|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
71st & 72nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Overwhelming Majority of States in General Assembly Say ‘Yes’ to Arms Trade Treaty
to Stave off Irresponsible Transfers that Perpetuate Conflict, Human Suffering
Adopted by Vote of 154 in Favour to 3 Against,
‘Robust and Actionable’ Text Requires Arms Exporters to Assess Possible Misuse
To a burst of sustained applause, the General Assembly today voted overwhelmingly in favour of a “historic”, first-ever treaty to regulate the astonishing number of conventional weapons traded each year, making it more difficult for them to be diverted into the hands of those intent on sowing the seeds of war and conflict.
By a vote of 154 in favour to 3 against (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria), with 23 abstentions, the Assembly passed the 28-article Arms Trade Treaty, aiming to establish the highest possible common international standards for the annual $70 billion business. The adoption follows the failure last week of the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to reach consensus on the text at the conclusion of its two-week session. (Please see annex for details of the voting.)
“The final text is, in my view, robust and actionable,” said General Assembly President Vuc Jeremić ( Serbia). It also was “groundbreaking”, in that arms-exporting countries would be legally bound to report arms sales and transfers. They would be obliged to assess whether the weapons they sold could be used to facilitate human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations.
At the same time, the Treaty protected the rights of its signatories to regulate the buying and selling of conventional armaments, he said, as well as the primacy of national legislation in defining the conditions under which citizens could own and operate arms. It drew a link between the presence of weapons across the developing world and the challenges of safeguarding sustainable development and human rights. He thanked the President of the Final United Nations Conference “for getting us so close to the finish line”.
For his part, Final Conference President Peter Woolcott of Australia said the fact that consensus had not been achieved should not diminish the hard work — both at the drafting Conference and since July 2012 — to bridge differences. The final text was a compromise. It represented the broadest possible input and would make a difference to the broadest range of stakeholders, notably by setting up a forum — the conference of States parties — for transparency and accountability.
The Treaty applies its constraints to the seven major categories of conventional weapons included in the 1991 United Nations Register of Conventional Arms: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles and missile launchers — with the addition of small arms and light weapons.
Ammunition/munitions appears in a separate article, 3, outside the so-called “scope” of the Treaty, placing the responsibility on States parties to establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition/munitions fired, launched or delivered by the conventional arms covered in the Treaty’s scope. Article 4 — on the parts and components capable of assembling those weapons — is treated in the same manner.
Regarding prohibitions — article 6 — States parties agreed not to authorize any transfer of conventional weapons — or their ammunition/munitions, parts or components — if the transfer would violate their chapter VII obligations or those under international agreements, or if they had knowledge that arms would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, attacks against civilians or other war crimes.
If the export was not prohibited under article 6, each exporting State party, under article 7, agreed that, prior to authorization of exports, they would assess the potential that conventional arms or related items would undermine peace and security or be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law, or acts constituting terrorism or transnational organized crimes.
Many delegations hailed the Treaty’s adoption as a historic event, which would “raise the bar” for regulating conventional arms trade without hampering legitimate commerce. No nation had received everything it had sought. The Treaty was strong, balanced and implementable, many said, and provided a clear standard on which to prohibit a conventional weapons transfer. Its adoption reaffirmed their faith in the United Nations’ ability to establish legally binding rules.
“This treaty sets a floor, not a ceiling” for the responsible international trade in conventional arms, said the United States’ representative. Taken together, the Treaty’s articles provided a “robust and complementary” framework that would ensure responsible behaviour by States parties.
Mexico’s delegate, speaking on behalf of 96 States, welcomed the adoption of the text after years of hard work. “This is just the beginning,” he said, calling for the Treaty’s rapid entry into force — ratification by 50 States was required — and its speedy implementation.
South Africa’s delegate added that the Treaty “filled a glaring gap” in the global conventional arms control system by setting high norms and criteria to which States would adhere when considering arms transfers. It required States parties to establish national transfer control legislation, as well as official administrative guidelines, national inspectorates and practical enforcement measures — including punitive measures — for transgressions.
At the same time, the three dissenting countries derided the Treaty for its blatant political hypocrisy. Iran’s delegate said he had voted “no” mainly because the Treaty failed to ban the transfer of conventional arms to foreign occupiers. The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took issue with the idea of exporters judging the human rights record of importing countries. Syria’s delegate said the text did not prohibit arms supply to unauthorized, non-State terrorist elements.
Some said that omission deeply weakened the document and undermined its effectiveness. Nicaragua’s delegate called it “dangerous”, noting that in the 1980s, his country had been a victim of the arming of non-State actors, which had cost tens of thousands of lives. Several speakers agreed that more flexibility, time and political will would have made it possible to address such deficiencies and achieve a universal treaty.
Several delegations that had abstained in the voting, including Cuba, Ecuador and Indonesia, complained that the Treaty favoured exporting over importing States. Bolivia’s delegate, who also had abstained, said the “weapons and death industries” would rest easy knowing that the Treaty favoured their economic interests. Priority had been given to profit over human suffering.
Pakistan’s delegate, who, despite his vote in favour of the Treaty, criticized its omission of important definitions, which not only departed from established practice, but could be used by exporters to circumvent its provisions, he said. Also, the text did not provide a clear accountability mechanism for exporters that might “flout” their new responsibilities.
The Treaty will open for signature on 3 June and enter into force 90 days after being ratified by the fiftieth signatory.
The representative of Costa Rica introduced the resolution entitled, “The Arms Trade Treaty” (document A/67/L.58).
Also speaking in explanation of vote before the vote were the representatives of Venezuela, Bolivia, Russian Federation, Ecuador and Sudan.
Additional speaker in explanation of vote after the vote were the representatives of Brazil, India, Egypt, Belarus, China, Singapore, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Eritrea.
General statements after adoption were also made by the representatives of: Costa Rica (also on behalf of Argentina, Australia, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Colombia (also on behalf of the Bahamas, Belize, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay), Lebanon (on behalf of the Arab Group), Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)), Japan, Switzerland,New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, Germany, France, Peru, Guatemala, Turkey, Chile, Italy, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Liechtenstein, Republic of Korea, Ireland and Angola.
A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See also spoke.
The General Assembly met this morning to take action on a draft resolution entitled The Arms Trade Treaty (document A/67/L.58).
President of the General Assembly, VUK JEREMIĆ ( Serbia), recalled that last week, the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty had come within reach of a consensual text, but regrettably, it had not been possible to finalize an agreement. The historic dimension of today’s meeting was reflected by the fact that a resolution with an attached treaty text regulating the international trade in conventional arms was — for the first time — the subject of action in the Assembly Hall.
As such, he thanked the President of the Final United Nations Conference, Peter Woolcott ( Australia), “for getting us so close to the finish line”, as well as his predecessor, Roberto García Moritán ( Argentina) for his “tireless efforts”. He also recognized the key role played by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in ensuring that this critical issue remained at the top of the agenda in “our overly armed world”.
He recalled that, in 2006, States had pledged — in this very chamber — to engage in a multilateral effort to produce a legally binding instrument, establishing common standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms — including warships and battle tanks, combat aircraft and attack helicopters, as well as small arms and light weapons.
“I, personally, believe that the final text of this conference meets those commitments to a great extent,” he said, adding that the lack of a regulatory framework for such activities had made a “daunting” contribution to ongoing conflicts, regional instabilities, displacement of peoples, terrorism and transnational organized crime.
