Every year, the widespread availability and misuse of weapons results in hundreds-of-thousands of civilians being displaced, injured, raped, or killed. These weapons are often so easy to obtain that for years after the conflict is over, civilians continue to face the same threats.
What is urgently required is global regulation of the availability of all conventional arms, including small arms, light weapons and ammunition.
Since 2006, the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly recognised that the absence of common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms contributes to armed conflict, the displacement of people, crime and terrorism.
In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the draft text of the Arms Trade Treaty, which establishes international standards for regulating the international trade in conventional arms - conservatively estimated to be worth $70 billion a year. One of the explicit purposes of the treaty is to reduce human suffering.
The treaty will, for the first time, places restrictions on the ability of States to transfer weapons such as assault rifles, attack helicopters and missile launchers. Under the Treaty, a country cannot transfer these items if it knows that the weapons would be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, or certain types of war crimes.
Australian Red Cross strongly supports this treaty. The setting of clear standards for the transfer of conventional weapons and their ammunition is a vital first step towards combating the humanitarian impact of armed conflict.
The Arms Trade Treaty opened for signature on 3 June 2013, and will come into force once 50 States have signed and ratified it. Australian Red Cross commends the Australian Government for its prompt signing of the Treaty and encourages it to swiftly interpret and implement its provisions in a way that helps realise the Treaty's humanitarian purpose. We look forward to seeing more of Australia's Pacific neighbours similarly sign, implement and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.
Keeping the promise
The Arms Trade Treaty is a historic response to the human suffering caused by the widespread availability of weapons both during and after armed conflicts. Red Cross calls on all States to sign, ratify and implement the Arms Trade Treaty and fulfil its promise to reduce human suffering.