Africa, EU Lag in ATT Implementation

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said that African leaders and their European counterparts are not doing much about implementing the Arms Trade Treaty, (ATT) since its adoption by the United Nations (UN).

Speaking at the opening of the 4th Europe-Africa Summit in Brussels, Belgium, President Sirleaf said that though the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty is a giant achievement, both the EU and Africa are lagging in the robust implementation of the treaty; that, she said, calls for more effective EU-Africa cooperation to achieve the objective of the treaty.

The Liberian leader was speaking as one of 54 African and 28 European leaders attending the two-day summit on Arms Trade.

According to a dispatch from the Belgium and European Union (EU) Capital, Brussels, during the working session on peace and security, the Liberian leader used the opportunity to call for more robust, honest, and concerted efforts to stop the proliferation of small arms in Africa—a situation that the Arms Trade Treaty will definitely address upon coming into force.

The 193-members UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the ATT in New York, about a year ago. The treaty aims to regulate the $85 billion arms-industry and to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers and criminals. It also aims to set a standards for all cross-border transfers of conventional weapons ranging from small firearms to tanks and attack helicopters.

The Liberian leader emphasized that while conflict resolution efforts are worth commending, both the EU and Africa need to focus more attention on conflict prevention, highlighting the Liberian experience during its years of crisis and the huge negative toll it had on the society.

President Sirleaf also spoke about unemployment as a challenge on both continents; urging that youth unemployment be put on the front burner. “Youth unemployment is a threat to peace and security, especially in states that are post-conflict fragile,” she pointed out.

She said the sub-region is very grateful for the initiatives of the regional institutions, ECOWAS and the African Union, supported by the European Union and the United Nations to restore constitutional order in several African countries as “conflict in one country is conflict in all; conversely peace in one country engenders peace in all.”

Meanwhile when entered into force, the ATT would create binding requirements for states to review cross-border contracts, to ensure that weapons will not be used in human rights abuses, terrorism, violations of humanitarian law, or organized crime.

It took a major step forward on its eventual entry into force on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, as 18 countries, including five of the world's top 10 arms exporters, delivered proof of its ratification to the UN.

The treaty will enter into force once 50 countries have presented proof of ratification to the United Nations. With the latest 18 countries, there are now 31 ratifications out of 118 signatories, or 19 short of the number needed for the treaty to take effect.

Also speaking at the summit, Mauritanian President, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is the current president of the African Union, (AU) stressed the need for reinforcing the economic and commercial cooperation between the two continents, while calling for more coordination in the security field, notably in the region of the Sahel so to reduce terrorist threat.

UN Secretary General Ban Kin Moon, for his part, said that Europe and Africa share proximity and history,” Mr. Ban said, “ideas and ideals, trade and technology,” adding, “You are tied together by the ebb and flow of people.

The UN Boss noted that migration presents policy challenges, but also represents an opportunity to enhance human development. Promote decent work and strengthen collaboration.

He urged both continents to stay true to universal values and not to succumb to opportunists who seek to divide societies and exploit fears for political gain. “Across the range of challenges, solidarity must be our guide. Let us draw on the collective force of the people of Africa, Europe and the world–and build a life of dignity for all.”

The European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy noted that as the theme “Investing in people, prosperity, and peace” suggests, it relates to people’s everyday concerns – safety and security, job prospects, and their future, as families and individuals.

“All should be able to live free from fear and all should share the possibility of prospering where they live,” he emphasized, warning that it is now for leaders to signal the strategic direction for the partnership, to set priorities for the future, and to confirm its commitment to delivering them.

President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barraso, reiterated that the EU partnership with Africa is a partnership based on mutual respect and a partnership of equals. “Our partnership with Africa, like with any other partner, is constructed as a bridge and not as a barrier to more global cooperation. For us the era of spheres of influence should be over. We need to replace it by wider circles of convergence,” he said.

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