WILPF has been denouncing arms industries and arms trade as a root cause of conflict for over a 100 years now. Our advocacy culminated in the passing of the Arms Trade Treaty which, although it does not put an end to arms transfers altogether, limits the possibility of arms transfers to situations in which human rights will not be violated (if a harmless arms transfer can exist!).
Since the Arms Trade Treaty incorporated this human rights criteria, WILPFers from around the world have been engaging in denouncing the impact of arms transfers on human rights, particularly of women, as are the examples of our reports on Spain’s arms exports, Sweden’s arms and explosives exports, UK explosives exports, and France’s explosives and arms exports and its impact on human rights of people in countries where these weapons end up.
Now, the Human Rights Council has passed a resolution to engage the UN High Commissionaire on Human Rights on this analysis of the impact on human rights of arms transfers and the way in which some arms transfers may be incurring in a violation of human rights law as pointed out for example by CEDAW committee in relation to CEDAW Convention. WILPF’s Human Rights Programme has been closely following this draft resolution and advocating for its passing and we are looking forward to read further on how arms transfers can be assessed to ensure its compliance with human rights law.
It is however deeply regretful that this resolution was voted against by many States, and it is worrying to realise that these are some of the most highly ranked arms exporters: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Latvia all voted against this resolution.
These States claimed that this resolution could undermine the advances of the Arms Trade Treaty, however, in our view it could do nothing but contribute to states in their implementation of the ATT. It would seem, rather, that States were worried about the very ambitious inclusion of human rights elements in this text that if anything is even more ambitious than the ATT.
The Office of the High Commissionaire on Human Rights addressing this topic is a great step forward; it will constitute an assessment of arms transfers with a full human rights approach provided by a UN authority on human rights. We are deeply convinced that this analysis will conclude that some arms transfers may indeed constitute human rights violations and that it will ultimately contribute to reducing arms transfers worldwide.
WILPF will through its Human Rights Programme contribute to any information OHCHR will need and we will keep you posted on this matter!