UN: ‘Virtual stampede’ of states rush to join Arms Trade Treaty

A flurry of activity by UN member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) before it enters into force next week is another clear sign of the overwhelming support for this historic move to rein in the irresponsible international arms trade, Amnesty International said. 

Yesterday alone, Andorra, Israel and Zimbabwe signed the ATT while Lithuania and the Netherlands ratified. These five states join several others which signed and ratified the treaty earlier this month, bringing the total number of signatures to 128, of which 60 have ratified. South Africa is also expected to ratify the treaty at the UN imminently. States that have ratified will now become states parties to the treaty.

“World leaders are sending an unequivocal message. This virtual stampede of new states rushing to join the Arms Trade Treaty is another clear vote of confidence for this ground-breaking measure that will protect human rights and save countless lives,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.

“That the likes of Israel, a major arms exporter and importer, and South Africa, the African continent’s largest arms trader, are still signing and ratifying before the treaty even comes into force will strengthen its global impact.

“The more states get on board the treaty, the more it will shine the light of transparency into the murky waters of the international arms trade. Strict implementation of this treaty has the potential to save millions of lives and reduce the risk of serious human rights abuses around the world.”

Five of the top 10 arms exporters – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – have already ratified the ATT. The USA, by far the largest arms producer and exporter, is among 68 countries that have signed but not yet ratified the treaty. 

Other major arms producers like China, Canada and Russia have resisted signing or ratifying the ATT. North Korea, Iran and Syria are the only three states that voted against adopting the treaty at the UN General Assembly.

Amnesty International and its supporters have lobbied and campaigned relentlessly for an ATT since the mid-1990s. It will become binding international law on 24 December, after which it will require states to adhere to strict global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of conventional arms and munitions that fuel atrocities and abuse.