When addressing acts of gender-based violence and violence against women, many of us do not necessarily think about the arms trade. Sadly, the arms trade often goes hand in hand with their diversion, their widespread and uncontrolled availability, and their illicit traffic. These negative consequences of the arms trade fuel and prolong conflicts, aggravate tensions between States and communities, facilitate the commission of crimes and acts of terrorism, and cause the displacement of people - conditions that constitute a nourishing ground for the commission of acts of gender-based violence and violence against women.
In acknowledging the gender dimension of the arms trade and with the aim of promoting responsible action by States in the international trade in conventional arms, Member States of the United Nations adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in April 2013. The ATT constitutes the first global, legally binding instrument to provide international standards for the international trade in conventional arms. In addition, the treaty is the first international disarmament instrument to contain specific obligations aiming at reducing the risks of gender-based violence and violence against women. Key provisions in that regard constitute Article 6 and 7, which provide specific transfer prohibitions and request all States Parties to assess the risk of the transferred arms, ammunition, parts and components being used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence and violence against women before issuing an export authorisation.
In light of this, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the African Union Commission (AU) organized from 7 to 8 December 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a workshop on the ‘Implementation of ATT Obligations relating to Human Rights and Gender-Based Violence’. The workshop aimed at raising awareness on the gender-dimensions of the arms trade and at identifying measures that foster universalisation and implementation of the ATT, with a particular focus on its human rights and gender related obligations.
Participants included representatives of several UN and AU offices and agencies, sub-regional intergovernmental organisations, and civil society organisations. Furthermore, several African States Parties to the ATT attended the meeting, including Chad, Liberia, Mali, and Togo.
The Director of UNREC, Ms. Olatokunbo Ige, stressed that in order for the ATT to fulfil its objective of reducing human suffering, universalisation of the ATT needs to be enhanced and effective implementation ensured.
The ATT entered into force on 24 December 2015. As of 8 December 2015, 16 African States ratified or acceded to the treaty, including Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Togo.