Press Contact: Jeff Abramson Deputy Director, (202) 463-8270 x109.
(Washington, D.C.): On February 18th, 2010, a roundtable discussion “Towards a Global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT): What Role for the United States?” was held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, hosted by the Arms Control Association, the Center for International Trade & Security (CITS), Oxfam America, and Project Ploughshares. The Chair of the United Nations ATT Process, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan, spoke at the opening panel, along with Anna MacDonald of Oxfam International and the Control Arms Campaign. A keynote address prepared by Under Secretary of State Ms. Ellen Tauscher’s office was delivered by Ambassador Donald Mahley, the U.S. lead negotiator on the ATT.
The event built upon a smaller meeting hosted in September 2009 and the momentum created by last fall’s adoption of a new UN resolution with regards to a future treaty. On October 30th, 2009, 153 UN members, including for the first time the United States, cast a historic vote in favor of establishing an Arms Trade Treaty. Negotiations on the terms of the treaty will begin in July of this year and are set to conclude at a UN Conference in 2012.
A strong and universally adopted ATT would provide an international standard for a regulated trade in conventional arms and could prevent the devastating effects that uncontrolled arms transfers have on civilian populations and regional stability. As the world’s largest conventional arms exporter and the country with the most comprehensive arms transfer controls, an engaged United States could help ensure that the highest possible standards are adopted.
A briefing paper prepared for the event is attached.
The State Department also hosts a transcript and video of portions of the meeting.
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION –
TOWARDS A GLOBAL ARMS TRADE TREATY:
WHAT ROLE FOR THE UNITED STATES?
SENIOR PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, PROJECT PLOUGHSHARES
ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE
DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION
AMBASSADOR ROBERTO GARCÍA MORITÁN,
THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA
CONTROL ARMS CAMPAIGN MANAGER, OXFAM INTERNATIONAL
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Threat Reduction, Export Control, U.S. State Department
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2010, 9:30 A.M.,
CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Federal News Service
KEN EPPS: Good morning, everyone. My name is Ken Epps. I’m senior program associate at Project Ploughshares, which is the ecumenical peace center of the Community Council of Churches and affiliation with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at ConradGrebelUniversityCollege, University of Waterloo.
On behalf of the organizations who have jointly organized this event – and those are the Arms Control Association, the Center for International Trade and Security, Oxfam America and Project Ploughshares – I would like to welcome all participants to this roundtable discussion.
I am especially pleased to welcome our opening panelists, Ambassador Moritan and Anna MacDonald, who have traveled a considerable distance from Argentina and the United Kingdom, respectively, to be with us here today.
And of course we are particularly delighted that Ms. Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, will be providing the keynote address during our working lunch.
On behalf of my own organization, Project Ploughshares, based in Canada, I would like to thank our Washington partners for the considerable efforts in arranging the many details of today. And I also wish to acknowledge the financial support for the event from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
As indicated in the invitation, the purpose of today’s roundtable is to promote discussion on how the U.S. government can best engage with and contribute to the development of a robust international arms trade treaty. The roundtable is focused on the important role of the U.S. government in the ATT process, but today’s event is also one of many initiatives by civil society organizations around the world to engage a range of stakeholders in the promotion of a legally binding, comprehensive and effective treaty.
In particular, the civil society-based Arms Trade Treaty Steering Committee, an NGO coalition that includes Project Ploughshares and other NGOs here today, has promoted the idea of an ATT for more than a decade, and we are pleased to be here today.
Motivated by concern about the egregious impact of irresponsible and illicit arms transfers, the NGO coalition has strived to promote high global standards in a binding international agreement that would require states to effectively control all international transfers of conventional arms in their jurisdiction.
The quest for an international convention to control the arms trade is not new – it has existed since at least the days of the League of Nations – but renewed momentum emerged during the 1990s, when a group of NGOs, along with Nobel Peace Laureates led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, first promoted the idea of an international code of conduct for arms transfers.
By 2000, the Code Working Group of NGOs transformed the international code into the Framework Convention on International Arms Transfers with the assistance of international legal experts. The framework convention in turn became the basis for proposals for the more popularly named Arms Trade Treaty, and the Code Working Group became the ATT steering committee.
It was this NGO coalition which, in 2005, published the core global principles for international arms transfers, drawn from relevant, existing international instruments and obligations. These principles have been promoted widely by civil society advocates of the ATT as a blueprint for draft parameters for an effective treaty.
In 2002, the coalition also agreed that its three largest multinational members – Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the International Action Network on Small Arms – would take a grassroots and global control arms campaign to promote the ATT.
Among other initiatives, the campaign launched the Million Faces online petition initiative, which, in less than three years, became the world’s largest photo petition. More than 1 million people from over 160 countries contributed photos and drawings to the petition, which called for ATT negotiations at the U.N.
The petition was presented to the U.N. secretary-general in June, 2006. By December 2006, the U.N. General Assembly had overwhelmingly voted for a U.N. process to consider an international treaty on the global arms trade.
In these opening remarks, it is not my intention to detail NGO perspectives on ATT content and campaigning to promote the U.N. treaty process. We will hear from civil society representatives on these issues later today, but I would like to emphasize the importance that NGOs advocating a comprehensive and effective ATT attached to U.S. commitment to the treaty process.
