Arms Trade Treaty

We want to help make the world safer for civilians. We’re encouraging all states to join and implement the Arms Trade Treaty so that arms transfers are only ever made responsibly.

Availability of arms: the human cost

Every year, civilians are injured, killed, raped and displaced because of the widespread availability and misuse of weapons. Small arms and light weapons, such as assault rifles and machine guns, are often used to inflict this human suffering. When weapons are easy to obtain and armed violence is prevalent, even after an armed conflict has ended, civilians face many of the same threats as they did during the fighting.

Complex rules govern international trade in 'normal goods' like butter and bananas, and dangerous materials like chemicals and drugs. However, there have been few international rules to control the trade in conventional weapons. The Arms Trade Treaty rectifies this.

An historic step towards reducing human suffering

In 2013, after more than a decade of campaigning by civil society, the United Nations General Assembly voted to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty. It entered into force on 24 December 2014.

The Treaty is an international, legally-binding agreement, regulating the global trade in conventional weapons. It prohibits the sale of arms if there is a risk they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) or human rights law.

The Treaty aims to reduce human suffering caused by the widespread availability of weapons. State Parties have to consider IHL and human rights law in their arms transfer decisions, and take measures to prevent the diversion of weapons. The Arms Trade Treaty will help to ensure that arms and ammunition do not end up in the wrong hands.

What is the role of New Zealand Red Cross?

The International Red Cross Movement has been concerned about the humanitarian consequences of arms availability for a long time. The Red Cross worked hard to ensure a strong Arms Trade Treaty and warmly welcomed its adoption in 2013. It called upon States to promptly join the Treaty and to adopt stringent national control systems and legislation to ensure compliance.

In New Zealand, Red Cross worked alongside civil society and government to promote New Zealand’s adherence to the Arms Trade Treaty and its implementation in Aotearoa. In 2014, New Zealand became the 45th country to ratify the Treaty.

International law and standards are strongest when they are universally applied. The universal implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty will help save lives, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, and reinforce compliance with IHL.

Pacific countries were supporters of the Arms Trade Treaty throughout the negotiations. The Pacific can add a strong voice to support the Arms Trade Treaty, and work towards its universal implementation in the Pacific region. As of 1 December 2015, 78 States have ratified the Arms Trade Treaty, including four from the Pacific region – New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and Tuvalu. Vanuatu, Palau, Nauru and Kiribati have signed the Treaty but not yet ratified it.

At the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2015, the New Zealand government and New Zealand Red Cross jointly pledged to continue to cooperate closely to promote respect for and implementation of IHL, We will continue to promote adherence to and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, especially in the Pacific. Those countries that have signed the Treaty are encouraged to now take the steps required for ratification. The 2013 Pacific Islands Forum Communiqué encouraged all Forum and UN members to consider joining the Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible. Together, we can move forward as a strong region in support of the Arms Trade Treaty.

The New Zealand Government has sponsored the development of a model law. This will assist other states in identifying and translating Treaty commitments into national legislation.