What impact would an Arms Trade Treaty have on the conflict and food crisis in Mali?

Martin Butcher

Blog post by Martin Butcher

Oxfam International, Policy Advisor on Arms and Conflict
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The growing food crisis provoked by drought in the Sahel is affecting millions of people. This crisis has been deepened by the conflict in Mali sparked by the proliferation of arms from Libya in the wake of the fall of Colonel Gadhafi. Some 200,000 Malians have fled from the fighting, which engulfed the whole of Northern Mali from January to March this year. This situation of drought + conflict is providing some harrowing evidence of the need for effective international control of the arms trade. Oxfam has worked for ten years on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), currently under negotiation at the United Nations.

How would an ATT help? For a start, in a situation like Mali, a treaty would cut off weapons heading for a conflict zone to encourage political negotiation. National legislation for Arms Trade Treaty implementation would require security sector reform and improve civilian control of the military, both vital areas of good governance that contribute to socio-economic development.

The Arms Trade Treaty would provide simple rules, globally enforced, which would detail when an arms exporter could, and could not, send arms to a prospective buyer. If it was thought that the sale of arms might result in breaches of human rights or international humanitarian law; could damage socio-economic development of the recipient state; provoke or prolong a conflict; or lead to diversion to terrorist or into the black market – such a sale would be banned. This would apply to all conventional arms and equipment. While individual countries have such export control policies, there is no such global regulation.

It is likely that, had an ATT been in place in the past twenty years, Libya would have been unable to build up the excessive stocks of arms that are now fuelling conflict in the Sahel. And, given the transparency and reporting mechanism that will be built into the treaty, much more would now be known about just what those stockpiles contained, and where they were stored. This would have allowed effective international action to contain them in the wake of the war.

This is an abridged version of Martin's post Hunger in the Sahel and international arms control: what’s the link?

Read more

Blog: 100 days before the Arms Trade Treaty talks – the state of play (28 March 2012)

Read the report:  The Devil is in the Detail: The importance of comprehensive and legally binding criteria for arms transfers

Tracking States' positions on key issues concerning the Arms Trade Treaty http://armstreaty.org/