The NGO coalition welcomed U.S. support for the treaty when it was announced by Secretary of State Clinton in October 2009. Indeed, it is apparent to all who have followed ATT developments that U.S. participation in treaty negotiations will be central and crucial. As the largest exporter of conventional weapons, the U.S. brings the weight of trade realities to treaty discussions.
In her October statement, Secretary Clinton noted the gold standard set by U.S. export controls, and these, along with the commitments it has made with respect to the trade in conventional weapons – and I refer you here to the roundtable briefing paper that Rachel Stohl has produced for us, which details these standards and commitments. These are all clearly important for the U.S. to bring to the table during treaty negotiations.
In addition to U.S. influence on other key actors in the arms trade, especially U.N. secretary (sic) council members that have abstained on General Assembly votes on the ATT – that is, in particular, Russia and China – it will be necessary to ensure that treaty negotiations do not generate (sic) into the lowest common denominator process.
In the end, the effectiveness of a negotiated ATT will rest on the willingness of support of states to ensure the highest possible treaty standards. As NGOs, we look to the U.S. to join and indeed lead in these efforts.
I’d like to conclude now with some housekeeping notes. Perhaps most important, the washrooms are directly out this door at the end of the hallway. Secondly, I would like to remind people that while the morning panel is in open session and the luncheon working session is open, the proceedings from lunch – or from after lunch will be held according to the Chatham House Rule. That is, none of the comments of presenters or participants are for attribution.
And, finally, there is a request that all participants, if possible, complete the evaluation form that you will find in your packets on colored paper. It should only take a minute or two to fill out and you can leave it on the table or hand it to one of the organizers on your way out. And we thank you for that.
So again and finally, welcome to all roundtable participants. The organizers of today’s event look forward to open and fruitful discussions which we hope will contribute another step towards a strong and robust arms trade treaty. I now give the floor to Rachel Stohl, who will chair the opening session.
RACHEL STOHL: Thank you, Ken, and good morning to everyone. I’m delighted to see that we have such a packed house this morning and look forward to enhancing the dialogue on this issue with all of you.
It’s my pleasure to chair this first panel, which will hopefully set the stage internationally for what’s happening within ATT so that as we move throughout the morning, and hear from Undersecretary Tauscher about what the U.S. government is doing, and then this afternoon hear from various U.S. stakeholders that we have a context in which to put that in, because we like to think that, you know, what happens in Washington, you know, goes out to the rest of the world, but there’s a lot going on outside that we need to also take into consideration here.
So our speakers this morning are Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan from Argentina and Anna MacDonald from the Control Arms Campaign and Oxfam International. For those that haven’t had the opportunity to meet these individuals, Ambassador Moritan has been a career diplomat since 1971. He was permanent representative to the Conference of Disarmament from 1989 to 1994 and undersecretary for Latin American affairs from ’94 to ’98.
He also served as his country’s permanent representative to the United Nations from 1999 to 2002 and was the undersecretary for foreign affairs from 2003 to 2005 and vice minister and secretary of state for foreign affairs from 2005 to 2008. So he has a long and distinguished diplomatic career.
In addition to serving as the president of the Conference on Disarmament in 1993 and the most recent session in 2009, he has chaired both the U.N. Group of Governmental Experts and the Open-Ended Working Group on the Arms Trade Treaty and will be serving as the chair for the upcoming U.N. process. So we’re delighted to have him share his experience and thoughts on the way forward.
Anna MacDonald from Oxfam International has worked for Oxfam since 1995 in a variety of international programs and advocacy positions. She has worked on arms control issues for Oxfam since 2002, playing a key role in the launch in the development of the Control Arms Campaign, which she’ll tell us about in her remarks.
So first I would like to open to Ambassador Moritan. And what we’ll do is hear from both our speakers and then open it for discussion and questions, because I think that’s going to be the most – these are round tables, and so this will be the most fruitful way to have our discussion. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR ROBERTO GARCIA MORITAN: Thank you, Rachel, for your kind words. As Rachel said, I’m going to make first some general comments on the complexities of today’s world, which is good in a certain way because it assures diplomats that we will not run out of work.
This century’s threat to peace and security are at least, in many ways, more complex than those the world has seen in the past, and they come from a variety of sources, mainly from weapons that can kill on a mass scale, but also from global terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime.
In this new global environment, peacekeeping, peacemaking, peace-building requires new multilateral efforts. In a way, we have to start being a little bit more imaginative to deal with the new threats to international security.
While most conflict takes place primarily within countries, non-state threats and actors have also become key topics in contemporary security. Also, the statistics show that many more people are killed in ethnic conflicts or as a consequence of the proliferation of conventional weapons than international war.
So one of the great tragedies of our time is the uncontrolled spread of weapons, often from illegal markets and even sometimes in violation of U.N. embargoes. The global arms trade provides weapons for the legitimate national self-defense of states for peacekeeping and law enforcement, in accordance with international law and in particular with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. But it also provides arms to governments with track records of use of weapons inappropriately and sometimes unlawfully against civilians in violation of human rights and international and military law.
