For Immediate Release: Oct. 15, 2009
Media Contacts: Jeff Abramson, Deputy Director, (202-463-8270 ext. 109).
(Washington, D.C.): Arms control experts welcomed yesterday's statement by the United States supporting a legally binding treaty to regulate the trade of conventional weapons. The United States was the only country to vote against two previous UN resolutions related to the treaty, but yesterday the Obama administration expressed support for a UN process that could lead to negotiation of such a treaty in 2012
"The United States is the world's top arms dealer as well as a leader in export controls. On those grounds alone, the administration's decision to support a treaty process is a very positive step," said Jeff Abramson, deputy director of the Arms Control Association.
"An Arms Trade Treaty will provide the foundation for a much needed international regulatory framework for the arms trade. Many countries have effective export control measures in place, but many others lack even the basic legislation. These loopholes need to be closed as they pose a risk for not only people, but governments and legitimate companies. Active U.S. participation in creating as strong and robust a treaty as possible will be absolutely crucial," said Anne-Charlotte Merrell Wetterwik, research associate at the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia.
"A robust arms trade treaty has the potential to curb some of the world's worse suffering by creating a sorely missed global norm for conventional arms transfers," Abramson added.
"While many arms sales are totally appropriate, the irresponsible and under-regulated global arms trade drives conflicts in troubled regions the world over and undermines human rights and sustainable development. Washington and other arms suppliers have the responsibility to act and act quickly to save lives and support development," said Scott Stedjan, senior policy advisor at Oxfam America.
A draft resolution being considered in the UN First Committee would convert the four remaining sessions of a UN-sponsored open-ended group into preparatory committee meetings leading up to a 2012 UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. A recent version of the draft included a provision that the 2012 conference "will take decisions on the basis of consensus," widely seen as a concession to U.S. demands.
"As long as that Conference operates under the rule of consensus decision-making needed to ensure that all countries can be held to standards that will actually improve the global situation by denying arms to those who would abuse them, the United States will actively support the negotiations," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a written statement yesterday.
"The U.S. goal to raise global standards is laudable, but its insistence on consensus is likely to prove counterproductive," Daryl G. Kimball, ACA executive director, argued. "It will give any country that wants to derail the process an opportunity to do so."
"Whether or not this resolution passes, the United States now must proactively and cooperatively engage with countries around the world to create a workable, robust treaty," Kimball said.
In 2006, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 61/89, entitled "Toward an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." The resolution led to the submission of views from approximately 100 states on the feasibility and parameters for a treaty, as well as the establishment of a group of governmental experts to which the U.S. decided to participate at the last minute. In December 2008, the General Assembly passed Resolution 63/240 establishing an open-ended working group to meet for six one-week sessions during 2009-2011. The United States voted against both resolutions. One reason cited by U.S. representatives for voting "no" in 2008 was that the resolution did not state that work be done on a consensus basis. Nonetheless, U.S. representatives did participate in this year's two open-ended working group meetings.
Resolution drafts are due today to the UN First Committee, which concludes its meetings on November 3. Committee recommendations are typically referred to and later approved by the entire General Assembly.
Arms Trade Treaty resource page <<http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/116/date>>
Statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, October 14 <<http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/10/130573.htm>>