Group lauds positive signs of arms trade regulation

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ILIGAN CITY -- Peace advocates in the country are seeing positive signs the United Nations (UN) treaty regulating global trade in arms is taking effect soon.

“This global development is very significant for the Philippines, especially at this time when government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be joining to eradicate private armed groups in some parts of Mindanao,” said Cesar Villanueva of the peace group Pax Christi Pilipinas.

In 2010, the Philippine National Police (PNP) estimated that there were some 1.1 million loose firearms in the country. The biggest concentration of these was in the National Capital Region and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).


Normalization measures

In the Armm, where the government and the MILF will be mostly undertaking normalization measures as part of their respective commitments in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), loose firearms were estimated to account over 114,000.

Among the largest private armed group in the Armm is that controlled by the Ampatuan clan which figured in the infamous Maguindanao massacre on Nov. 23, 2009 that killed 58 people, 32 of whom were journalists. It was the single worst attack on the press throughout the world.

On April 2, the international community observes the first year anniversary of the passage by the UN General Assembly of the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

On June 3, 2013, the treaty was opened for signing by the countries; the Philippines signed it on Sept. 25, 2013. So far, the treaty gathered 118 signatory states.

However, it is yet to take effect as there were only 13 states that ratified the treaty, the last of which was Albania last March 19 this year. The other states that ratified the treaty are Trinidad and Tobago, Macedonia, Panama, Norway, Nigeria, Mexico, Mali, Iceland, Guyana, Grenada, Costa Rica, and Antigua and Barbuda.

The treaty requires 50 ratifying states to take effect. In the Philippines, the measure to ratify the treaty is still pending in the Senate.

The Arms Trade Treaty seeks to regulate the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships.

When in force, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) expects the treaty to “foster peace and security by thwarting uncontrolled destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions… and prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms.”

“And it will help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools,” UNODA further said.

Deposit instruments

On Wednesday, 17 countries are set to “jointly deposit their instruments of ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty,” the UNODA said in an official announcement.

These are Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom. Together, they will bring the total ratifications to 30.

“One year after – One giant step closer,” the UNODA said.

Among the 17 states, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, are listed by the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SPIRI) among the top 10 exporters of arms in the world. The annual global arms trade is estimated to be an 85 billion-dollar business.

“Today’s ratifications are a huge step to stopping gun runners, dictators and human rights abusers being so easily able to get hold of the weapons they use to cause such suffering. It’s great to see so many countries leading the race to 50 and we urge others who have already signed to follow suit and ratify the Treaty without delay,” the Philippine Action Network to Control Arms (PhiLANCA) said in a statement.

The Control Arms Coalition, the global network representing more than 100 civil society groups campaigning for a robust and rapid implementation of the ATT, urged even more ratification by states “to make the Treaty a reality on the ground.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 02, 2014.

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