So without adequate controls, weapons and the munitions that begin in the legal arms trade can too easily pass into the hands of armed groups and those involved in organized crime. More than 2,000 people per day die as a consequence of violence and conventional weapons. The cost of armed violence in Africa – only to give an example – is around 19 billion U.S. dollars. These weapons fuel conflict, violate human rights, break down societies and prevent people climbing out of poverty.
The regulation of conventional arms transfers is crucial to grip a global problem that is spiraling out of control. I feel there is an imperative need to reduce the human costs of arms proliferation and prevent unscrupulous weapons suppliers and ensure that all exporters are working to the same standards.
One crucial step is to try to negotiate an arms treaty. Such a treaty should not hinder responsible trade but it will prevent defense exporters from undermining international security and prosperity. The main objective is to create a comprehensive, legally binding international mechanism for ensuring a more responsible trade in conventional arms. The primary responsibility for controlling the flows of arms rests with the states, whether they are manufacturers or not, that export, re-export, transit or import arms.
The current situation, as I see it, is full of gaps and loopholes and inconsistencies. Some countries have national controls with different standards, in many cases barely enforced. A large number do not have controls or those criteria are too weak. Some regional and multilateral arms control regimes lack some strong provisions for implementation.
Controlling international arms transfers is in the fundamental interest of all states, and especially given the nature and structure of international arms trade today. During the Cold War, only the U.S. and the USSR were nationally self-sufficient in arms production. Today more countries have autonomous arms industry. The arms market is not just larger but more globalized, and this means that arms are being produced in many countries.
Although it’s true that 80 percent of the market is controlled by a fewer number of states, the numbers of countries producing weapons nowadays is more than a hundred, especially ammunition and small weapons.
So the question is not only the weapons which are being produced and transferred legally, but those also that goes into the legal market. It’s not enough to know that certain countries have responsible controls for the flows of their exports; we need to have a global system with equal standards that all countries could follow to assure a responsible trade in conventional weapons.
It is with this vision in mind that the co-authors started this process several years ago. From the first U.N. resolution, the co-authors knew that they had enough votes for the commencement of those negotiations. But, nevertheless, they thought it was necessary to engage in a wider process to make all U.N. members understand the purposes and objectives of the initiative. Universal participation is very important to have an instrument effective for the purposes that we are pursuing, so we started to follow a step-by-step process.
The first one was to ask the secretary-general views of the state members of the U.N., and certainly the response allowed us to think on the need of such a treaty.
The second step took place when the secretary-general of the U.N. called for a U.N. group of experts. The group of experts was organized in a liberated manner, and there were representations from countries that produced weapons from different regions of the world, but also with a political ecunemiun (ph) where you had eclectic and enthusiastic of the initiative.
The group of experts went into looking in material, the essential elements towards a treaty on arms trade, and came out with a conclusion that further work was necessary and was needed for larger participation of U.N. members.
So the third phases started in 2008 when the secretary-general called for an Open-Ended Working Group, which was a subsidiary organ of the U.N. General Assembly. It was a deliberative process which was thought initially to work during two years.
The work we did in 2009 and the exchange of views between member states, it was clear that the deliberative process was able to complete its task in 2009. The exchange of views was large. Countries from all regions participated actively and we were able to analyze the feasibility of the treaty, scope, parameters and some other questions related to an arms trade treaty.
Out of talks and deliberation, it was clear that an exchange of views was extensive, transparent and clear enough, and I guess that was the reason why the General Assembly – last U.N. General Assembly decided to take a new step, which was to call for a conference in 2012 and the establishment of a preparatory committee to start the work for that conference.
When you look at the U.N. resolution, you can see a negotiated mandate for the PrepCom. So the PrepCom will have, beginning July 2010, the responsibility to start negotiating the elements of a treaty. When we talk about the elements of the treaty, we have, at the end of the day, the treaty itself. So the purpose and the responsibility of the PrepCom will be to start working on that process between 2010 and 2012.
The first meeting will take place in July this year in New York, and we have a two-week session, which is not going to be extremely large, for the kind of responsibilities we have before us. And we will have completed the work during 2011 because, actually, the PrepCom meeting in 2012 will have to deal mainly with procedural aspects. So by 2011 it will be useful to try to see if we can complete the work of the PrepCom according to the General Assembly resolution and present a text to the conference by 2012.
So the work which has been done is an interesting one from a diplomatic point of view because it was not an initiative that was thrown to countries from one day to another, but one that was presented with intention of a better understanding of the objectives that we were pursuing.
As I said before, we have from the commencement the necessary votes to start those negotiations but we chose a step-by-step process because we thought that in security issues we have to work and we have to exchange views in a quite deep manner to be sure that all countries are able to understand the purposes. And, at the same time, it’s extremely important to learn the concerns of those which are eclectics with the initiative to try to solve and to try to see ways and means on how to consider those concerns.
We are exactly in that process. We are trying now, after the open-ended work, to continue consultations towards the work of the PrepCom in the months of July. And, since then, the process of negotiations starts as a new game, and I hope very much that by the end of 2011 we will be able to have a draft with substantive elements that the PrepCom could present to the conference in 2012.
I think, Rachel, maybe it would be more interesting for the participants to ask questions than to listen.
MS. STOHL: Okay, thank you.
AMB. MORITAN: Thank you.
