by Eileen McCarthy, Action on Armed Violence
A strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty has the opportunity to save lives around the world. However, the current draft text fails to provide for those who have and will lose the most from an unregulated trade of arms—the victims of armed violence themselves.
Over the past week, States have met once again at the United Nations for the Final Conference on the ATT. Survivors are among those campaigning for a strong treaty. One that includes all conventional arms and ammunition. One that sets robust criteria to prevent arms transfers to war criminals and human rights abusers. One that makes a real impact on the lives of those who suffer the consequences of the poorly regulated weapons trade.
But what no one is talking about are the challenges these survivors and the millions like them face every day, far from the spotlight. As negotiations continue into a second week, in a marathon of meetings and seemingly endless string of statements, it’s easy to forget the true impact armed violence has had on the lives of the victims and survivors.
In these final days of the treaty negotiations, it is imperative we remember why we are here. The unregulated trade of arms kills millions of people each year and leaves many millions more injured. Lives ruptured. Lives faced coping with permanent disabilities, in families and communities that have been torn apart, often in countries with poor infrastructure and health care systems.
This treaty will not end wars. It will not end violence.
But what we have is a golden opportunity going forward to help those impacted by the acts of violence that do occur. Recognising the victims of armed violence in the Arms Trade Treaty could be the one thing that truly makes the world a better place.
But how can we remember the victims of armed violence?
In the Preamble, which sets the context and background of the Treaty, States should recognise their existing obligations towards victims of armed violence.
They should recognise also the challenges faced by victims of armed violence, including armed conflict and their need for adequate care, rehabilitation, and social and economic inclusion.
States should reintroduce assistance to victims in the operative part of the treaty, to recognize existing obligations toward victims in their own jurisdiction and territory, and articulate their commitment to international assistance in helping states meet the needs and the rights of victims of armed violence.
We propose, therefore, the inclusion of the following Article.
New Article 16(5): Each State Party in a position to do so shall provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic inclusion, of victims of armed violence. Such assistance may be provided, inter alia, through the United Nations system, international, regional or national organizations or institutions, the International Committee of the Red Cross, national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and their International Federation, non-governmental organizations, or on a bilateral basis.