The final text underscored that point, he said. It also drew a link between the presence of weapons across the developing world and the challenges of sustainable development and safeguarding human rights. “The final text is, in my view, robust and actionable,” he said. “It is also, in many ways, groundbreaking.” It indicated that arms-exporting countries would be legally bound to report arms sales and transfers. They would also be obliged to assess whether the weapons they sold could be used to facilitate human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations.
That would be an important step towards enhancing transparency and strengthening accountability mechanisms of the legitimate arms trade, which today’s text explicitly reaffirmed was within the sovereign rights of all States, he said. The final text also respected and protected the rights of its signatories to regulate the buying and selling of conventional armaments, domestically and internationally, as well as the primacy of national legislation in defining the conditions under which their citizens could own and operate arms.
While the text of an arms trade treaty marked an important step forward, much work remained to be done in the areas of arms control and international disarmament, he said. For the United Nations to continue to play a key role in assisting countries in establishing or improving their arms control systems, he urged progress in the Conference on Disarmament, which had not made significant gains for more than a decade. For a treaty to be effective, States would need to keep working together to fulfil its goals. In closing, he expressed hope that “we will all continue with our efforts to bring an arms trade treaty into being”.
PETER WOOLCOTT (Australia), Conference President, recalled that since his endorsement as President-designate of the Final Conference at the informal consultation in New York on 20 November 2012 and throughout the Final Conference itself, he had articulated “a single goal” — an open and transparent process towards a consensus outcome on an arms trade treaty which, if implemented, would make a difference by reducing human suffering and saving lives.
It was unfortunate, he said, that the Conference could not fully achieve that goal. On Thursday, 28 March, he had ruled that there had not been a consensus in the Conference for the adoption of the negotiated treaty text contained in the annex of document A/CONF.217/2013/L.3 due to the objections of Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria. Nonetheless, that result should not diminish what had been achieved at the Conference, nor the efforts of delegations since the final day of the July 2012 Conference in working hard to bridge differences and achieve a treaty. The open and transparent process of the Conference just concluded had been conducive to that end.
He said he had conducted a series of consultations in New York, Geneva and other places, listening to the views of Governments in bilateral, regional, group and open-ended meetings. Throughout consultations, he had been clear about how the process would be conducted and “I offered no surprises”, he said. Each text introduced had built on the previous one and had represented a fair expression of negotiation, compromise between many different interests in the room, and ultimately, what might command consensus at the end of the Final Conference.
The process had two key elements designed to ensure firstly, that views could be narrowed in a negotiating setting, and secondly, that there would be confidence in the legal quality of the final product. “I am indebted to the cross-regional group of facilitators who led delegations through complex issues, sometimes late in the night,” he said.
“Ultimately, all delegations came together during the Final Conference, working hard and negotiating in a constructive manner and looking for success,” he continued, adding that the different interests and perspectives in the conference room had required delegations to work through complex issues. Their commitment across the arc of negotiation had been truly impressive; they had wanted a strong outcome.
“In the end, the Conference came very close to success,” he said, noting that the final draft text was a compromise draft representing the broadest possible input of delegations. It would make a difference to the broadest range of stakeholders: it would establish new common international standards in the conventional arms trade; and it would set up a forum — the Conference of States Parties — for transparency and accountability. That text would make an important difference by reducing human suffering and saving lives. He acknowledged the efforts of his predecessor and others who had been part of the process.
Action on Draft
The representative of Costa Rica, introducing the draft resolution A/67/L.58, titled “The Arms Trade Treaty”, said that after seven years of hard work, culminating in the last two weeks of negotiations, the General Assembly had before it a balanced and robust document. It was, in essence, the type of efficient and transparent treaty arduously sought after by the international community.
He said that “the question we must ask ourselves now is not whether we should approve it, but why we have waited this long to do so”. It was the time now to act without delay. He reaffirmed that the United Nations was able to address the most serious and complex global challenges, that it could turn expectations into tangible realities, and that it was an indispensable Organization in the twenty-first century. “Let this be a session of which we can be proud of,” he said to delegates. “Let us turn April 2nd, 2013, into a historic day, adopting, at last, the arms trade treaty.”
Speaking before action on the text, the representative of Indonesia said he supported the need to establish international standards in regulating the trade of arms that were fair, transparent and non-discriminatory. He respected the aspirations of all countries in their efforts to establish that global instrument and, in that regard, “never stood in the way”. However, while respecting those aspirations, Indonesia would nevertheless abstain from voting.
He said that the treaty text contained substantive deficiencies and did not provide a fair balance. Nor did it accommodate the legitimate interests of importing States. Furthermore, its scope was expanded, but not entirely clear, which risked misinterpretation. He was also concerned that the text favoured exporting States and did not prohibit unauthorized and non-State actors to use arms. On a national level, Indonesia would carefully examine the treaty, with the assistance of Government officials, think tanks, universities and civil society, pursuant to national laws and interests.
Also speaking before the vote, Syria’s delegate said that his Government “finds itself compelled, after exhausting all methods of persuasion and dialogue, to vote against the draft treaty”, despite its good faith and hard efforts. Syria “cannot be the obstructing side to reach a treaty we all want, but those who hampered reaching a fair and balanced treaty are the ones who refused to pay attention to the concerns and worries of a large segment of Member States”. Syria was more interested than others to adopt a good and viable treaty, which established a new era of dealing with the illicit arms trade, “instead of the status of immoral chaos prevailing in this area”. That status “lays its shadow on international peace and security, and bluntly ignores the concerns of victims and affected ones in favour of the interests of users and crises dealers and warmongers”.
He said that certain countries, among those supporting the text, were fully engaged in supplying terrorist groups, including in Syria, with all kinds of lethal weapons, which claimed the lives of thousands of civilians. That in itself explained the objection of those States to include a paragraph banning the supply of weapons to unauthorized non-State actors. “This is political hypocrisy, and a clear indication that the draft treaty is greatly selective and, thus, cannot reach consensus.” His delegation had worked hard to reach a consensual treaty that safeguarded the rights of all countries, whether exporting or importing ones; it had tried to bridge differences and had presented several essential points for inclusion in the text, in order to make it balanced and ensure that it met the aspirations of all Member States. Unfortunately, that effort had “gone with the wind”, owing to the insistence of some to “cover the interests of arms producers, at the expense of the interests, concerns and security of a wide range of countries”.
Touching on several reasons why his country felt compelled to reject the text, he said: it ignored the proposal made by several countries, including Syria, to include a reference in the text to foreign occupation and the inalienable right of people under foreign occupation to self-determination; it does not contain a clear paragraph referring to the categorical prohibition of the supply of arms to unauthorized non-State terrorist elements and groups; it ignores introduction of a special section on definitions to address ambiguities related to concepts and terms stated in the text; it ignores the reference to the crime of aggression; its selectivity in arms control and transparency does not represent a balanced and comprehensive State; it constitutes, in its current form, interference in the powers of the Security Council; and it does not take into account the stances and opinions of many nations, including his own.
The representative of Cuba, underlining that the principle of consensus was vital to the adoption of a balanced treaty, said today’s text would be a legally binding instrument that had security implications for all States. The Final Arms Trade Conference had not been able to achieve consensus, given clear differences among States. Despite that, some countries had agreed to “force” a decision on the draft treaty, an approach not shared by Cuba.
He said that the draft treaty did not take into account the legitimate interests of all States. Cuba had wished to see the continuation of broad, transparent and inclusive negotiations to reach consensus. “Unfortunately, this did not happen,” he said. Cuba had never expected to reach a perfect treaty, but it was committed to resolution 67/234, which outlined that a treaty resulting from the process should be solid, balanced and efficient. That mandate had not been met; the final draft had not met international expectations.
