25 September 2013
Deputy Secretary-General

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

Deputy Secretary-General, Hailing Historic Adoption of Arms Trade Treaty

During High-level Event, Urges Its Early Ratification, Entry into Force

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to a high-level event organized by the co-authors of the resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty, in New York on 25 September:

I commend the seven co-authors of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) resolution:   Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom, for bringing us together for this important event.

At the outset, let me first of all say that our thoughts are with the people of Kenya.  They cannot, as co-authors, be represented here today because of the horrific attacks in Nairobi.  We share the shock and grief of the Kenyan people.

The journey towards the Arms Trade Treaty started with a simple but profound idea formulated almost two decades ago by a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates.  Gradually, countries came to understand the real-world impact of the absence of a global set of rules for the conventional arms trade.  The toll was wide-ranging:  deadly conflicts, widespread human suffering and denied opportunities for millions of people.

The lack of international regulations for conventional arms has a direct impact on the work of the United Nations.  It hinders our efforts to promote social and economic development, to provide humanitarian aid and protect civilians — men, women and children.  It makes it harder to monitor sanctions and arms embargoes.  It undermines the rule of law.

Last year, all States gathered under the auspices of the United Nations to negotiate a treaty regulating the global conventional arms trade.  It was an arduous and complicated process, as we all know.  Many legitimate concerns and perspectives had to be taken into account.  In spite of two conferences, there was no agreement.  But, after this year’s Final ATT Conference in March, a General Assembly meeting was at last successful in adopting the document by an overwhelming majority.

Many Governments insisted that this treaty had to contain strong, unambiguous commitments.  The final agreement has a wide scope, encompassing small arms and light weapons, and covering ammunition, as well.  It contains essential, explicit connections to international humanitarian law and human rights law — and highlights gender-based violence.

The ATT will make it far more difficult for weapons to be diverted into the illicit market.  They are not to reach warlords, pirates, terrorists and criminals.  They are not to be used for human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law.

Adoption of the ATT was an historic achievement by the UN Member States.  Now we must show the same resolve for its ratification and early entry into force.  We must also support implementation through generous contributions to the new trust fund for the ATT.

Today, a number of countries signed the Arms Trade Treaty, pushing the total number of signatures to more than half of all Member States.  The Secretary-General, as the depository of the Treaty, welcomes every signature to this important Treaty equally.  At the same time, it is of particular significance that the largest arms-exporting country in the world, the United States, has added to the momentum by signing the Treaty this morning.

The Arms Trade Treaty is living proof that good things can be achieved when Governments and civil society work together through the United Nations.  The ATT can be a catalyst for progress in many other areas where the needs for global action are just as urgent.

I call on all Governments to join forces with parliaments, civil society and the many concerned citizens to ensure the Treaty’s ratification and effective implementation.  The United Nations will provide its full support as we strive to fulfil the great promise of this landmark global achievement.

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For information media • not an official record