one year since the pioneering Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) opened for signature. Today, around 10 states including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Samoa and St Vincent and the Grenadines are due to ratify at a special ceremony at the United Nations headquarters, in New York. They join a growing group of states who have already ratified including major arms exporters France, Germany and the UK.

This will bring the total number of states that have ratified the treaty to date to around 42 – with just eight more to go for the 50 needed for the ATT to enter into force.

Dr Robert Mtonga, from the Control Arms Coalition, said: “The geographic spread of states ratifying today – from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific – shows clearly that this is a treaty with global support. We now need all these states, as well as all others who have signed the ATT, to live up to its aims and implement tough controls on the $85bn arms trade.

“Today’s ceremony marks another significant milestone on the road towards the Arms Trade Treaty – but we are not there yet. At least eight more states are needed to ratify for the ATT to enter into force and become international law. We are particularly urging African states who played a key role in the negotiations to secure the ATT to now ratify the treaty as soon as possible.”

Under the ATT, states must assess the risks of weapons and ammunition being misused to commit human rights abuses or violations of humanitarian law, before they can authorize transfer.

The ATT is the first internationally-binding agreement to regulate the global trade in arms and ammunition. More than 500,000 people are killed every year by armed violence and millions more live in fear of rape, assault and displacement caused by weapons getting into the wrong hands.

People living in conflict zones across the world are paying a high price for the poorly-regulated trade each day. For example in the world’s newest country, South Sudan, the complex situation is being aggravated by a huge number of small arms and light weapons in the country which fuel conflict from the village to the national level.

Thousands of lives have already been lost this year in South Sudan and over 1.3 million have fled their homes, yet more and more weapons continue to flood into the country each day, fuelling the violence. Many are anxious to return home in spite of the growing humanitarian crisis, but fear for their safety as gross human rights violations – ethnic killings, rape, revenge attacks and the deliberate targeting of children – are taking place daily.

Anna Macdonald, from the Control Arms Coalition said: “South Sudan is just one current example of why there is an urgent need for the ATT. Men, women and children around the world are living in fear of the risk of rape, assault, displacement and death as a result of the unregulated arms trade.

There is clear political will for the ATT to enter into force and this is underlined by the rapid rate at which it is being ratified. But the ATT must be more than words on paper, states must now deliver on their commitments and ensure it is implemented robustly, setting high standards to bring the arms trade under control.”



The government of DR Congo must sign the Arms Trade Treaty to end the war and protect civilians



Press release


The government of DR Congo must sign the Arms Trade Treaty to end the war and protect civilians


September 27, 2013– The 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly opened in New York this week, with the meeting of Heads of State from around the world.

It was a fresh opportunity for nations to step up and sign the Arms Trade Treaty, which was adopted in the previous session of the General Assembly, on April 2nd, 2013. The adoption of this treaty was a historic moment and significant victory in bringing an end to the illegal arms trade globally.

Noticeably missing was the signature of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has been ravaged by the effects of uncontrolled arms  trade in its decades long war.

This crisis has been ongoing since 1996, causing more than six million deaths, ravaging the Eastern region of the country and witnessing grave violations of human rights. Despite this opportunity for the government of DRC to accept its responsibility for preventing and bringing solutions for peace within its borders, it has yet to act.

In his opening address, President Joseph Kabila said, ” it is indeed necessary more than time to find ways and means to allow millions of persons, not to be simply alive, but to live with dignity in a world where  peace, safety and justice are a reality for all.”

This peace and security mentioned will only become a reality when the government of DRC begins to take action for peace by signing the Arms Trade Treaty.

” If the other nations from the Great Lakes Region have signed, and the United States, one of the worlds largest weapons traders can sign then  DRCongo, having seen major consequences of these weapons, has no excuse not to act ”, states Victor AMISI, Executive director of Vision GRAM-International.

” The World in general and the Congolese people in particular do not need these one-liners and speeches, but concrete actions ”.

It is time to acknowledge the suffering of the Congolese people.

Vision GRAM-International calls on the government of DR Congo to take action to end the war and in favor of development, and sign the Arms Trade Treaty in the 68th session of the General Assembly.