In fact, he said, the draft had serious limitations, which was why Cuba would abstain in the vote. It had multiple ambiguities and legal gaps. It was not a balanced document, as it favoured arms-exporting States — to the detriment of others in matters of defence and security. Despite that non-State actors were among those responsible for illicit arms trafficking, they had been omitted from the text, which deeply weakened the document and undermined its effectiveness. Moreover, the treaty would legitimize transfers without the consent of the receiving country, contravening the principle of non-intervention into State affairs, among other principles outlined in the United Nations Charter.
He said that the issue of minimum safeguards for States also had been “unjustifiably excluded” from the text’s operative portion. The final draft granted privileges to arms exporters to evaluate the behaviour of importing States based on “subjective” criteria. The lack of clarity on the scope also risked that each State could define it in its own way. As such, Cuba reserved the right to adopt a position on the text when the time came. His delegation had participated actively throughout the negotiating process, having put forward many proposals on its own behalf and jointly with other States. However, aware of the humanitarian concerns, it would continue to implement measures to combat the illicit trade.
The representative of Nicaragua said he had worked under the premise of reaching consensus, which would have allowed a balanced and non-discriminatory text, but unfortunately, there had not been sufficient political will to accomplish that. His country was committed to peace and, on a national level, had adopted measures to combat the illicit arms trade with a programme that required registration of firearms and other weapons of war. Nicaragua was aware of the humanitarian effects of weapons and was committed to creating a regime to address them.
He said that an arms trade treaty adopted by vote and not by consensus would bring a risk of political abuse and squander an opportunity for universality. Thus, it was unfortunate that the treaty would required a recorded vote. He was concerned that there was no mention in the treaty of arms transfers to non-State actors, which was “dangerous”. Generally, the treaty lacked clear language, and which allowed for misinterpretations. In the 1980s, Nicaragua had been a victim of the arming of non-State actors, which cost tens of thousands of lives. His region was currently experiencing violence caused by drug trafficking and organized crime.
In that regard, he expressed concern that the Treaty made no mention of the sovereign right of States to protect their citizens. Furthermore, the text did not provide importers with the mechanisms against abuse. In addition, it was open to manipulations, as it did not contain clear and defined language, but instead used terms that were difficult to interpret. In addition, there was no mention of the “gross production” in the main arms-producing countries. While he would abstain in the vote, his country would study the treaty in line with its national interests and security.
The representative of Venezuela said his delegation was fully committed to regulating the international illicit trade in conventional arms and attached importance to the principle of multilateralism. The Final Conference had set an artificial timetable, however, which had prevented Member States from reaching consensus. The draft treaty was susceptible to political manipulation and lacked balance in scope and other categories. Over-production and stockpiling by major producers also had not been addressed, and there was no reference to the crime of aggression. For those reasons, his delegation wished to abstain.
The representative of Bolivia said his country was opposed to all forms of violence for the settlement of conflict, but it did not renounce its right to defence. The international community should agree on a consensual limit for arms trade. Unfortunately, consensus had not been reached. Bolivia believed more time could have been allowed to discuss pending topics. The final draft had “deficiencies, contradictions and gaps”. There was imbalance between arms exporting and importing countries, which could impact the self-defence needs of importers. Priority had been given to profit over human suffering, and there also was a lack of consistency.
He said it was not possible to omit provisions for preventing arms sales to irregular groups or non-State actors. Despite the fact that numerous requests had been made, the text did not reflect the need to avoid arms sales to countries involved in the invasion of other countries or occupying countries. Those and other inconsistencies made the treaty subject to manipulation. The “weapons and death industries” would rest easy knowing that the treaty favoured their economic interests. Bolivia would abstain in the vote.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that, due to the initiative of his country, the draft contained a range of positive elements. A fundamental new article had been articulated to suppress weapons transfers into illegal trade circuits. It was important that the text enshrined States’ obligation to have national control systems for conventional arms. However, that obligation had not been backed by concrete measures.
He said that the document also did not include a weapons ban to non-authorized, non-State entities, which was a “significant” shortcoming. Further, the humanitarian criteria of risk assessment had been “insufficiently spelled out”, as it could be used by States for political purposes. In that regard, he focused on the wording of article 6.3, in which States would refuse arms transfers if they had “knowledge” that the weapons would be used to carry out genocide or crimes that violated the Geneva Conventions. The term “knowledge” was a broad concept, which indicated full conviction based on aggregated data. It was up to the exporting State to make a judgment about the absence of knowledge, whereas the wording in the Russian version would be translated as “possesses reliable knowledge”.
The draft could introduce positive elements, but it failed to attain the standards applied in the Russian Federation and other States, he said. His Government was ready “not to object” to the text’s approval, but today, it could not express “unambiguous support”, and thus, would abstain in the vote; the draft contained certain provisions that gave rise to doubts. The Russian Federation would thoroughly work on the draft in Moscow and determine its usefulness.
The representative of Ecuador said that efforts had been made to bring all delegates together in reaching consensus. But, the draft treaty still contained imbalances. In its current form, it served the interests of exporters of conventional weapons over the importers. As a result, the security of the latter group of countries could be endangered. Further, the text had not fully addressed the issues relating to scope, or the issues of aggression and foreign occupation, among others. Facilitators could not close the existing gaps. The modality of negotiations should not set a precedent, he said, expressing serious concern over the efforts by some delegates to redefine the meaning of consensus. Such efforts would harm consensus-based multilateral negotiations. His Government would abstain, as it intended to carefully study the treaty.
The representative of Sudan reaffirmed his country’s commitment to regulating the arms trade for the purpose of providing stability to all States. He had participated effectively in the negotiations, however, unfortunately, the most important concerns were not taken into consideration. The treaty did not include any reference to the prohibition of importing arms to groups and individuals which “opened wide” the arming of militants who were disturbing the peace in his country. It was essential to prevent such groups from gaining access to weapons.
He said that the transfer prohibition provisions should have been based on the United Nations Charter, rather than on Security Council resolutions, as the former text was more comprehensive. While the treaty contained references to which he was committed, it also contained language that was open to politicization. Hence, he would abstain from the vote.
Pakistan’s delegate said he would vote in favour of the resolution to show solidarity with the people and States negatively impacted by the illicit trade in conventional arms, particularly small arms and light weapons. It would respond to the aspiration of groups of States in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, as well as to the advocacy of international civil society and the media. He supported the humanitarian spirit that had guided the initiative and felt it was time to evolve the global benchmarks for arms transfers. Pakistan shared the view that steps must be taken to ensure that conventional arms were not used for terrorism, transnational organized crime or violation of international human rights or humanitarian law, or be illegally diverted.
However, he stressed that the arms trade treaty was “not an arms control or disarmament treaty”. Rather, it was about “responsible arms trade”. He regretted that it could not have been adopted by consensus and believed that a little more flexibility by all sides could have achieved that, thereby ensuring universality and more predictable implementation. Despite that it had not been possible to achieve consensus in the context of the Conference and that it had been transmitted to the General Assembly for action by a recorded vote, that procedure did not alter the rule of consensus established in the United Nations and other fora. The meaning of consensus — in the United Nations context — was generally understood as the adoption of a decision without formal objection or vote. The selective interpretation of the Rules of Procedure did not constitute a precedent for future multilateral negotiations.
