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NZ Must Play Critical Role in Saving Arms Trade Treaty

Down But Not Out: New Zealand Must Play Critical Role in Saving Arms Trade Treaty

There is still hope for countries to reach agreement on an Arms Trade Treaty, despite governments failing to reach a consensus agreement in New York, Oxfam New Zealand said today.

Throughout July, countries have been negotiating for legally-binding regulations for the international weapons trade. In the final hours of negotiations, consensus was blocked by the United States, Russia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, who all asked for more time.

However, Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director Barry Coates said despite this setback, momentum was still gathering for an international and legally-binding treaty to bring the arms trade under control.

“Key countries have dropped the ball today and let the rest of the world down. But significant progress during the final days of the negotiations shows that we are much closer to a robust and effective Treaty than ever before,” said Coates.

He said throughout the negotiations, there was majority support for the Arms Trade Treaty to cover all conventional arms including ammunition, and to be based around tough rules on international human rights and humanitarian law.

“New Zealand played a strong and principled role and showed flexibility in an attempt to maintain the significant momentum and progress, particularly during the last few days of the negotiations,” Coates said.

Despite the collapse of the talks today, Coates said the response of the co-authors – Australia the United Kingdom, Japan, Finland, Costa Rica, Argentina and Kenya – alongside a broad group of supportive countries, showed there was still overwhelming support for a strong ATT.

“We particularly commend New Zealand and Pacific countries for their efforts throughout the conference to push for an Arms Trade Treaty that would have made a real difference internationally and in the Pacific region,” he said. “We particularly note that New Zealand was one of a group of 90 like-minded countries to deliver a statement at the close of the talks, underlining the group's determination to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible.

“There is still hope. Governments now have a second chance to make the treaty a reality by taking the text forward to the General Assembly in October.

“But in order for this second chance to succeed, strong leadership is needed to sustain the political will of this large group of states. New Zealand’s position for a strong Arms Trade Treaty and its leadership within the region during the negotiations must continue in the future for the Arms Trade Treaty to succeed. In particular, we greatly encourage New Zealand to continue and build on its important partnership in the Pacific region where the ATT can make a real difference,” Coates said.

“The voices of those regions affected by armed violence must be front and centre of any efforts to conclude a successful Arms Trade Treaty that truly makes a difference; New Zealand’s continued support to these regions is crucial.”

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