For years governments told us in meetings that an Arms Trade Treaty was a fanciful idea – merely a twinkle in our campaigning eye. But earlier this month an Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by an overwhelming majority at the United Nations General Assembly. Thanks to the democratic process, international law will for the first time regulate the $70 billion global arms trade.
When we launched the Control Arms campaign more than a decade ago, only Mali, Costa Rica and Cambodia were prepared to publicly stand with us in demanding the treaty.
But things started to change.
Dogged perseverance, growing recognition that the arms trade was out of control and a campaign around the world began to pay off. The UK government’s announcement of support in 2004 was a turning point; many other major arms exporters followed suit. By 2005, more than 50 countries supported the idea.
Crucially, in 2006 the ATT process itself began inside the U.N. at the General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and Security. A resolution, introduced by seven core governments (Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Japan, Finland and the UK) and vigorously advocated for by the Control Arms Coalition, gained more than 100 co-sponsors. The resolution passed in a landslide votein the General Assembly, 153 to 1 (the U.S. was the no vote), with 24 abstentions.
Had the process been launched in the consensus-bound Conference on Disarmament in Geneva ‑ currently in its 12th year of meeting without even being able to agree an agenda ‑ chances are it would never have left the starting blocks.