Why Should Africa Join the Arms Trade Treaty? – My Speech to African Ambassadors today

“African States and CSOs Consultation on the Arms Trade Treaty”

Why Should Africa Join the Arms Trade Treaty?

Opening Speech by Desire Assogbavi

Head of Oxfam International, Liaison Office to the African Union

Friday 15th May, 2014 – Radisson Blue Hotel, Addis Ababa


Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome and thank you for joining us today in this informal discussion on the ATT co-hosted by Oxfam and Control Arms with the Support of PAX

Arm violence is having a huge impact on our continent. The costs of this violence can be found not just in the many innocent people killed or injured by arms, but also in the impact on the society more broadly. It undermines economies, over-burdens healthcare systems, causes the displacement of entire communities and disrupt education for millions of children. Some of this violence is being perpetrated with an existing pool of weapons, fresh supplies of arms and ammunition, flood into Africa on an almost daily basis.

95% of the weapons being used in Africa’s conflicts are made outside the continent. Greater efforts must be made, to prevent the irresponsible transfer of weapons fuelling Africa’s conflicts and poverty… Today The universalization and the implementation of the  ATT is the solution.

A commentator noted that, bananas, tomatoes and bubble gum are more restricted in markets than the trade of AK-47. Africa should aim for a universal ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty, and for its robust implementation, through regional cooperation.

Although there are many continental and regional agreements on arms in Africa, the globalization of the arms trade will best be controlled through

the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that came into force in December 2014.

The ATT binds exporters and importers and put firm regulations on the global, regional and national circulation of arms to minimize the impact of conflicts.

The unregulated trade in arms aggravates poverty and undermines our development goals.

We believe that African nations can contribute to the effective regulation of arms through ratifying, acceding to and implementing the ATT. This will lead to more effective governance of arms and security forces, reduce corruption and arms diversion, and help prevent arms entering illegal markets.

In addition, such action will help build a global practice for the effective control of arms transfers, and force sceptic states like Russia, the US and China to comply with the ATT in order to continue sales to African ATT member States. Signing and Ratifying the ATT alone will not bring peace to Africa but it will build a voice against uncontrolled arms and limit the horrifying effects of conflicts.

Insecurity in connection to arms has been one of the prime concerns of the AU. The initiative and framework of Silencing the Guns by 2020, and its inclusion with the AU vision 2063,  illustrates a strong commitment to control flow and unauthorized use of arms in the continent.

Oxfam is keen to work with the AU on ensuring that Africa becomes a leader on arms control, not just within the continent but across the world.

Africa’s place in ATT global forums awaits to be maximised but this will not happen without joining the Treaty.

So today, we would like to:

  1. Update you on the Arms Trade Treaty process
  2. Discuss opportunities and challenges on the ratification and implementation of the ATT,
  3. Draw roadmap to the first Conference of State Parties of August 2015

African States played an important role in the negotiations and the adoption of the ATT. Our continent insisted on the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty and supported calls for strong provisions based around international human rights and humanitarian law. Many African states played a pioneering role in making the ATT happen. Notably, Africa lobbying of China was decisive in achieving the inclusion of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the categories of arms controlled under the treaty. Forty seven African States voted in favour of ATT at the UN General Assembly.

However, despite this level of support, Africa is currently under-represented amongst ratifying States, with 10 States only having ratified the Treaty as of April 2015. In the course of consultations, with your support, we identify the reasons behind the modest number of countries ratifying the ATT and use this information to develop strategies to match each particular situation to contribute to your efforts towards a safer Africa.

If Africa remains largely outside the Treaty, the voices of the states and the voices of the people will not be heard in the current negotiations of key issues in the framework of the Preparatory Committees.

I would like to share with you some figures reflecting the cost of conflicts in Africa

The Cost of Peace Keeping Operations in Africa

MINUSCA: CAR: annual approved budget (07/2014– 06/2015): $628,724,400

  • United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA): Approved budget: (07/2014– 06/2015): $830,701,700
  1. United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO): Approved budget (07/2014 – 06/2015): $1,398,475,300
  2. African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID): Approved budget (07/2014 – 06/2015): $1,153,611,300
  3. United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS): Approved budget(07/2014 –Approved budget (07/2014 – 06/2015): $493,570,300

I am sure you would agree with me that Africa must join the ATT.

I thank you.


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