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Arms Trade Treaty Needs More Pacific States

Nebilyer Valley tribal fighters and child with assault rifles
Nebilyer Valley warriors. ©PNG Post-Courier

In terms of gun violence and trafficking, the Pacific is currently one of the safest regions in the world.    

This was not always the case, but unlike any other region the Pacific responded to episodes of armed violence and trafficking by reducing the availability of lethal weapons and by forging a startling regional consensus for disarmament. Gun violence rates are among the lowest in any world region, as are arms imports and exports. Most Pacific Island states have resolved in law to remain unarmed and have developed systems and institutions to stay that way.    

The Peace and Security chapter of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent calls for Pacific States to ‘support international peace and security efforts.’ This has been the case for international arms control treaties from the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to the Mine Ban Treaty. There is one gap – the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).     

While all Pacific States supported the creation of the ATT, so far only six have joined: Samoa, Palau, Tuvalu, Niue, Australia and New Zealand. Signatories to the Treaty, but not yet full members are Vanuatu, Kiribati and Nauru. Six other States have not yet signed: Fiji, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga. 

Although there are no known current objections in any of the nine non-member States and no significant barriers to joining, the Treaty has not been a priority. With the COVID pandemic now less urgent and armed violence once again in the headlines, there is now an opportunity for more Pacific Island States to demonstrate their support for peace and security by joining the Arms Trade Treaty.  

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