DI joins 2010 Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence

Defend International has joined other NGOs in 110 countries to mark the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence, 10 – 16 May. As part of Defend International’s activities during the week, Dr. Widad is lobbying the governments in the MENA region.


Civil society organisations around the world have expressed their concerns regarding gun violence, and they are as follows:

  • 26 million people worldwide were internally displaced as a result of armed conflict at the end of 2008;
  • All of the top six countries of origin of refugees in 2008 are locations of armed conflict;
  • 36 armed conflicts in 26 countries result in at least 250,000 deaths each year; and
  • the easy availability and irresponsible transfer of arms is a major contributing factor

NGOs are highlighting the necessity of an effective Arms Trade Treaty that prevents arms transfers from:

  • Fuelling grave human rights abuses
  • Fuelling persistent patterns of armed and gender-based violence
  • Seriously undermining poverty reduction objectives

An effective Arms Trade Treaty is one requiring governments to prevent international transfers of arms or ammunition where there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of international human rights law or International Humanitarian Law.

As part of Defend International’s activities during the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence, DI has sent the following letter to governments in the MENA region:


Dear Minister,

As your government prepares for the first Preparatory Committee to deliberate on the content of an international Arms Trade Treaty in July 2010, we write to stress the urgent need for an effective treaty that will stop irresponsible arms transfers and help stop human rights violations, save lives, and protect livelihoods.

This week, from 10-16 May, civil society organisations in over 110 countries are reminding governments that the poorly regulated global trade in conventional arms and ammunition has an enormous human cost. Every day, thousands of people are killed, injured, raped and forced to flee from their homes as a result of conflict, armed violence, and human rights violations and abuses perpetrated using conventional arms.

Inadequate and loophole-ridden regulation of international transfers of conventional arms permits such weapons, equipment and munitions to be supplied to those violating human rights: destroying lives and threatening livelihoods.

The Arms Trade Treaty will address a glaring gap in international law. While there are treaties to regulate the global trade of many products, from bananas and dinosaur bones, there are no international rules for the trade in conventional weapons: products specifically designed to kill and injure. With the help of the Control Arms campaign, governments are finally addressing this shocking gap.

We welcome member states’ support for the 2009 UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution establishing Preparatory Committees in 2010 and 2011 to develop a “strong and robust” international Arms Trade Treaty. The Treaty will be negotiated in 2012 at the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. This Conference will “elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.”

A “strong and robust” treaty with “the highest possible common international standards” is one that prevents international transfers of conventional arms where there is credible and reliable information indicating a substantial risk that the intended recipient is likely to use those arms to commit or facilitate grave harm, including:

  • serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law,
  • acts of genocide or crimes against humanity,
  • terrorist attacks,
  • gross and systematic armed crime and violence,
  • actions that seriously undermine poverty eradication objectives.

The treaty must require states to undertake a rigorous risk assessment when considering transferring weapons to another state.  Where the risk of human harm is too high, the transfer must be prohibited.

To be effective the Arms Trade Treaty must regulate the global trade of:

  • all types of conventional military, security and police armaments, weapons and related materiel, including small arms and light weapons;
  • conventional ammunition and explosives used for the aforementioned;
  • weapons,  ammunition and equipment deployed in the use of force by police and security forces;
  • components, expertise and equipment essential for the production, maintenance and use of the aforementioned; and
  • dual-use items that can have a military, security and police application.

To avoid loopholes, the Treaty must also regulate all types of international transfer (import, export, transit, gifts, loans and other transfers) and the transactions essential for a transfer in each case (including brokering activity).

Transparency in the international arms trade must be enhanced through robust reporting and record-keeping provisions.  To ensure effective implementation, the Treaty should contain enforcement and dispute resolution mechanisms, and procedures for international cooperation and assistance.

Please use the forthcoming UN Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings in July to signal your government’s intent to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty with these essential elements.

We also urge you to ensure that this first PrepCom goes beyond discussing relatively unproblematic or administrative aspects of the Treaty. The scheduled PrepComs currently provide only 120 hours to develop a highly complex international instrument. The first session, from 12-23 July 2010, constitutes half of the total time available to develop the Treaty before the final Treaty negotiation. In order to develop a robust Treaty, the available time must be used to the fullest effect. We therefore urge you to be ambitious about the progress of this PrepCom, and to propose substantive text on key elements of the ATT, rather than simply discussing “easy” areas.

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to request a meeting with us.

Yours sincerely,