Turning to key aspects that had not been taken on board, he said the treaty ignored the issue of “excessive production”, which was separate from trade in conventional arms. That was a serious omission that could impact the text’s effectiveness. Further, the treaty could be seen as a product of — and by — arms exporters, and perceived as not striking the necessary balance between the interests and obligations of exporters and importers, as well as affected States. The call for balance had been shared by the majority of States. For a treaty anchored in humanitarian ideals, it was ironic to see that arms exporters of some countries were protected.
Additionally, he said, the text had omitted some important definitions, which departed from established treaty practice. That could be used by exporters to circumvent its provisions. Also, there was a lack of accountability for exporters. While the text had created some responsibilities, it did not provide a clear accountability mechanism for exporters that might “flout” new responsibilities related to the criteria. A lack of oversight also could reinforce the idea that the treaty was unfairly tilted in favour of exporters. He hoped such concerns would be addressed and requested that his statement be reflected in the official records.
The General Assembly then adopted the Arms Trade Treaty contained in resolution A/67/L.58 by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 3 against (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria), with 23 abstentions.
By the resolution, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General, as depositary of the Treaty, to open it for signature on 3 June 2013, and called upon all States to consider signing and, thereafter, according to their respective constitutional processes, becoming parties to the Treaty at the earliest possible date. It further requested the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-eighth session on the status of signature and ratification of the Treaty.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Brazil, who had voted in favour, said she had actively participated in the arms trade treaty process since its early stages. Her delegation supported the adoption of an internationally legally binding multilateral instrument to regulate international transfers of conventional weapons as a means of reducing the likelihood of those weapons being diverted into the illicit market, by which they contributed to international conflict and fuelled armed violence.
She reaffirmed support for the text achieved in the Final Conference last week, even though some aspects would have contributed to an even stronger Treaty. Those included the unambiguous inclusion of ammunitions in the scope, a clear prohibition of transfers to non-State actors and the requirement of end-user certificates for all conventional weapons transfers.
The representative of India said that the draft resolution fell short of expectations of a clear, balanced and implementable text which would attract universal adherence and would make an impact, especially on terrorists and other unlawful actors. Unfortunately, the text was weak on terrorism and non-State actors. She said India could not accept that the Treaty would be used in the hands of exporting States as a political tool. The country had been an active participant in the negotiations and reiterated that there should be no conflict in the pursuit of national objectives and a fair and balanced treaty. The Indian Government would undertake a full assessment of the resolution in the context of its own defence and national interests. She had chosen to abstain from the vote.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Egypt said his delegation abstained to express its reservation on the principle of adopting an important international instrument on disarmament by a recorded vote. “This is a dangerous precedent that threatens to undermine the basis upon which most international agreements on disarmament are being developed,” he said.
Additionally, he said, the text that had just been adopted lacked several elements that would have helped to achieve the object and purpose of the Treaty, including the absence of definitions of important terms and concepts essential for implementation, such as “end use” and “end user”. The draft also lacked the criteria by which an exporter would determine the Treaty’s application. Further, non-cooperation with the United Nations Human Rights Council should constitute a serious violation that triggered prohibition. The inclusion of a clear reference to crimes of aggression and foreign occupation as part of that assessment would have clarified the implementation process, he added.
The representative of Belarus said his delegation had participated actively in the Final Arms Trade Treaty Conference, having made “every possible effort” to ensure a treaty was commensurate with its goal of preventing the trade of illegal arms. His delegation had submitted proposals to improve the draft text; some had been upheld, while others — the most substantive ones — had not. As such, Belarus could not express favour for the Treaty, especially as it did not contain a ban on arms shipments to non-State entities.
Also, he continued, the reference of international humanitarian and human rights law was unclear, as it was not agreed United Nations terminology, which left open the option for broad interpretation. There was also a lack of provisions for the need for exporters’ consent for re-export, which would allow for illicit trade. Such gaps had cast doubt over the effectiveness of international standards over the arms trade and their ability to prevent and eradicate it. Belarus, therefore, had abstained in the vote. The document would be considered by the countries’ authorities, and steps would be taken following their analysis.
The representative of China stressed that his delegation had consistently and constructively participated in the Treaty’s negotiations. With respect to the final draft put forward by the Conference President, China was not in favour of pushing a draft through the General Assembly that did not enjoy consensus. He expressed concern that such a method would negatively impact the principle of multilateral negotiations. To conclude a treaty, it was essential to reach consensus. Otherwise, universality of a treaty would not be achieved. Moreover, the text did not address some of China’s concerns, and along with the need to ensure that the modality did not constitute a precedent, China abstained.
The representative of Singapore, having voted in favour of the Treaty, said he looked forward to its practical and effective implementation based on universality. He expressed regret that the Treaty had not been adopted by consensus at the Conference. The text had certainly improved since last July, he said, but he was concerned that certain articles had been introduced later in the day on 28 March, with little room for debate. He had wished for more time, which would have made it possible to incorporate more views of States and facilitate wider acceptance of the text.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who voted “no”, shared the view of some delegations that the text was “imbalanced” and in the interest of exporters. Indeed, there was no balance in the interests of exporters and importers. Negotiations had started with the intentions of addressing two main issues: regulating trade and preventing diversion to non-State actors. Unfortunately, the text did not reflect those objectives. Exporters now had two “dimensions of interests”. There would be no limitations on their export and excessive production level, which was a great benefit and profit to them. In addition, there was no legal paragraph on non-State diversion, which served the interest of exporters, as well. Those represented “channels of commercial interest”, which he said “nobody can deny”.
A great number of States had insisted on including a provision prohibiting the transfer of weapons to non-State actors, he said. Many Latin American and African countries experienced the problems of illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, yet he was concerned over the possibility of the text’s “political manipulation”. According to the language of the Treaty, it was in the hands of individual exporters to judge whether importing countries had a “clear hand” in human rights; exporting countries had the “absolute right whether to export or not, reject or not, deny or not”. There was a great danger of political abuse and interference in internal affairs, he added.
The delegate of Malaysia said he voted in favour. While he recognized that the Treaty might not satisfy all Member States, the draft nevertheless had evolved. His Government now looked to the future and would consider domestic measures and legislation necessary to become a State party. It was up to each country to take steps towards ratification; there was no set timeline for doing so. He expected the Treaty to be implemented in a consistent, objective, and non-discriminatory manner so that it achieved its ultimate goal of setting the highest possible standards for regulating the international conventional arms trade.
The representative of United Arab Emirates said his country had voted in favour of the resolution, as it provided a way to regulate the international arms trade while respecting States’ rights to acquire weapons for self-defence. He urged enhancing confidence in the Treaty. The United Arab Emirates was satisfied with the inclusion of elements that had not been part of the original draft, but which had had a decisive effect on consensus.
At the same time, he said, associating with the concerns to be expressed by Lebanon as the Chair of the Arab Group, the Treaty did not include provisions guaranteeing the right of peoples under foreign occupation to self-determination. Nor did it reject foreign occupation and the acquisition of territory by force. Further, it did not have a formula for guaranteeing financing technical cooperation.
The representative of Lebanon said her country was a small one and suffered from the loss of life of its citizens, due to the proliferation of weapons. Lebanon had always stressed the importance of arriving at an international arms trade treaty. Lebanon presided over the Arab Group in New York and had voted in favour of the text.