September 27, 2013


Vision  GRAM  – International (Groupe of actions against Marginalization- International), member of Control arms Coalition, is a human right organization working to promote human right, by defending children and women’ s rights.

Bureau International- International Office

32-1670 Kilborn Ave, Ottawa, ON K1H 6M9, Canada

Tel: +1 613 261 0171            Fax: +1 613 526 8062   Email:      Website:


History has been made

ImageBy Jennifer Fierberg
More than 500,000 people are killed by armed violence every year. The over 156 states voted in favor of the Arms Trade Treaty need to show leadership by signing and ratifying the treaty as quickly as possible. On Monday June 3, 2013 history was made a the UN with the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty which will stop the supply of illegal arms to rebel groups around the world. THis treaty is the first ever legally binding treaty that will serve millions of people and stop unregulated arms transfers to rebel groups the world over.  
Over the course of eight hours, sixty-three countries signed the treaty at the United Nations in New York and expressed their support of a strong, robust and comprehensive treaty. If 50 countries ratify this treaty within six months of signing it then the treaty will go into full effect. 
Ban Ki-Moon addressed the room at the signings ceremony and stated, “With an Arms Trade Treaty in place the eyes of the world are watching arms manufacturers and governments like never before.” 
Control Arms, the major campaigner for for the passage of this treaty stated that, “gunrunners and dictators have been sent a clear message that their time of easy access to weapons is up.” Millions of people who live in war zones everyday will begin to feel safe again once this comprehensive treaty is fully signed and enforced.
Governments have come together and said “enough is enough” and all have acknowledged that illegal arms trade is out of control and those suffering in war zones deserve peace.
The United States has agreed to sign the Arms Trade Treaty but will not be signing on Monday due to a bureaucratic process where nothing happens quickly or without challenges. The US has taken a global role with the agreement to sign this treaty; meaning they are saying “if you sign it, we will sign it.” The Arms Trade  Treaty is consistent with all US laws and the US was instrumental in treaty passed at the UN when talks had stalled and they have vowed to sign and support this comprehensive treaty.
The National Rifle Association has stated that they strongly oppose this treaty and have been lobbying delegations not to support the Arms Trade Treaty but they are sadly confused on this issue. The Arms Trade Treaty has absolutely nothing to do with domestic law and  strictly  deals with international arms dealer and weaponry only. No domestic laws will changed in any country as a result of this treaty.
This treaty comes after ten years of campaigning and seven years of negotiations. WHile this day is historic for those who live in war torn areas of the world there is still much work to be done. As one country stated, “We have words on paper, now we need action on the ground.”

Arms Trade Treaty Shows Remarkable Progress

ImageJURIST Guest Columnist Clare da Silva of Amnesty International argues that the new Arms Trade Treaty shows remarkable progress in the international regulation of arms transactions…

On April 2, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a global treaty that applies international legal standards to govern transfers of conventional weapons across borders. Of 193 member states, only three voted to reject the treaty: North Korea, Syria, and Iran.


Despite the huge margin, the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the international trade in conventional arms was far from a given. It took a series of shocking crises—including the wars in the Persian Gulf and in the former Yugoslavia, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, and conflicts in Africa’s Great Lakes region, West Africa, Afghanistan, and in Central America—before the international community could no longer ignore the repercussions of untrammeled and irresponsible arms transfers, and began to move forward with attempts to control the global trade in conventional weapons.

Interested governments and nongovernmental organizations including Amnesty International worked for more than twenty years, seven of them under the aegis of the UN, to reach this historic climax. The goal was winning near-universal support for a treaty with the potential to save countless lives and revolutionize the 70 billion USD global trade in conventional weapons.

Understanding this watershed moment and what the treaty itself means requires a closer look at both the United Nations process and the substance of the treaty itself.

The process at the United Nations began in the UN’s First Committee, rather than in the largely dysfunctional Conference on Disarmament. In 2006, seven co-authoring states, (Finland, Japan, Kenya, Argentina, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Australia) kick-started the process by introducing a draft resolution that 153 states voted to adopt; 24 countries abstained, but only the US, under the Bush Administration, voted against the measure.

