Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why would states leave ammunition out of the ATT?

by Hector Guerra, IANSA’s Survivors Network coordinator
It is hard to believe that anyone, with the knowledge that of the 12 billion pieces of ammunition that are produced every year, large amounts of them feed all forms of armed violence, would not want to regulate the international movement of such items. Regulation of ammunition would undoubtedly have a direct impact on the ways in which the international community works to prevent diversion into the illicit market and the commission of atrocities.
Yet, less than three days from the end of negotiations, the latest draft paper presented at the arms trade treaty (ATT) conference has excluded ammunition, thus producing a major loophole for the resulting treaty. Over the four meetings of the Preparatory Committee and during the first three weeks of the Diplomatic Conference, calls for the inclusion of these items have been made by the majority of delegations from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, representing the states most affected by gun violence and most impacted by the uncontrolled flow of ammunition. It has been continuously repeated that it is the bullets that kill, and that, according to Nigeria, “a weapon is only a weapon when there is ammunition inserted” (statement at the February-March 2011 PrepCom). Previous draft texts presented by the President of the conference included ammunition and munitions—although the one from earlier in this conference already presented the issue in a partial way.

Perhaps even worse is the fact that along with ammunition, munitions in general have been left out of the scope. When we speak about munitions, we talk about all sorts of military explosives, from hand grenades to rockets, landmines, and artillery shells.

In the first session of the day after the Member States had time to analyze and consult on the draft, many States took the floor and firmly reacted to the limited scope proposed, including Nigeria, Uruguay, Côte d’Ivoire, Norway, Liberia, Guatemala, Morocco, the Netherlands, DRC, Niger, Congo, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Kenya, , Tanzania, Germany, Iceland, and CARICOM.

Certainly, arguments have been presented on how difficult or costly it is to regulate the transfers in ammunition and munitions, but as the South African delegation mentioned, “The argument that the death, injury and suffering caused by ammunition, particularly to civilians in armed conflict and in the use of illicit small arms and light weapons, by far outweigh such administrative concerns” (statement at the February-March 2011 PrepCom, 2011/03/01). Or as the Norwegian delegation put it, “ An ATT that does not cover ammunition will not be the strong and robust treaty that the General Assembly resolution has mandated us to negotiate. We need to include small arms and light weapons as well as ammunition if we are to achieve the goals and objectives set out in that resolution” (att diplomatic Conference, 2012/07/03). We are in the final hours of the Diplomatic Conference, and one of the issues that has led to the promotion of an ATT as a way to prevent atrocities is in danger of disappearing from the final text in spite of knowledge, humanism, and reason. Ammunition and munitions have to be an integral part of the scope of the treaty in tandem with small arms and light weapons.