The representative of Eritrea said he hoped for a treaty that was “immune” to political abuse and which would eradicate the diversion of arms to illicit users. Unfortunately, however, the final text of the Arms Trade Treaty failed to take into account the constructive proposals and legitimate concerns of several delegations, including his own. More flexibility and time would have allowed States to address the deficiencies in the existing draft text and achieve a universal treaty. However, despite cooperation for international peace and security and with the understanding that the Treaty’s provisions would be implemented consistent with the Charter and would not in any way restrict the right of every nation to self-defence, he had supported it. That positive vote should not prejudice Eritrea’s position with regard to the final status of the Treaty; the final text would be examined thoroughly by relevant Government bodies in accordance with national defence and security needs.
The representative of Iran said he had voted “no” on the draft, owing to “legal flaws and loopholes”, which made the text fall short of meeting expectations and objectives. Despite the legitimate demands by a large number of States, it failed to incorporate the prohibition of the transfer of conventional arms to aggressors and foreign occupiers. He asked: “How can we reduce human suffering by turning a blind eye to aggression that may cost the lives of thousands of innocent people? Are we rewarding aggressors by not prohibiting the transfer of arms to them?” That legal flaw was “totally unacceptable” for his delegation, and was a main source of his objection to the Treaty.
He said that while regulating all international conventional arms transfers was supposed to be the Treaty’s main goal, the text was not applicable to the international movement of conventional arms by, or on behalf of, a State party for its use. Those weapons in some cases had been used to commit aggression and occupation, causing human loss and destruction of economic infrastructure in several countries, including in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The text also fell short of recognizing the inherent right of States to acquire, produce, export, import and transfer of conventional arms required for the realization of the inalienable right of any State to security and self-defence. While the right of individuals to trade, ownership and use of guns had been well-protected in the text to meet the constitutional requirements of one State, despite serious demands by many, the inalienable right to self-determination of peoples under foreign occupation or colonial domination had been completely ignored to “appease a notorious occupying Power”, he said.
The Treaty provided a “legal blank check” to arms exporting countries to apply any measure and standard, he continued. The rights of importing States to acquire and import arms for their security needs was subjected to discretionary judgment and the extremely subjective assessment of exporting States. “This is why this text is highly “abusable” and susceptible to politicization, manipulation and discrimination.” While numerous major documents of the United Nations reaffirmed that States had the responsibility in exercising restraint over the production and transfer of conventional arms, despite repeated calls by many countries, the text failed to address that important aspect.
Despite strong calls by many delegations and submission of concrete proposals, minimum changes had been made to the text, he said. In some instances new concepts, paragraphs and phrases had been added that had never been presented, even orally by any delegation, during the consultations. Legal flaws, loopholes and other deficiencies were the result, as the established process of the United Nations to conduct negotiations in an open and transparent manner had been overlooked. Certain delegates who made an attempt to redefine consensus need not forget that equality of States was the guiding principle at the United Nations, and, therefore, the voice of every country, regardless of size, location or population, must be heard and its vote counted.
ROBERTO DONDISCH ( Mexico), speaking on behalf of 96 States, said that today, the General Assembly had made a historic achievement. After years of hard work, a strong Arms Trade Treaty had been produced, culminating in its adoption today. Now, its effective implementation would make a real difference for the people of the world. The Treaty prohibited conventional arms transfers when they violated relevant international treaty obligations, including those contained in human rights treaties. It also prohibited all transfers that would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes in all types of armed conflict. Any transfer that had the potential to lead to negative consequences, such as serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law, should not be authorized, and the risk of diversion had to be assessed.
The Treaty would enable regulation of all international transfers of all conventional arms, he said, adding that national control lists should be comprehensive. The Treaty enhanced transparency and strengthened accountability by making key information available. The final text did not fully meet everyone’s expectations, however, it was stronger, and through its implementation, it would adapt to future developments. “This is just the beginning,” he said, adding that “the hard work starts now”. He called for the Treaty’s rapid entry into force and its speedy implementation.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica), speaking also on behalf of Argentina, Australia, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom, said countless people deserved credit for what had been achieved today, starting with the group of eight Nobel Peace Laureates led by former Costa Rica President Óscar Arias. Hundreds of diplomats, campaigners, victims and politicians had devoted their lives to the pursuit of today’s Treaty. Their names might not be immortalized in newsprint, but their hard work and belief in the importance of the effort had made it possible to reach this point. They could be proud of what had been achieved today, he said.
The United Nations, he said, had reminded that, together, “we can confront the most dire and complex of problems”. With today’s adoption, the Organization had shown it remained indispensable for achieving peace and security in the twenty-first century. The text established the first truly global standards for the arms trade, reaffirming the United Nations’ commitment to human rights and humanitarian law. However, “our work cannot stop now”; today’s adoption was only one landmark on the long journey to a safer, more just world.
The Treaty was strong, but together, States must make it even more powerful he said. Indeed, they were called to this work by the millions of people who needlessly had lost their lives because of the small arms and light weapons flowing unrestricted across borders. Today’s achievement would not be forgotten; its true measure would come in the lives it saved. “We came here to make history,” he said. “We succeeded.” And if States stayed the course, the reward would be a world closer to the peace all nations deserved.
EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Treaty’s adoption reaffirmed faith in both multilateralism and the United Nations in establishing legally binding rules for relations among States. “Today’s action represents an important first step towards closing a significant lacuna in the international legal order,” he said. There was now a global instrument, which had the potential to supplement efforts to prevent the diversion of conventional arms — including of their ammunition, parts, and components — to the illicit market. The Treaty also could help to maximize the use of existing agreements, as well as the conclusion of new ones for mutual legal assistance in investigations and prosecutions for treaty violations.
“We are proud to be part of this history-making exercise,” he said, noting that the Treaty identified clear obligations for States to prevent the diversion of conventional arms into the illicit market. However, he was disappointed by the exclusion of ammunition, parts and components from the articles on diversion and scope. For its part, CARICOM States had always adhered to the rule of law in their relations with other countries and, as such, welcomed provisions that prohibited a State party from authorizing a weapons transfer if that would violate non-derogable international legal norms.
The Treaty also contained examples of the necessary compromises made, he said, noting that not everything in the text was “totally acceptable” to CARICOM. He lamented, for example, the absence of a stronger focus on customary international law. On balance, however, CARICOM could endorse many elements, which had led it to support the text. It was CARICOM’s understanding that the concept of “object and purpose” was not confined to one article, even if that article was titled “Object and Purpose”. He urged future States parties to apply the Treaty in a non-discriminatory manner and resist the temptation to exploit any loopholes.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of Delegation, European Union, expressed “great satisfaction” at the adoption of a “balanced and robust” Arms Trade Treaty, which had emerged from seven longs years of negotiations. “This Treaty is the product of a comprehensive and inclusive process,” he said, which allowed all States to express their views and see them reflected in the final text adopted today. The international community could claim full ownership of the “landmark” global instrument. The Treaty would make trade in conventional arms more responsible and transparent, reduce human suffering and contribute to international peace and security.
Further, he said, the text contained strong parameters on international humanitarian and human rights law, and covered a range of arms, including ammunition and parts and components. There were also transparency provisions. The Treaty would be able to adapt to future developments, including technological ones, and several of its elements allowed for meeting the “ambitious” goal set by the Assembly in previous resolutions. It established the highest common international standards for the international transfer of conventional arms. The European Union had played a crucial role throughout the process and would continue to be engaged in its next stages to ensure the Treaty’s swift entry into force, universalization and support for its effective implementation by all States.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia), speaking also on behalf of the Bahamas, Belize, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay, said at this political juncture, the text today was the best that could have been achieved. It created a common international regime to regulate the arms trade and offered the chance to further develop a more robust control regime, notably through amendments to the Treaty and adjustments to implementation at the Conferences of States Parties.