Fast-forward seven years, and it is clearly apparent that the General Assembly vote to adopt the final Arms Trade Treaty text largely reflected the same voting pattern: 155 states in favor, 23 abstentions, and 3 opposed. Clearly, those states that were committed at the beginning of the process to achieve a treaty on regulating the trade in conventional weapons remained so. The US reversed its position after the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009. In the final vote on the treaty in April 2013, the US not only voted yes but also co-authored the resolution that brought the final treaty text to a vote in the General Assembly.

Another important procedural point is that the Arms Trade Treaty remained on the agenda of the General Assembly from the outset. Two conferences on the Arms Trade Treaty (July 2012 and March 2013) made it clear that the aim was to negotiate a treaty that would be accepted by consensus; but as the General Assembly remained seized of the issue throughout, it was always a possibility that a State or group of States could request a vote on a treaty text by Member States. And so in the end, the text adopted by the General Assembly was the same that would have been adopted unanimously by the negotiating conference but for the opposition of Syria, North Korea and Iran.

Negotiating on the basis of consensus ensured that a number of key exporters and importers of conventional arms participated actively in engineering the substance of the treaty’s text. Keeping these key states engaged in the process was fundamental to finalizing a text that would have credibility and increase the probability that it would be widely ratified by parliaments and governments.

Treaties negotiated by all the countries of the world are always going to be complex and subject to often tedious processes of compromises and arm-twisting. The Arms Trade Treaty’s negotiating process was no different and the final text is far from perfect.

But despite the compromises and what might be seen as shortcomings, the treaty itself is nothing short of remarkable.

This is significant because it is the first multilateral treaty in which states have agreed to be bound by international legal principles to regulate a variety of activities related to the international trade in conventional arms—including exports, imports, brokering, and transit shipments. International human rights and humanitarian law are at the top of the list of such criteria—something unthinkable even half a decade ago.

Article 6 of the treaty provides a clear standard for those instances when a transfer of conventional arms is absolutely prohibited. This article reflects existing international law by including prohibitions in cases when an international arms embargo is in place and where a transfer would violate a state’s obligations under international agreements to which it is a party. But, importantly, it also extends existing international law by establishing an absolute prohibition of the transfer of conventional arms if a state party “has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.”

Article 7 requires a state party to conduct a rigorous risk assessment to determine whether a proposed export of conventional arms could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as well as acts of terrorism or transnational organized crime. Where there is an “overriding risk” of any of these outcomes, a state party shall not authorize the export. State parties are also required to take into account the possible risk of the conventional arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.

The treaty’s definition of “conventional arms” is outlined in Article 2. This definition encompasses the major categories of conventional arms from the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms as well as small arms and light weapons. The inclusion of small arms and light weapons was something that the Peoples Republic of China and a number of other states resisted for many years; it was a significant victory to have them included in the array of arms whose trade is to be regulated. Although the categories of arms are extremely limited, the reality is that any state implementing the treaty in good faith will apply its obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty – especially under Articles 6 and 7 – to all items on their export control lists, which in practice is much more comprehensive that the categories of the Register.

The treaty sets out basic obligations on states parties to regulate their imports, the brokering activities within their jurisdiction, and the transit and transhipment of conventional weapons. Many of these obligations are ambiguous and left to governments to implement “as appropriate”. But since the treaty can be amended and has many strong rules, it provides a firm foundation on which to construct an international system to curb the flow of arms to those persons who would commit atrocities, both in war and in peacetime. And because it builds upon and complements the existing obligations states have accepted under international law, it will become a fundamental part of the legitimate trade in conventional weapons and munitions in years to come.

The Arms Trade Treaty will be opened for signatures and ratification on June 3, 2013, at the United Nations General Assembly, and will enter into force shortly after it has been ratified by 50 states.

Clare da Silva is an independent legal consultant who provided legal and policy advice to Amnesty International on the Arms Trade Treaty for over seven years.

Suggested citation: Clare da Silva, Arms Trade Treaty Shows Remarkable Progress, JURIST – Hotline, May 1, 2013,


Arms trade treaty may point a way forward for the U.N.

By Anna Macdonald

For years governments told us in meetings that an Arms Trade Treaty was a fanciful idea – merely a twinkle in our campaigning eye. But earlier this month an Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by an overwhelming majority at the United Nations General Assembly. Thanks to the democratic process, international law will for the first time regulate the $70 billion global arms trade.