ANNA MACDONALD: Okay, thanks very much. I would just like to extend my thanks to the organizers of this event. As has been said, I’m speaking from Oxfam International and on behalf of the Control Arms International Campaign, and I’ve been asked to give the International Campaign perspective on the Arms Trade Treaty and a bit of a history of the campaign and process so far, and perhaps most of all to underline why the world really needs this treaty and why we need it so urgently.
Arms fuel conflict, poverty and human rights abuses around the world on a daily basis. It’s not only the 2,000 people that die everyday as a result of armed violence, but also the many thousands more who suffer torture, rape, oppression and are forced to flee their homes.
In the period since the U.N. started discussing an ATT in 2006, we estimate that more than 2.1 million people have died as a result of armed violence. And the U.N. estimates that during the 1990s, conventional weapons were used to kill over 5 million people and force 50 million more to flee their homes.
This is a photo that I took in a refugee camp in Eastern Congo some months back where upon asking the women in the camp what was the biggest problem that they faced, they responded not with demands for water or shelter or food, but simply to state that the biggest problem was the men with guns.
The uncontrolled trade in arms and the uncontrolled flood of weapons into some of the world’s worst conflict zones fuels poverty and exacerbates situations for people who are already living a marginalized or difficult existence.
For Oxfam, the reason that we’ve been involved in arms control issues for some more than a decade now is quite simple: Every day, around the world, our staff and partners in the hundred countries in which we work bear witness to the problems and devastation caused by an arms trade that is out of control. As a speaker at our global Arms Trade Treaty conference last week in Vienna commented, “The profit of the arms trade is measured in dollars but the cost is counted in lives.”
We’re clear in the campaign that there is legitimate role for arms and the arms trade. When used in line with international law, arms clearly have a legitimate use, and certainly we support states’ rights to self-defense as enshrined in the U.N. Charter. But these rights also come with responsibilities. Almost all states have responsibilities under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and what’s important in the perspective and context of our global Arms Trade Treaty is that these responsibilities are also applied to arms transfer controls.
At the moment, the lack of any effective global regulation means that what we have, at best, is a system of patchwork controls where different countries have different levels of export control agreements. Some regions have regional transfer agreements in place, but there is no single global, coordinated system, which leads to a situation where, in the words of a monarch (sic) commander in Congo, “Peacekeepers are left feeling like they’re mopping the floor with the taps turned on.” No sooner are they dealing with the problem of one arms catchment that’s coming through, but then another load of arms and ammunition is arriving.
It’s a situation that we think an arms trade treaty can go some way to address, a legally binding treaty that would create the level playing field that Ambassador Moritan has already described, and based around core principles, around international law, which we will be going into in more detail after the lunch session, we believe could go a long way to bring the arms trade under control and to prevent this situation spiraling out of control.
And it’s an initiative which, as we’ve already heard, is gaining – rapidly gaining momentum and is now soon to become a reality in the relatively short period between now and 2012 when the negotiation conference will take place. I’ll just touch briefly on one example of what we’re talking about when we describe the need to stop irresponsible arms transfers.
Most of you will be familiar and will remember the ship that sailed from China to – or attempted to sail from China to Zimbabwe in 2008, and only in fact due to the actions of the church movement and civil society, the ship came to the attention of the world’s media as it was prevented from docking first in Durban in South Africa and subsequently in a number of other ports around Southern Africa, as various moves were meant to prevent its intended cargo of ammunition, arms and mortar bombs from reaching Zimbabwe at that time in a height of political tension and where there was clearly a high risk that the weapons and ammunition would be used to commit human rights abuses.
So just briefly to touch on the history of the international campaign and where we’ve come to since the launch in 2003, when the campaign began back in October 2003, there were three countries which publicly supported the call for an arms trade treaty: Mali, Costa Rica and Cambodia. Ken has described some of the longer background history before that, how the idea developed from discussions amongst Nobel laureates and developed from that into ideas around an international code of conduct and ultimately an arms-trade treaty.
From launching an international campaign with an aim to try to raise the profile of the need for arms control around the world and to increase political pressure for countries to support the idea of an arms trade treaty, we gradually saw more and more countries coming out and declaring their support for international arms control.
As Ken has described, various campaigning devices such as Million Faces petition, a photo petition which was active in more than 120 countries around the world, helped bring the need for an arms trade treaty and the need for arms control to popular attention.
This slide is from a presentation back in 2006 when we were mapping the countries that supported an arms trade treaty, and we’d reached the figure of around 43 countries who publicly declared their support.
In the summer of 2006, our symbolic millionth face, Julius Arile, an armed violence survivor from Kenya, presented the petition to then-Secretary Gen. Kofi Annan, calling for states within the U.N. to begin work on an arms trade treaty. The campaign continued to grow and to increase support as region after region, more and more countries openly declared their support for greater international arms control.
And then, as Ambassador Moritan has already described, a group of governments came together – seven core governments came together and drafted a resolution introducing the Arms Trade Treaty to the U.N. and mandating the U.N. to begin discussions on an arms trade treaty.
That was overwhelmingly passed through the U.N. with 153 governments voting in favor to begin work on the ATT. And, as we’ve heard, that led on to a secretary-general’s consultation to all states on what the feasibility, scope and parameters of an ATT could be. Is it actually possible, and if so, what should be in it?
