The 2nd of April 2014 marked the first year anniversary of the adoption of the historic Arms Trade Treaty by the UN General Assembly. For the occasion, a ceremony was held at the UN Headquarters in New York, where 18 countries also jointly deposited their instruments of ratification to the Treaty.
Moderated by the Office of Disarmament affairs, The Deputy Secretary- General, Jan Eliasson, made a short statement at the ceremony in which he lauded how the ATT is proof that change can come, and how the UN should continue to aspire to achieve such results. He commended how the ATT has the power to make a difference on the ground, and will benefit UN operations in its peacekeeping missions, protecting civilians and fostering the rule of law. The Deputy Secretary-General called on all states that have not yet done so to sign and/or ratify the ATT without delay.
The involvement of Civil Society in the development of the ATT has been very significant. The Director of the Control Arms Coalition, Anna MacDonald, made a short statement where she applauded the UN Member States that participated in the ratification ceremony today, including 5 of the world’s ten biggest arms exporters. She called upon all those governments who have not yet ratified to “urgently get their legislation in place.” She noted that if the goal of 50 ratifying States could be reached by June, the entry into force of the Treaty would coincide with the one-year anniversary of when the ATT was opened for signature. She promised the continued involvement of civil society along with governments and the UN to ensure effective monitoring of the Treaty and support its implementation.
In a brief ceremony, Croatia, Bulgaria, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the UK jointly deposited their Arms Trade Treaty ratification documents with the United Nations, bringing the total up to 31 ratified countries. (Fifty ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.)
Regional groups made short remarks as well. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) strongly applauded the additional ratifications that had that day more than doubled the number of State Parties. The representative noted that CARICOM had organized workshops to help States ratify the Treaty, and would continue doing so in the future.
The European Union (EU) mentioned how the EU Council had adopted the ATT to align with its European Security Strategy, and encouraged all EU States to ratify.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also commended the ceremony and its representative said that ECOWAS had high hopes for the ATT and its ability to provide more safety for civilians.
The Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Virginia Gamba, made the closing remarks, in which she emphasized the important role civil society has played and should continue to play. She also announced that UNSCAR, the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Conventional Arms Regulation, would fund more than 10 projects that would facilitate the ratification and implementation of the ATT. Confident of the progress in the ratification process, she concluded by saying that she hoped to fully celebrate the historic entry into force of the Treaty in the second half of this year.
Following the event, the European countries that had participated issued a Joint Communique.
Article by Nathalie Van Raemdonck and Aoi Sato
Photographs by Control Arms/Champion Hamilton