April 3, 2016 marks the third anniversary of the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an agreement that regulates the trade of conventional weapons. The Treaty aims to prevent arms from being used to commit acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, terrorism, or other war crimes. This is an important step in the fight against weapons proliferation. Handicap International advocates for governments to adopt and enforce the treaty as part of its mission to protect civilians.
“This is a strong treaty,” says Marion Libertucci, Advocacy Coordinator at Handicap International. “It requires governments to evaluate those who procure arms. In particular, when deciding whether or not to export arms, governments must take into account the risk that the arms being sold to another government might be diverted towards other users. It is now essential that State Parties strictly apply the ATT’s requirements to evaluate all arms export applications so that the treaty can have a real impact.”
In Libya for example, arms purchased by the government fell into the hands of non-state armed militias in Libya, northern Mali, and beyond. Now, countless weapons are in the hands of armed gangs and civilians, posing a serious threat to innocent lives.
For its part, Handicap International is working in 20 countries, including Mali, to raise awareness among adults and children about the risks posed by small arms (e.g. pistols, rifles, and light machines guns) and explosive remnants of war.
“The messages we want to get across are based on common sense,” says Pascal Mvogo, Armed Violence Reduction Project Manager in Mali. “For example, children should not be allowed to handle weapons; they should only ever be used by professionals such as the army or police. Our goal is to reduce the number of accidents.”