In parallel with that, the International Civil Society Campaign ran a People’s consultation in more than 50 countries around the world, and we believe that that public consultation which involved all sectors of society went some way to encourage countries in that very high level of response that we saw.
The group of governmental experts, which then met in 2008, we feel was significant in that it agreed, and while it was a small group of countries and perhaps disproportionately made up of those countries that still had reservations or concerns around an ATT, significantly agreed that work should continue, which led to, in the end of 2008, a further resolution being tabled and then overwhelmingly passed, mandating the setting up of an Open-Ended Working Group.
And this is what we’ve seen happen over the last year during 2009. The Open-Ended Working Group has met twice, and from our perspective, perhaps significantly, the debate has moved from a discussion of if there should be an arms trade treaty to when there should be an arms trade treaty, and therefore what should be in it? We feel this is significant in terms of both the political dynamic and the depth of discussions that have been going on amongst states.
And so that leads us to where we are now, which is the resolution that was passed – introduced in October last year and then mandated by the General Assembly in December, which essentially moves the Arms Trade Treaty into a negotiation phase that Ambassador Moritan has described – again, 150 votes in favor, and of course the biggest political shift, which we very much welcome and look forward to now further discussions in this event and beyond, is the move of the U.S. administration from a previous no vote to now yes.
So that’s the sort of part in history from the campaign perspective. We believe that both the actions of the campaign and the discussions amongst states have demonstrated both a need for a treaty and a desire to see one negotiated as swiftly as possible.
Certainly we believe it needs to be a robust treaty if it’s going to really save lives and livelihoods, and we very much look forward to continuing those discussions with you today as we move forward with this process. Thanks.
MS. STOHL: Thank you both, Ambassador and Anna, for, I think, some great remarks to frame the debate, the process and the discussions as we move forward, and I think since this is a roundtable, although there’s a lot of faces that I can’t quite see all the way in the back too, I think it would be helpful to have a discussion and to talk about some of the issues that were raised.
And, given – I think it will be logistically difficult to pass a mike. If you do have a question, just raise your hand, and if you could introduce yourself and speak very loudly so that we can hear you up here. And if you have someone that you would like to address your particular question to – oh, you do have the mike?
MR. : (Off mike.)
MS. STOHL: Okay. If you have a question – we have two mikes, okay. Sorry; missed the back mike. I couldn’t figure out how Jeff was going to get all the way to the back, but since we have two mikes, if you raise your hand, either in the back or in the front, the mike will come to you. And, again, please introduce yourself and ask your question. Over here?
Q: Hi, is it on?
MS. STOHL: Can you stand, just because it’s hard to see you?
Q: I’m Julia Fromholz with Human Rights First. Anna, you mentioned at the very end the U.S. switch in 2009. I wanted to know from either of you, what effect does the U.S. insistence on consensus have? What do you expect it to have? And what, in this case, does consensus really mean?
AMB. MORITAN: I really don’t know if the U.S. insisted on consensus or not, but the fact is that the General Assembly Resolution took a decision on the matter. And in a certain way it’s logical to work under consensus.
When you deal with international security issues, our questions are very sensitive toward nations. Sometimes it’s very difficult to understand what security means for a country or what does threat mean for a certain country. Sometimes it’s not so much for diplomats to make that analysis as for psychoanalysts to look on the reasons why a country feels a threat or insecure.
So when you deal with security issues, there’s a special nature of problems, and the case of weapons is the best example. Why does a country need weapons for their self-defense? Well, the answer – only that country can give the answer.
So when you deal with those kind of sensitive issues, it is clear that negotiations have to go undertake a very deep, serious process of consultations, understanding of the issues involved, and in that process, consensus becomes an important question because universality should be the aim of instruments of this sort. It would serve no purpose if we have a treaty of like-minded states only. We could have the treaty tomorrow if that is the kind of treaty we want.
What we would like to have is not only like-minded but also eclectic countries on board. Everybody has to feel comfortable with the process of those negotiations. And for them to feel comfortable in those negotiations, it is essential to have certain rules of the game. And the rule of the game is that you will not cheat by putting into a vote certain questions that could be sensitive for them.
So the question of consensus is normal to any process of serious negotiations, which its aim is for universal participation. We will see at the end of the process what the U.N. will do once the treaty is completed, or if it lacks of some elements to have a robust instrument as we all would like to have.
But from my point of view, which, being the chairman, I’m the one having more difficulties with a consensus vote – (laughter) – because I will have to try to arrive to a consensus. I think it’s not much of a problem because the responsibility will be to try to see how we can find ways and means to accommodate the concerns and at the same time have a robust instrument.
We have done it in the past. We have done it – I had a chance of working into that. It was the Chemical Weapons Convention. We were able, with the rule of consensus, to have an excellent instrument on chemical weapons. We were able, though consensus also, to negotiate – although we were unable to adopt it in the CD, but we were able to negotiate a good nuclear test ban treaty in the CD.
So consensus is not a difficulty. Sometimes it’s an advantage for delegations to participate more comfortable in those negotiations. So from that perspective, I don’t think it should be a matter that should worry anyone. It’s part of the game. Thank you.
MS. STOHL: I think Anna might have a different take.
