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– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Arms Experts Urge States to Move Treaty Forward to UNGA for Approval and Signature
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Arms Experts Welcome New Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Text and Urge States to Move Treaty Forward to UNGA for Approval and Signature

For Immediate Release: March 28, 2013, 7:30pm EST         
Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270, ext. 107

(United Nations, NY)--Today, the independent, Arms Control Association welcomed the new, compromise Arms Trade Treaty text that has emerged from two intense weeks of final negotiations and years of multilateral talks among the 193 members states of the United Nations.

"The treaty represents an important, historic step forward in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent, U.S.-based Arms Control Association.

"The ATT will set a new global standard and new sense of responsibility for all types of arms transfers and ammunition exports. The new treaty says to every United Nations member that you cannot simply 'export and forget,'" he said.

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, a handful of states objected to the text -- Iran, North Korea, and Syria -- and blocked the adoption of the text by consensus. India also expressed strong objections to the text, largely on the basis its concern about how the treaty will affect its defense cooperation agreements and ability to buy conventional weapons. India is one of the world's largest arms purchasers.

However, the governments of Kenya, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Finland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in a joint statement that the will of the majority cannot be blocked by a small number of states and they formally requested that the UN Secretary General bring the treaty forward to the UN General Assembly for consideration "as soon as possible."

The Kenyan delegate said: "The people of the world need this treaty. This is a strong text. The time for a strong Arms Trade Treaty is now." The U.K. delegate declared that: "Today is success deferred and not for very long."

"We agree. The vast majority of states can and should take the Arms Trade Treaty forward to the United Nations General Assembly for endorsement as early as next week and, later, for its opening for signature," Kimball said.

"We commend the strong leadership of the United States and other treaty supporters to move forward on the new Arms Trade Treaty, which will strengthen, global security, raise the standards for global arms transfers, and fulfill our responsibility to protect civilians from armed conflict," Kimball said.

"The United States played a key role in shaping this historic, first-ever global Arms Trade Treaty. President Obama should help move the treaty forward to a conclusion and be among the first to sign the pact," he said.

"While text could have been more comprehensive, the ATT is strong and effective and will make an important difference in the lives of people across the globe," Kimball said.

The new Arms Trade Treaty will establish common international standards that must be met before states authorize transfers of conventional weapons in eight major categories: battle tanks; armored combat vehicles; large-calibre artillery systems; combat aircraft; attack helicopters; warships; missiles and missile launchers; and small arms and light weapons.

The treaty requires states to assess the potential that the transfer "could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "international human rights law," terrorism, organized crime, and take into account the risk of serious acts of gender-based violence or acts of violence against women and children. If there is an overriding risk of any of these negative consequences, states are required not to authorize the export.

The ATT will also prohibit transfers of arms or exports or export of ammunition or weapons parts & components if the state "has knowledge" that the transfer would be used in the commission of "genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians," or other war crimes.

"The treaty's prohibition section, if it were in force today, would prohibit the ongoing supply of weapons and parts & components to the Assad regime in Syria," Kimball noted.

The treaty also requires that all states establish effective regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts & components, which often allow conflicts to continue long after original arms transfers have been executed.

"At the outset of the negotiations, several states opposed the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty in any way. The end result on ammunition is a net plus," Kimball said.

The treaty also requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers, which would help improve transparency and public accountability for states' actions.

"Going forward, the value of the treaty depends on prompt entry into force and effective implementation by member states," Kimball said.  The treaty allows for regular conference of states parties to review implementation of the treaty and developments in the field of conventional arms, which should allow states to consider new types of conventional weapons that may emerge.

"Over time, the treaty will help tip the scales in favor human rights and human security when states consider arms sales in the future. It will help close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering," Kimball said.

"The Arms Trade Treaty that emerged today is the product of negotiations by government leaders, but it would not have happened without years of work and campaigning by human rights, development and aid groups, religious leaders, and security experts from the world over that were brought together through the Control Arms Campaign," Kimball said.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.