Head of world churches body urges China, Russia, US to ratify arms treaty

(Photo: REUTERS / Bernardo Montoya)A child walks around a fake tank parked outside the U.S. embassy during a protest held by Amnesty International in Mexico City July 17, 2012. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded for a binding pact to regulate the more than billion global weapons market during a diplomatic conference on the future Arms Trade Treaty in New York. The United States is the world's biggest arms trader, accounting for over 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers.

The head of the World Council of Churches says that although five of the world's major arms exporters are among a group of mostly European countries ratifying the world's first Arms Trade Treaty, more countries need to sign up.

The ATT was ratified on April 2, a year after the treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

"It is especially important that five of the world's top 10 arms exporters are among those ratifying today - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK," the general secretary of the World Council of Churches Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, said in a statement.

Armed violence and conflict kills around half a million people each year. Weapons are also used to displace, abuse and traumatize millions more.

The head of the WCC, which represents more than 500 million Christian worldwide, noted that a few suppliers dominate the multi-billion dollar global trade in arms.

"The news reminds us each day of how urgently people in different parts of the world need the arms trade to be brought under greater control," Tveit said.

After Wednesday's ceremony at the United Nations, 31 governments will have ratified the ATT. For the treaty to come into effect, 50 states need to ratify it.

"More governments need to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty so that arms trading can finally be regulated and people currently at risk can be better protected," Tveit said.

He said the example set Wednesday should be followed by the United States and Russia - the two largest arms exporters - as well as China.

The WCC leads a campaign among its member churches to strengthen the proposed treaty and make it more effective.

Work to secure ratifications continues, especially in Africa, one of the regions where irresponsible arms sales fuel human rights abuses and war crimes.

"Many lives will be saved if the Arms Trade Treaty enters into force and becomes really effective," said Steve Hucklesby, policy adviser of The Methodist Church in Britain, a WCC member church.

"But the job is not yet finished. Those who pressed governments to commit to the treaty will need to remain vigilant and call for its full implementation."

At November's meeting of the highest governing body of the WCC, its assembly in South Korea, church delegates from more than 100 countries called for their governments to ratify and implement the Arms Trade Treaty.

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