Arms Trade Treaty 'could legitimise arms sales'
2 April 2013
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) believes the arms trade treaty being agreed at the United Nations today will be ineffective. A treaty will not reduce the arms trade or prevent exports to human rights violators. The treaty may set out regulations, but it also says states recognise "the legitimate political, security, economic and commercial interests ... in the international trade in conventional arms." This is the problem.
The treaty will not stop any of the arms exports of the world's largest arms producing countries or arms companies. Countries such as the UK, the US, France and Russia will be able to continue selling to repressive regimes unhindered.
The UK government puts commercial interests at the centre of its arms export policy. It has a 150-strong arms sales unit and Prime Ministers make visits to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere pressing authoritarian rulers to buy UK weaponry.
Most of the treaty's provisions are already incorporated in the UK's export criteria and controls. The UK government ignores the spirit of these controls in favour of arms promotion. The Head of the Foreign Office's Arms Export Policy Department has revealed that the Department has reassured countries in the Middle East that a treaty "would in effect implement criteria that are very similar to those we currently implement" and "would not add anything on top of that." (Committee on Arms Export Controls, 19.12.12, Q136)
Ann Feltham, CAAT's Parliamentary Coordinator, said: "This treaty legitimises the arms trade. If governments are serious about ending the trade in weaponry, with its dire consequences for peace and human rights, they should immediately stop promoting arms exports."
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. In 2012, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award, the "Alternative Nobel Prize" for its "innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade".
A detailed account of CAAT's position on the Arms Trade Treaty can be found here.
The UK government's export promotion unit is the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation.
The UK arms export licensing process is carried out by the Export Control Organisation, based in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. A more accessible, informative and searchable version of the database can be found on CAAT website here.