When we launched the Control Arms campaign more than a decade ago, only Mali, Costa Rica and Cambodia were prepared to publicly stand with us in demanding the treaty.

But things started to change.

Dogged perseverance, growing recognition that the arms trade was out of control and a campaign around the world began to pay off. The UK government’s announcement of support in 2004 was a turning point; many other major arms exporters followed suit. By 2005, more than 50 countries supported the idea.

Crucially, in 2006 the ATT process itself began inside the U.N. at the General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and Security. A resolution, introduced by seven core governments (Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Japan, Finland and the UK) and vigorously advocated for by the Control Arms Coalition, gained more than 100 co-sponsors. The resolution passed in a landslide votein the General Assembly, 153 to 1 (the U.S. was the no vote), with 24 abstentions.

Had the process been launched in the consensus-bound Conference on Disarmament in Geneva ‑ currently in its 12th year of meeting without even being able to agree an agenda ‑ chances are it would never have left the starting blocks.

Many U.N. processes are deeply frustrating. The most common complaint is how long it takes to get things done. Sometimes,  agreement is never reached.

The requirement to reach consensus is in principle a means of protecting the rights and voices of even the smallest countries. It’s what can enable small island states and other vulnerable countries to stand their ground in the U.N. climate change negotiations. But too often the consensus rule works to protect the powerful, not the powerless. Big powers love consensus because it gives them veto power. Time and again, Russia and China, in particular, have used their veto in the Security Council to override the will of the majority.

As we saw last week on the last day of the ATT negotiations, the extension of this consensus rule can also mean that regimes such as Syria, North Korea  and Iran can hold the rest of the world hostage – in this case, at least for a few days.

Striving for consensus is, of course, sensible. The problem is that it can lead to a lowest-common-denominator approach. The balance of power shifts to those – often the minority – who oppose an issue, because all the effort goes into trying to persuade them not to bring everything to a shuddering halt. And whoever is chairing knows supporters will tend to be more flexible than skeptics.

During the two-week-long final conference, many states expressed unhappiness about the process. They felt the skeptics were being listened to too much, at the expense of everyone else. Halfway through the conference, Ghana, on behalf of more than 100 governments, delivered a statement that threw down the gauntlet to the president of the conference, Peter Woolcott, calling on him to listen more to the majority of states working for a strong treaty, not the minority intent on wrecking it.

But with Syria, North Korea and Iran in the room, achieving consensus was always going to be very difficult – and thus many were not surprised when it failed to emerge on the final day of the conference. Mexico, supported by Japan, Nigeria and others, made an attempt to persuade the room that since the majority clearly wanted the treaty, the president should push ahead.

A clever plan B was needed, and fortunately we had worked hard last October during the General Assembly session to make sure we had one. Progressive governments and the Control Arms Coalition lobbied hard to get a small but vital paragraph into the resolution that would take any blocked text to the General Assembly.

We had studied the precedents. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was adopted by vote following India blocking consensus, was the best example. As it turned out, that paragraph proved to be crucial; it was what enabled the blocked consensus text to go forward so quickly to vote, just five days after the final day of negotiations.

In a sudden about-face, the United States, the government that had insisted on consensus as the condition for its support throughout the negotiating process, switched to calling for a vote as soon a possible. It even co-sponsored the resolution, something it had never done before. Possibly, this was in response to intense external pressure, but also it seemed like the U.S. side was more coordinated than it had been in previous debates.

This may not mean the United States now supports the majority process – but changing horses during the race meant the Americans could use the consensus process to get the text they wanted and then, by supporting the resolution, they could ensure it went to a vote and passed.

Tuesday, April 2, was a good day for the U.N. It showed that things can get done. It showed that the democratic process can work. And it set an important precedent.

Does it make any difference, legally, that the treaty was adopted by vote, not consensus? No. It is the same text as on the final day of negotiations, and its legal status is the same as if it had been agreed by consensus. But it should give hope to those working on other seemingly intractable issues that you can change the rules of the game and make progress.

PHOTO: Fake tombstones are placed along the East River by members of the Control Arms Coalition to coincide with a diplomatic conference on the future Arms Trade Treaty in New York July 24, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Control Arms/Handout

Source: Reuters