The Future is Equal

Urgent calls for tighter rules on arms trade

Draft Arms Trade Treaty text littered with loopholes

Since negotiations for a global arms trade treaty ground to a halt in July last year, more than 325,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives through armed violence according to Oxfam and Saferworld, members of the Control Arms Coalition.

The Control Arms Coalition calls on world leaders to urgently adopt robust rules on international transfers for arms and ammunition as conflicts continue to destroy lives worldwide. It says the continued loss of life underlines the urgent need for a strong Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) when negotiations resume at the United Nations in New York on Monday.

In a new report, called Getting It Right: The pieces that matter for an Arms Trade Treaty, Oxfam and Saferworld set out the major gaps in the current text of the draft ATT – with suggestions of how diplomats attending the UN negotiations could fix them. A weak treaty full of loopholes could undermine the ATT

Too much blood

“More than one person dies each minute through armed violence. Too much blood has been shed because of the unregulated trade in arms and ammunition,” said Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control Anna MacDonald. “History has shown that strong treaties create high international standards and bring about change, even for non-signatories. Diplomats need to fill in the missing pieces in the draft text, and make sure they agree a treaty that will save lives.

“We have been fighting for a global agreement on the arms trade for years now and the time has come to seal the deal. A treaty to bring the arms trade under control is long overdue – but it must be a treaty with teeth. It is time for states to stand up for a treaty that will make a difference.”


The Getting It Right report identifies loopholes in the existing draft text which mean the treaty could fail to prevent arms being provided to human rights abusers who commit mass atrocities, including genocide. One such loophole is the exclusion of ammunition – expected to become a major bone of contention during negotiations.

“Ammunition is literally the fuel of conflict,” said Luke Roughton, Oxfam New Zealand’s Control Arms Coordinator. “This part of the treaty is especially important in reducing violence and improving security in the Pacific region. Without ammunition, the guns fall silent.”

Another identified loophole is a legally ambiguous threshold for assessment of human rights violations, potentially allowing national security or other interests to override human rights. Also concerning is the exclusion of separate defense agreements which could see arms transfers legally continue to regimes like Syria, despite risks of weapons being misused for human rights violations.

“A strong ATT could make a huge difference to the lives of millions of innocent people around the world,” said Saferworld’s Head of Arms Transfer Controls, Roy Isbister. “But the loopholes in the current text could actually make things worse, by giving legal cover to bad practice. It’s critical that states refuse to settle for a Treaty that fails to protect lives and livelihoods and instead put all their efforts into delivering a treaty that gets it right.”