MS. MACDONALD: Sure. (Laughter.) I think – I mean, what we would see as crucial is that through this process we’re achieving the highest possible standards for international arms control, not the lowest possible common denominator, which is the risk.
And in that balance between striving for a treaty that the biggest number of states are able to be a part of so it has the widest possible impact and having the toughest possible standards. Then certainly we want to see that a treaty has very strong criteria in it, that it is very comprehensive in its scope, covering all conventional weapons with criteria around human rights, international humanitarian law and sustainable development at its heart.
The risk that we would see with a weak treaty is that it could legitimize the situation that we currently have, and we don’t think actually that any of the states that have supported the move for an arms trade treaty want to see that. What we’re trying to do here, we think collectively, is change the situation that we currently have. We’re trying to stop irresponsible arms transfers. We’re trying to stop the flood of weapons into the world’s worst conflict zones. We’re not simply putting a stamp on what we already have.
I think that what we’ve seen so far with the level of state support, with the content of what states have submitted in their submissions to the U.N. and in the discussions that have taken place so far, is a very strong, overwhelming majority that want to see robust controls in place.
And what’s essential in this next period of two years leading up to that final conference is that the will of that overwhelming majority is not blocked by the actions of a minority, and I think that’s very much, from civil society’s perspective, what we’re looking to all states that have supported this process to be ensuring that what they are doing in the preparatory meetings is ensuring that that will of the majority does indeed go through and that we see the highest possible standards achieved by the end.
MS. STOHL: There’s a question in the back.
Q: My name is Jacques Bahati. I work with Africa Faith and Justice Network. I think the core of my question is, is there any work going on as far as other issues related to the reason why weapons are sold and let loose?
I’ve seen that for those nations who produce these weapons, there is economic benefit to it. Are they willing to put those economic benefits on the side for the sake of peace and prosperity for other countries?
Also, I wonder if the United Nations is relevant to really address this issue, whereas these powerful countries are the ones sitting and making these decisions. Will they be really able to enforce the rules when they are the ones benefiting from the trade? Thank you.
MS. MACDONALD: Go ahead, please.
AMB. MORITAN: Yes. My impression is that a treaty like the one we will start negotiating in July serves all countries; serves those countries that produce weapons in a large scale, serves countries that produce weapons in a small scale, and serves the purpose of the countries which do not produce.
I think it’s in the interest of everyone, but from the point of view of those larger exporters of – which is a handful of – a few countries that have around 80 percent of the market, to have a responsible criteria and standards will not hinder their capacity to export.
This treaty will not prohibit the export of weapons. This treaty will not try to avoid any one buying weapons if they think it’s necessary for their self-defense, law enforcement and their participation in peace operations of the U.N.
What we are trying to do is have common international standards for all countries to assess when they take a decision on the export. And what do they have to assess? They have to assess if those weapons are going to be used on extreme cases in an irresponsible manner.
What are those extreme cases? Violation of human rights. Should a country sell certain weapons to a nation that violates, systematically, human rights? Well, the country who sells the weapons should know that those weapons will kill people, so they should evaluate, before doing that, if it is recommendable to do that or not. In a genocide situation, should weapons be sold? In a conflict between states which humanitarian law is not observed, should weapons be sold?
So the questions we are dealing with are extreme cases of irresponsibility and try to have common international standards to prevent that irresponsibility. I doubt very much that by adopting measures in that sense, that will hinder the additional capacity and the way of making money in this industry. On the contrary. I feel that an instrument of this nature will give a new guarantee to those industrial manufacturers that they’re doing the adequate thing.
So the question here is the decision to whom to sell in certain circumstances. This is why the treaty will try to concentrate on those standards so that everybody around the world have the same standards when it comes to evaluate those exports.
MS. STOHL: I don’t want to put any government officials on the spot, but we have several different governments represented here, both major exporters and perhaps secondary-tier exporters. So I don’t know if any government official wanted to answer that question with a kind of national perspective. If not, that’s okay; just wanted to – there are a lot of people in the room that may not know who’s here, so if there are any additional comments on that – otherwise we’ll take another question.
Q: Thank you. I’m Norma Rein with the Boeing Company and I have a question about the scope of the treaty. Through the work done so far, have any preliminary recommendations or decisions been made with respect to what items would fall under the purview of the treaty, or is the focus just small arms? Would you be so kind to explain a little bit on that? Thanks.
AMB. MORITAN: Thank you very much. As you all know, the process we’ve been in until now has been one of governmental experts and an open-ended discussion in the U.N. General Assembly. Out of those two specific processes came a variety of views with respect to the scope.
It is my understanding that there is a common minimum acceptance that this scope should include what we usually say is seven-plus-one, which are the weapons which are included in the seven categories of the U.N. Register on Conventional Weapons (sic), plus small and light weapons.
Out of these deliberative discussions, many countries would like to see some other things included in the scope – munitions, as has been said, components, new and used technologies – and the list is wide. We will have to start exchanging ourselves into discussions and negotiation with respect to scope beginning July. But, as I said to you, it is my understanding that at least the seven-plus-one category is going to be basis upon we will have to build and to see how far, according to delegations, we could go to agree in a scope that will include all the elements that will be in accordance with the purposes we’re pursuing.
