3 July 2012
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release

United Nations Conference on Arms Trade Treaty Begins Work


NEW YORK, 3 July (Office for Disarmament Affairs) — The United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty — the most important initiative ever within this organization in the field of arms regulation — opens today at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  Scheduled to run through 27 July, the Conference, the first of its kind, aims to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.  The outcome will not seek to prohibit citizens of any country from possessing firearms or to interfere with the legal trade in small arms and lights weapons.

The Secretary-General has described the unregulated trade in conventional arms as a plague on humankind, which destroys societies, encourages conflict and undoes our work in social and economic development.  All important areas of world trade are covered by internationally agreed rules that bind countries in agreed conduct. The lack of international standards on arms export decisions has obscured transparency and trust and contributed to the widespread availability and misuse of arms.  Without high common standards to guide national decisions on arms transfers, it is easier for arms to be used to commit violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and be diverted to illicit markets.

The United Nations notes that diversion of arms to the illicit market can result from transfers without proper controls, unauthorized re-transfer, thefts from poorly secured stockpiles, handouts to armed groups, barter involving natural resources and corruption.  The negative impact of poorly regulated arms deals compels the Organization to be proactive in advocating improved transparency, accountability and responsibility in the international trade in arms and ammunition.

Member States have the primary responsibility to address this issue.  Some 2,000 representatives from Member States, international and regional organizations and civil society have gathered for the event.  The Conference opens with a two-day High-Level Segment.

For further information, please contact Ewen Buchanan, United Nations Office for Disarmament affairs, tel.:  +1 212 963 3022, e-mail:  buchanane@un.org.  The Conference website can be accessed at www.un.org/disarmament/ATT, and on Twitter at @ATT_Conference.  For media accreditation, please consult the United Nations Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit’s website:  www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/request.shtml.

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For information media • not an official record