He looked forward to the revision of the Treaty’s scope to include more clearly other conventional weapons, such as hand grenades, mines and explosives. Indeed, his region suffered daily the negative impacts of illicit trafficking, especially in small arms and light weapons, which was why it had strongly advocated for a “meaningful” arms trade treaty. He appreciated that several of his delegation’s suggestions throughout the negotiation process had been incorporated.
He particularly welcomed the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the Treaty’s scope and the ways all those arms would be regulated by States parties. He invited future States parties to apply — to the fullest extent possible — all Treaty provisions, including those related to munitions and ammunition, as well as parts and components. For the Treaty to have a positive impact on the ground, he urged ensuring its rapid entry into force and effective implementation.
CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon), on behalf of the Arab Group, said her delegation had already expressed its position regarding the Final Arms Trade Treaty Conference, as well as on the text, which had been recorded. The Group would have been ready to “press ahead” and join consensus — had it been achieved in line with resolution 67/234 — out of a desire to acknowledge the efforts by the Conference President. However, the text did not satisfy the demands voiced throughout the negotiations. He underlined in that regard the importance of taking into account the interests of all States — not just those of major exporting and producing States — and incorporating the inalienable right of all peoples living under foreign occupation to self-determination. Yet, that was not mentioned.
She also cited a need for dispute settlement machinery for importing States; it was important to avoid politicization of the text’s implementation. Financing technical cooperation should come through the major producing and exporting States. Also, the phrase “end user” must replace “end use” in the text. The Treaty’s entry into force hinged on its endorsement by a sufficient number of States, taking into consideration that an endorsement by major producing, exporting and importing States would contribute to its effectiveness. The reporting mechanism lacked a way for exporting States to present sufficient information rejecting the import or transport of weapons. Also, the text had dropped a reference to voluntary reporting.
On another issue, she said the League of Arab States had emphasized that the acceptance of Israel’s credentials to the Final Arms Trade Treaty Conference, which were signed in Jerusalem, did not mean recognition by the League or the international community of Israel’s “illegal status quo” in Jerusalem, including the allegation that Jerusalem was the capital thereof. The political understanding that had taken place with regard to the State of Palestine and the Holy See at the Conference — as well as the credentials matter — were exceptional, one-time arrangements and could in no way constitute a precedent for future conferences.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( C ôte d’Ivoire), on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said the uncontrolled accumulation of arms was the most serious threat to international peace and security. Since 2006, his region had a convention on small arms and light weapons, and their ammunition. But regional measures were insufficient. What was needed was greater international awareness and, in that light, he supported an arms trade treaty that was open to all, on the understanding that both exporting and importing countries should limit the number of conflicts and create conditions for lasting peace and security.
He said that the final text did not reflect some of his delegation’s concerns, including a ban on arms transfers to non-State entities; the adoption of a broader scope of conventional arms, including munitions; and the exclusion of ammunition, parts and components from the articles on diversion and scope. Despite its limitations, it contained “significant” steps forward. One article opened the possibility for improving the Treaty by focusing on issues that had yet to be resolved. ECOWAS had approved the Treaty on 28 March and was committed to facing future challenges.
TSUNEO NISHIDA ( Japan) said “this is what Japan has advocated for years”, referring to the Treaty just adopted. It would prevent the transfer of arms into the wrong hands through implementation of standards of both international humanitarian law and human rights law, which both States and civil society members had referred to as “golden rules.” With the Treaty’s adoption, a solid basis had been laid to assess whether States were conducting their arms transfers responsibly or not. With its scope of items and activities covered, States could be held accountable for their actions.
Throughout negotiations, he noted, Japan had attached particular importance to enhancing transparency and strengthening accountability through a reporting mechanism. The Treaty would contribute to building confidence among States, and the sharing of national control lists would provide both predictability and transparency of arms transfers. However, he said: “We now have the floor and not the ceiling.” In order for the treaty to be better implemented, each State could do more than what the instrument prescribed. International cooperation and assistance were essential. “The process of creating the treaty may have ended today, but the journey of perfecting the framework of regulating the global arms trade has just begun,” he said.
JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA ( Uruguay) said his delegation, as a co-sponsor of the Treaty, was pleased with its adoption, as there was now a legally binding instrument for the international conventional arms trade. Uruguay had participated constructively in the talks. It had aspired to have a more comprehensive text at the end of the Final Conference, but the final draft was all that could be achieved. With it, there would be greater transparency and more responsible arms trade. Several provisions had the full backing of his delegation, including articles and provisions relating to ammunition and munitions and human rights law. He stressed the importance of implementation at the national level as a next step, which required adjustments in national legislation. Uruguay was opposed to reservations, for the sake of the Treaty’s integrity, which his country would be vigilant to protect. He called on all States to initiate the process of ratification promptly.
ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said that her country was proud to have co-sponsored and voted for a strong, balanced, implementable Arms Trade Treaty. No nation had gotten everything it had sought; however, the result would “raise the bar and common standard” for regulating the trade in conventional arms, without hampering the legitimate international trade. The consensus rule remained important for the United States, as the United Nations was most effective when it was able to take decisions by consensus. “This treaty sets a floor, not a ceiling” for the responsible international trade in conventional arms. It provides a clear standard for when a conventional weapons transfer is absolutely prohibited, establishing a specific prohibition when a State party knows that arms would be used for the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Taken together, the Treaty’s articles provide a “robust and complementary” framework that would ensure responsible behaviour by States parties.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland) said that the Treaty set a new standard for the responsible transfer of all conventional weapons. In particular, article 6.3 was an important contribution to the effort to reduce the humanitarian and developmental impacts resulting from the misuse of conventional arms. While the provision was not as comprehensive or as detailed as Switzerland would have liked, it did encompass the relevant crimes — in particular war crimes — which were typically committed with conventional arms. It reaffirmed that war crimes could be committed, not only in international armed conflicts, but also in armed conflicts of a non-international character. The words “other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party” encompassed, among other things, serious violations of common article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions — instruments that enjoyed universality.
Finally, he said, it was the delegation’s understanding that nothing in the Treaty should be interpreted as limiting or prejudicing existing or developing rules of international law for purposes other than the Treaty, and that the rules of customary international law remained fully applicable to all States irrespective of the Treaty.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said that creating the Treaty had been exceptionally difficult because it entailed producing language that took account of States’ diverse interests. Despite hard work, the Treaty fell short of achieving consensus. Although the Final Conference had not been able to adopt the text last Thursday, it had come to fruition in a matter of days. “What we have now is indeed a good deal,” he said, adding that it was better than the text of last July.
He highlighted the importance that all States interpret the Treaty in a consistent way. Transfers should be interpreted to include gifts, loans and leases. Similarly, the Treaty addressed transfers of all conventional weapons, without exception, including small arms and light weapons, to which his delegation attached importance because they were “weapons of mass destruction”. The concept of “overriding” risk would be interpreted by New Zealand as “substantial” risk. Transparency was pivotal; there was no justification of holding information mentioned in the Treaty. His Government would work towards ratification and was keen to see the threshold of 50 countries needed for the Treaty’s entry into force reached promptly.
JOANNE ADAMSON ( United Kingdom) said she and other delegates were disappointed last Thursday when the adoption of the Treaty had been deferred. Today, her nation’s Prime Minister and other top officials were watching anxiously the development in the General Assembly. What had been achieved today “is a great success” and the United Kingdom was extremely proud of the outcome. There was now a strong text that would positively impact the future generation. The Treaty marked a milestone, she said, stressing that team efforts should continue, involving diplomats, members of civil society and industry, as well as politicians. Paying tribute to everyone involved in the process, she said her message was: “Let’s move forward, don’t look back with anger.”