MS. MACDONALD: Yeah, just to add from the NGO perspective, in fact, inside the silver packs that were given out at the beginning you’ll see our position papers on scope and parameters. We, put simply, believe that all conventional weapons should be covered by the scope of type of weapon. We think this should also include ammunition. It should also include components, and it should also include those weapons – those components and parts that have capacity for dual use.
In terms of the scope of type of transfer, we similarly believe that all types of transfer should be covered by an arms trade treaty – i.e. exports, imports, sale, transfer, gift, loan, et cetera. But you’ll see those are detailed a little more substantially in the papers.
MS. STOHL: Jeff, can you get to Susan over here? Go to the back. Do you see Susan over here?
Q: I think I can just – it’s a simple question.
MR. : It’s too late – too late. (Laughter.)
Q: Could you say just a few words –
MS. STOHL: Say who you are.
Q: I’m Susan Waltz, University of Michigan. Could you say just a few words about where things stand with the separate-but-related efforts to negotiate an instrument on marking and tracing and brokering, just how that fits in the whole scheme now?
AMB. MORITAN: Well, this is a different question from the one we’re dealing – so, actually, in the context demanded, we have – the responsibility of the PrepCom is going to be limited to negotiate the elements of a treaty itself.
Now, of course we will have to deal with the question of verification. We haven’t entered into details of verification and moratorium during the group of governmental experts. There were generic presentations on the question. Also, on the open-ended working groups, only a few delegations make reference to the matter.
So the question you mentioned could be one that delegations could raise when it comes to the question of verification moratorium on some or some other kind of publications of the treaty. But we will have to see, so it’s a little bit difficult for me in advance to make any comment on the question but it’s clear that in some aspects there is certain relation between the two aspects.
MS. STOHL: I think we have three hands. We have one in the back, we have Roy here, and then we have Steve. And so, just looking at the time, in case the undersecretary shows up earlier, perhaps we can take all three of those questions and then answer them.
Q: Thanks. Erik Wasson, Inside U.S. Trade – a question mainly for the ambassador. What proposals are on the table that would possibly result in changes to U.S. export controls, and could you possibly describe how the ATT could differ from the Wassenaar regime, for example? Thanks.
AMB. MORITAN: Oh, I’m sorry.
MS. STOHL: That was a media one, so do you want to do – okay, take off – and then if someone could bring Steve Goose – if you could raise your hand.
Q: Hi, I’m Roy Isbister from Saferworld, and I’ve got more a comment than a question. It’s on the scope issue and the use of the language of seven-plus-one. And in the – my kind of take on the Open-Ended Working Group was there were a lot of people using the language of seven-plus-one and meaning that in a very comprehensive sense.
But if you examine what seven-plus-one actually means in detail, it’s a lot more limiting than people often think. So for example, one of the categories is aircraft but it is only attack aircraft, and I think a lot of people, when they were talking about seven-plus-one, they were talking about military aircraft in general.
So I think it’s just one of the issues when looking at scope. There is a danger in using this kind of shorthand and so, obviously, as the discussion goes forward, these kind of details will get teased out. But I just think we need to be very careful of what we understand with some of the shorthand that is being used. Thanks.
MS. STOHL: Steve?
Q: Steve Goose with Human Rights Watch – sort of one big question for both the ambassador and Anna, and then a couple of nuts and bolts if you can.
On the big one, what do you anticipate at this point are going to be the most contentious and difficult issues to deal with? You undoubtedly already have a good idea of what that’s going to be, and if you would share that with us.
And the nuts and bolts, it strikes me that for something that was launched in 2006, there has been very little formal work on this the past three years. How much time is going to be devoted to it in the coming years? What’s the schedule look like? How many PrepComs, how long, how much time devoted for the negotiations themselves, and when do you personally hope to be able to produce the first draft text? Are you going to use a rolling text with brackets? (Laughter.)
MS. MACDONALD: Why don’t you go first?
AMB. MORITAN: With respect to the first question, I wouldn’t know how to answer your question, really, but I do realize that the U.S. has a very responsible legislation on the question and, as I understand, a very strict and robust legislation on the matter.
It is my personal impression that a treaty most probably is going to be in the same direction of the U.S. national position on many questions that the treaty will cover but it will be up to the U.S. to know if that would require some internal change in legislation.
But the U.S. certainly is a responsible country in the way it applies its legislation when it comes to export of weapons and how to follow the life of those weapons after they’d been exported the first time. So according to my lack of experience, I don’t think it should impose a big difficultly of legislation inside of the U.S.
The Wassenaar arrangement, as you know, is a very important grouping of countries from different regions, which have the same objective of working hard on certain specific purposes when the group was created, but it is limited in its participation, and although it has countries from different regions, that limitation is one that makes desirable to have a wider negotiation in the U.N.
If all U.N. members were a member of the Wassenaar agreement, that maybe would have been different and sometimes simpler to deal with the issues we have before it, but that’s not the case so we have to deal with reality.
So the Wassenaar group is a very important one. We continue working. The objectives are maybe larger than the ones we’re pursuing in ATT. The ATT is focusing on a specific question of conventional weapons. The Wassenaar list has an important list of conventional weapons, which are covered in the Wassenaar arrangement. I mentioned the Wassenaar countries will ask that those views will be taken into account and then certainly you enter negotiations and we will see how to deal with those questions.
