UN agencies urge nations to consider humanitarian concerns in arms treaty negotiations

13 July 2012

Ten United Nations agencies and their partners have urged Members States to place humanitarian concerns at the forefront of their discussions aimed at reaching agreement on a comprehensive and robust arms trade treaty.

The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, a four-week gathering that began at UN Headquarters in New York on 2 July, has brought together the UN’s 193 Member States to negotiate what conference organizers have called the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation.

“It is an opportunity for States to take decisive action to address the adverse human rights, humanitarian and development consequences of the poorly regulated trade in arms and the corresponding widespread availability and misuse of weapons,” Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg told the meeting on Thursday, as she delivered a statement on behalf of ten UN agencies and actors involved in humanitarian action.

At the end of 2010, an estimated 27.5 million people were internally displaced as a result of conflict, while millions more have sought refuge abroad. In many cases, the armed violence that drove them from their homes was fuelled by the widespread availability and misuse of weapons.

Ms. Bragg stressed that an effective treaty would enable the reduction of widespread killing, wounding and rape of civilians, insecurity, displacement and other serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

“It is an opportunity to address the frequent suspension and delay of life-saving humanitarian and development operations because of threats to the safety of, or actual attacks against, our staff and those of other organizations. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 780 humanitarian workers were killed in armed attacks and a further 689 were injured,” she said.

Ms. Bragg stated that an effective treaty would require States to assess the risk that serious violations of human rights law may be committed with weapons being transferred; include within its scope all conventional weapons and ammunition; and ensure that there are no loopholes by covering all types of transfer.

The Assistant Secretary-General delivered the statement on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of Internally Displaced Persons.


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