GARY QUINLAN (Australia), associating himself with the co-sponsors, said that the adoption of the Treaty was not just a victory for the United Nations, but for the millions of people around the world who were, every minute, affected by armed violence as a consequence of illicit arms trafficking. “It will save lives,” he declared, adding that the Treaty was strong, balanced and established the highest possible regulatory, transparency and international humanitarian and human rights standards for the international trade in conventional arms. With the effective control on ammunition, the large number of illicit arms already in circulation would become less of a threat. The Treaty also included amendment provisions so that it could develop and be improved.
He said that his country’s commitment to an arms trade treaty had, from the outset, been driven primarily by humanitarian concerns. “We owe it to the millions — often the most vulnerable in society — whose lives have been overshadowed by the irresponsible and illicit international trade in arms,” he said, calling the Treaty’s adoption today a “historic milestone”. To be effective, and to make a real difference to the lives of millions affected by the illicit arms trafficking, the text needed to be implemented. Australia was committed to assisting less developed countries in that process.
TERJE HAUGE ( Norway) said that “this is truly a historic day”. After many years of hard work and two failed attempts, the United Nations had finally reached its goal and concluded an arms trade treaty. Norway was satisfied that human rights and humanitarian law had been given such a strong and prominent place in the treaty text, and felt that the provisions regarding prohibitions and export assessment reflected those bodies of law in a comprehensive manner. “We are also pleased that the risk of gender-based violence and violence against women and children is among the criteria that have to be assessed before authorizing an export,” he said.
The provisions on transfers, he noted, pertained to serious violations of all obligations under international instruments, which clearly included human rights obligations, and prohibited transfers that would be used for the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In addition, the Treaty laid down an unequivocal obligation not to authorize a transfer if there was an overriding risk of negative consequences, such as violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in addition to Treaty obligations on terrorism and transnational organized crime.
MIGUEL BERGER ( Germany) said that the United Nations had acknowledged its responsibility today — a day would enter the books of history as an important milestone. Given the choice between adopting the text or shying away from their responsibilities, States had made the right decision. As mentioned by the United Kingdom’s representative last week, today’s adoption had truly been “success deferred”. Aligning with Mexico on behalf of a large number of States, he said that “we have a good treaty before us” that included international human rights and humanitarian law, and provisions to prevent the risk of diversion. The Treaty would send a strong message to the international community and would give no opportunity to pursue illegal business.
Also welcome, he said, was that the text left room for future developments, regarding both technology and implementation. It was a carefully crafted compromise between all negotiating parties across the spectrum. The Treaty would not only benefit the current generation, but also future generations. “We have come a very long way […] coming from very different corners,” but the common journey must continue if it was to bring to fruition all the efforts. Germany would continue with even more vigour when it came to bringing the Treaty to life, by expediting as swiftly as possible the implementation of its most important provisions, even before its entry into force. It would also assist countries that requested help in setting up effective control systems. “Brave diplomacy has fortunately prevailed,” he concluded.
MARTIN BRIENS ( France) agreed that the United Nations stood at a historic moment. The Treaty was adopted at a particularly sensitive time. The Conference had brought about a consensus among all States, with one exception: those States that were already in violation of international law. In that regard, it was a true demonstration of political unity. The United Nations had shown that it was capable of true multilateralism, and had adopted a “bold” treaty on conventional arms that placed humanitarian law and human rights at its centre and set a foundation for defeating terrorist groups and transnational organized crime.
He said that the compromise that had emerged did not forfeit important elements of the text, including combating illicit diversion and concerns related to transhipment and brokerage. He agreed with several previous speakers that it was important to find a balance between importers and exporters. He commended the Treaty for its essential inclusion of small arms and light weapons, which were responsible for the greatest number of victims.
ENRIQUE ROMAN-MOREY ( Peru) said that the General Assembly had just adopted the Arms Trade Treaty by an overwhelming majority, describing it as “a historic milestone”. Recognizing two weeks of intensive negotiations, he reiterated the importance of multilateralism in such negotiations. Despite the difficult task of dealing with sensitive issues, the exercise had been productive. Accommodating the opinions of more than 190 States “was no easy task”. Although the text did not satisfy all, it at least found a common denominator. The Treaty could have been more robust, he said, adding that he was also concerned about abstentions by some major exporters. Peru would adjust domestic regulations to ratify the Treaty, and he called on the major exporters to help “get this machinery in motion” by ratifying it. The Treaty must also be updated so that it would not become obsolete.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) recognized the skilful stewardship of the Conference President and the efforts made by his predecessor, and described the adoption of the Treaty as “a historic moment” and the “combination of years of work in New York and delegations’ capitals”. It was regrettable that the Treaty had not been adopted by consensus, but its adoption had, nevertheless, been a major achievement. Today, a new stage had begun towards the regime’s prompt entry into force, its implementation and attainment of its universality.
For Guatemala, he said, the Treaty was a priority because the country had suffered from the lack of regulations for the conventional arms trade. A balanced document would have made a real difference to the millions of people affected by armed violence and conflict. His delegation would have liked to see some additional elements in the text, including more comprehensive description of ammunition, munitions and parts and components, with regard to their diversion.
LEVENT ELER ( Turkey) said that his delegation had both co-sponsored and voted in favour of the Arms Trade Treaty. While imperfect, it would fill an important void in regulating international arms transfers through common standards, and it would help to build confidence. But, its real strength would be in its universalization and implementation. In that regard, he invited all States to implement it in good faith.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile), joining with Colombia and Mexico, said that, here in the General Assembly, “we are reaching the completion of a historic phase of work” to regulate the international arms trade, to improve transparency and to combat the negative effects of weapons diversion. It was deplorable that, despite the calls of a majority of States, it had been impossible to adopt the text by consensus last week. Nevertheless, today’s vote was an overwhelming expression of approval.
He said that while the text did not fully meet Chile’s aspirations and expectations, the delegation believed that it was a “significant step in the right direction”. Moreover, it was the product of the constructive sprit shown by the majority of delegations throughout the Conference. It should be seen as a threshold — indeed, as a “minimum common denominator” in the regulation of the global arms trade. Going forward, the Treaty’s scope must be improved, both in terms of the weapons covered and the effectiveness of its criteria. Like other speakers, he called for the text’s immediate implementation.
ANTONIO BERNARDINI Italy, associating with the statements made by the representatives of the European Union and Mexico, said the Treaty would contribute to combating illicit trafficking and the diversion of conventional arms to the illicit market. It would also make a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, especially the most vulnerable ones, and those affected by the worst types of violence. The Treaty was adopted at a time of convergence of international efforts on peace and security, rule of law, human rights and development. He encouraged delegations to build on that momentum and commit to mainstream the Treaty into the United Nations agenda. “We are ready, with like-minded partners, to get off to a good start,” he said. It was the responsibility of the international community to work hard to ensure the Treaty’s early entry into force and implementation.
GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR ( Iceland), aligning with a political declaration made by Mexico, thanked the 100 delegations who had supported the initiatives to make gender-based violence a binding criteria for arms export. Gender-based violence and violence against children must be taken into account in all export assessments. Article 7.4 obligated States parties, as part of an export assessment process, to take into account the risk that conventional arms, ammunition, munitions, parts and components would be used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence, or serious acts of violence against women and children. A State might not authorize a transfer where there was a risk.
