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Historic International Arms Trade Treaty passed at UN

April 2, 2013

An historic and groundbreaking international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was approved today at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York by a vote of 154 yes, including  the US, 3 no, and 23 abstentions! The treaty enshrines in new international law a set of clear rules for all global transfers of weapons and ammunitions.

IPPNW’s delegation has worked tirelessly for years on this issue, and IPPNW representatives Drs. Omolade Oladejo and Emeka Okolo from Nigeria were at the UN today along with many NGO colleagues to witness this landmark event while many of us watched with suspense from afar.

More than a decade in the making, we are confident that once implemented it will save countless lives worldwide for decades to come.

The UNGA action came on the heels of the Treaty being blocked by Iran, Syria and North Korea on the final day of the March 18-28 ATT Diplomatic Conference.

“IPPNW participated in the historic 1997 meeting in New York of a small group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, convened by Oscar Arias, who called for an International Code of Conduct on arms trade that would benefit all of humanity,” said Dr. Robert Mtonga, IPPNW co-president and head of the IPPNW delegation. “After 15 long years and millions killed, maimed or traumatized by gun violence, we are finally gratified that the world’s countries have finally enacted a humanitarian-based Arms Trade Treaty. It is not perfect, but taken as a whole, it is groundbreaking in scope, and we are hopeful the world’s countries will enact it in the most comprehensive way.”

“As doctors, we have been involved in this process because of the devastating consequences of armed violence.  The fact that consideration of human rights, gender-based violence and other humanitarian references are enshrined in this treaty is a powerful statement,” said IPPNW board member Dr. Ogebe Onazi of Nigeria an active participant in the ATT process at the United Nations and in his home country.

Thousands of IPPNW members around the world have contributed to this successful outcome by writing letters, making phone calls, signing petitions, and speaking with their governments at home and in the UN.  As medical professionals, we have consistently provided the public health voice to proceedings at the, national, regional and international levels.  As the only health organization in a large and diverse NGO coalition, IPPNW has been a crucial voice.

IPPNW delegation member Dr. Shannon Gearhart from PSR in the US commented, “As health professionals we are on the front lines of trying to save the lives of victims of gun violence.   Now that we have finally achieved this treaty, it should be more difficult in the future for terrorists around the world to obtain these weapons that cause such human misery.”

Another Nigerian doctor who has participated in many weeks of work at the United Nations ATT meetings over several years, Dr. Emeka Okolo, said, “With a treaty like this, I know that eventually those groups operating in Nigeria will be starved of both weapons and ammunitions…I see the beginning of the end of uncalled for waste of human lives and resources. The ‘bad guys’ are in for it.”

Dr. Mtonga concluded “It is very likely this treaty ultimately will reduce the number of hours I will spend in the operating room.”

We’re not done yet. We will need the help of all IPPNW members worldwide to urge their governments to sign and ratify the treaty. Ongoing monitoring will also be necessary once the Treaty is enacted.

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For more information on how to get involved, contact Maria Valenti.

Read the final Treaty text.

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