She underscored the importance of addressing gender-based violence and where it was not covered by international human rights or humanitarian law, it must still be taken into account. Its explicit inclusion in article 7.4 obliged States parties to use due diligence to prevent the diversion of conventional arms to non-State actors, who might use them to commit gender-based violence.
BOUCHAIB ELOUMNI ( Morocco) said the treaty was not ideal as it lacked balance and excluded references to some important principles. “Yet, the Treaty is the best that could be achieved on the basis of consensus,” he said, expressing his belief in that consensus and in multilateral action under United Nations auspices. Humanitarian aspects of the Treaty had garnered his delegation’s support.
He added that exporting States “bear specific responsibility in implementing the Treaty in a just, equitable and transparent manner”, and thus, it was important for all States that exported conventional arms to accede to the Treaty. Assistance and cooperation, including funding as appropriate, must be given priority attention in implementation. Lastly, he acknowledged the role of civil society in the Treaty’s adoption.
ROBERT G. AISI (Papua New Guinea) said that today’s historic decision would help to save millions of lives and minimize, and even prevent, human suffering. The Treaty would further strengthen international peace, stability and security in a dynamically evolving world. The text was robust, broad and fairly representative of the international community’s shared interests. “It is a living document that will evolve and further strengthen in the years ahead,” he said. Indeed, Papua New Guinea was satisfied with the Treaty as it captured many of its national concerns, especially on small arms and light weapons, ammunition, munitions and parts and components, which continued to pose national security challenges.
He said his delegation also welcomed the provisions on accountability, transparency and international humanitarian and human rights law, which would bolster international efforts to curb the illicit arms use. “We are also pleased that the sovereign right of States in dealing with conventional arms is recognized under the Treaty,” as those elements were fundamental for its success.
NICOLAS WEEKS ( Sweden), joining with the European Union and Mexico, said that what had been achieved was something “very special”: a treaty that held the promise of having a real impact on the lives of people in all corners of the globe. Sweden regretted that some participants did not feel able to accept the result of the negotiations, but they should remember that the Conference’s mandate had been to produce a strong, balanced arms trade treaty — and it had done that. Nevertheless, “we should be sparing in our assessments today”; the Treaty would not have the desired effect unless it was broadly implemented. Sweden stood ready to join in the efforts that began now, namely, to ratify the Treaty and to support its implementation to enable it to have the real impact the world needed.
STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein) said that the result of the Conference’s compromise was still a strong treaty — in fact, one which was much stronger than what would have been adopted in July last year. Concerning article 7.3 on export assessments, which required exporting States to make an assessment of risk, his delegation had expressed concern that the term “overriding risk” was somewhat vague. However, after some review of the text in the various official languages of the United Nations, Liechtenstein now felt that the issue had been properly addressed. In French, for example, the term was literally translated as “preponderant” risk; such language made clear that, when making a risk assessment, only negative consequences should be taken into account, and no other factors. Lichtenstein looked forward to a speedy ratification process and an early entry into force.
MARCELO ELISEO SCAPPINI RICCIARDI ( Paraguay) highlighted the unprecedented nature of the Treaty’s adoption, following seven years of negotiations. “Everyone wanted to adopt it by consensus,” but there was an alternative pathway for a difficult treaty. The United Nations was able to act in a timely fashion. His delegation had carefully heard delegates say the document had not been ready, as well as others say people in their nations were suffering due to the lack of regulation of the conventional arms trade. Noting that the third text had taken those voices into account, he called for its prompt ratification and implementation.
DAVID ROBIN WENSLEY ( South Africa) said the country’s approach had continued to be that of achieving a strong and robust treaty. The Treaty was an international instrument that filled a glaring gap in the global conventional arms control system. It set high norms and criteria that States would adhere to when considering arms transfers and would, therefore, aim to prevent the illicit trade of such weapons. The central pillar of the Treaty would be premised on the requirement that prospective States parties should establish, where they did not already exist, effective national conventional arms transfer control legislation, designated arms control systems, as well as official national administrative guidelines, national inspectorates and practical enforcement measures, including punitive measures for transgressions. The Treaty’s success would be based largely on its provisions relating to implementation, including regular follow-up meetings of States parties and periodic review conferences.
SHIN DONG-IK (Republic of Korea) said that, during negotiations, each delegation had compromised as much as possible within its mandate. Indeed, by adopting the Treaty today, “we are one big step closer to our objective of controlling the global trade in conventional arms”. The Treaty allowed each State to comprehend clearly what must be done on the ground, he said, stressing that it was time to make the Conference’s efforts meaningful by facilitating the text’s rapid entry into force.
ANNE ANDERSON ( Ireland), aligning with the European Union, said that the Treaty had the capacity to make a major contribution to international peace and stability. It contained provisions that, if implemented, would reduce human suffering and save lives. “We have also made this a living treaty, enabling us to make it stronger and, through its implementation, adapt to future developments.” While Ireland would have preferred the text to go further in some areas, it recognized that it represented a compromise. She hoped that that compromise would enable as many States as possible to sign and ratify it, so that the essential work of implementation could begin. “We have made a good start today,” she said. The focus should now turn to securing the Treaty’s early entry into force. Ireland looked forward to working with all States parties to “make the difference in people’s lives that we committed ourselves to at the start of this process”.
ANTÓNIO COELHO RAMOS DA CRUZ ( Angola), explaining why he had abstained, said his Government had had some reservations at first because the document had not been adopted by consensus, and it was of the view that an instrument of that magnitude and scope should be a consensual adoption. But “we need to move forward”, he said. Angola had been fighting tirelessly to promote peace and security in Africa and its subregion, and his Government felt the Treaty was an important tool to prevent proliferation of conflict in Africa.
He had wished to see provisions addressing the issue of access to arms by non-State actors, as well as the right to defend own territorial integrity. Angola had clear regulations regarding illicit trade of arms within its territory. “We stand ready to work closely and collaboratively with the international community to see full implementation of the Treaty,” he said, adding that his Government was joining the overwhelming majority of Member States by voting “yes”.
FRANCIS ASSISI CHULLIKATT (Holy See) said that arms trade could not be regarded as a legitimate economic pursuit like any other. “No transfer of arms was ever to be considered morally indifferent,” he said. Paramount in all instances of arms transfers must be the duty to avoid or reduce to a minimum all human suffering and loss of life. Arbitrary arms transfer remained a grave threat to peace and development, particularly in poorer regions. To the extent to which some of those principles found reflection in the Treaty, he viewed its adoption as a step towards establishing globally a culture of responsibility and accountability.
However, he said, there remained considerable gaps in the text, particularly with regard to an emphasis more on States’ prerogatives than on people’s dignity and human rights. There was also a predominance of commercial and economic considerations and an inadequate attention to, among others, victim assistance. He called on States to establish the political, social and moral conditions that reduced the demand for arms. Touching on certain provisions, he said he understood that the purpose of article 1 on “reducing human suffering” to include, fundamentally, the protection of human life. The inclusion in the text of only a single type of violence, namely gender-based violence, was a discriminatory disservice to the victims of atrocities who were targeted on account of their ethnicity or race, or political, religious or other beliefs. All forms of violence must be given weight.
Vote on Arms Trade Treaty
The draft resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty (document A/67/L.58) was adopted by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 3 against, with 23 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Zambia.
Against: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria.
Abstain: Angola, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Oman, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Yemen.
Absent: Armenia, Cape Verde, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.
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For information media • not an official record