Now, the question of, what are the sensitive and difficult issues; I think all of them are. (Laughter.) The first day we met in the open-ended consultation, people thought we will never – we’re going to start the meeting because procedural issues were going to block the whole exercise.
How do you say “miracle?”
MS. STOHL: Miracle.
AMB. MORITAN: A miracle was produced and the particular questions were solved.
In diplomatic negotiations, things are never easy, and that’s good because this is what our governments pay us for, to work and not only to be in cocktails and receptions. And certainly the issues we have before us are going to be of an enormous complexity. Each one of the 192 countries have different views, and when it comes to look at each one of the issues, even small ones, we can see are going to be complex ones.
One that shouldn’t be a matter of worry to anyone, according to my views at least, which will be human rights. Human rights is so obvious that it should be a criteria. It should be so obvious that everybody should be protecting human rights worldwide. It’s not for some other countries. So when you look at which one of the details and elements will have to start working, things are going to be complicated, and we do not have much time.
To answer your question, actually we have two substantive meetings in 2010, which are going to be together in two weeks, one following the other ones, and two weeks in 2011. Somebody said to me I had 120 hours to complete negotiations if you pull everything together.
Of course it’s going to be a difficult task, but at the same time it’s good that we have limited time before us because I will exercise and I will put the effort of everybody to work with a certain timeframe to arrive to consensus.
I’m conscious that we will be able to have a substantive draft instrument by 2012, and I hope it will not have brackets, as you say, only very few – or asterisks. (Laughter.) But even if we have brackets and asterisks, it’s not bad. It’s part of a negotiation process to have brackets. And, actually, as I imagine, that the first text that will be seen is going to have brackets because we will have to try to see and try to include all points of view and then start looking how to accommodate those points of view.
So I’m not really afraid of brackets. I was born with brackets, I think. (Laughter.) But it’s going to be an interesting exercise, one we will start in July. And I said to you, if it’s true that I have only 120 hours, well, you can imagine we had a put a lot of enthusiasm and energy to complete our work, but I think we can do it.
MS. MACDONALD: Yes, I think we would certainly – from the NGO side I had concerns around the shortness of time, looking at comparable treaty processes in both disarmament and other fora and the number of weeks that are available. Four weeks of preparatory meetings then followed by a final month seems to us to be pretty tight, which obviously puts the onus on the states, as the ambassador says, to make sure that they’re moving swiftly, but perhaps, all the same, points to the need for certain types of substantial intercessional work and the use of other foreign opportunity for states to be discussing and progressing these issues.
We hoped that there would be the development of texts and substantive content in intercessional periods if states are serious about wanting to see the development of a robust instrument, because certainly, from what we’ve seen in discussions thus far, yes, it is possible for any issue to become contentious and thus take up quite a lot of time.
So I think for all of those states that are very keen on having consensus as a process mechanism, it’s also their responsibility to ensure that that doesn’t become a block and that the striving to get agreement is just that and not a stumbling over every issue.
For us I think we can, yes, certainly foresee some of the issues that are going to be potentially difficult, and Roy has already touched around the definitions on scope and the preciseness of that and what we actually do mean to be covered by that is perhaps the first one to clarify, although, again, if you actually delve into what most exporting states currently cover within the scope of their own export control agreements, it shouldn’t be contentious because actually the majority of exporting states have quite a wide scope.
Similarly, with human rights and – (unintelligible) – yes, states have wide existing obligations underneath those international laws already, so the existence of those within the treaty should not be contentious. But for us it’s absolutely crucial how they’re applied, and references to obligations are different to clear obligating criteria, and that will be something that obviously we’ll be looking at very closely and keen to be working with all supporter states on those issues to make sure that it really is robust criteria that has developed.
MS. STOHL: I think we’ll take one more question. Bridget?
Q: Thanks. Bridget Moix with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Just to pick up on one other complicated question, Anna, you mentioned wanting sustainable development to be at the heart of a treaty, and I know there is a lot more attention to looking at the links between armed violence and development, arms accumulation and development. The criteria here lists wanting to limit arms that would seriously impair poverty reduction or socioeconomic development. How do you see that ideally being incorporated into a treaty, you know, by criteria or measurements?
MS. MACDONALD: Thanks. When we’ve been exploring this issue – and, in fact, over the last year we’ve been engaged on a project with both importing and exporting states to examine the issue of sustainable development. We’re very clear from Oxfam and other development agencies’ perspective that there shouldn’t be a rich-countries criteria. It’s not about country X is considered to be too poor or not to purchase weapons; it’s about the appropriateness of a transfer and how that may or may not undermine other poverty reduction targets that that state might have, and should essentially be about a dialogue between the importing and exporting state.
We’ve also been doing work to break down sustainable development into more tangible component parts, so, for example, looking at the issue of corruption and looking at issues of transparency and accountability, which is you can break down those then into criteria that exports control we’d essentially be looking at. I’m looking at in a similar way that you might be looking for patterns or likelihood of risk of misuse of weapons. You’d be looking at sustained patterns around corruption, for example, as one of the risk factors to be assessing when looking at particular exports.
So we’ve been, as I say, doing quite a number of roundtables and discussions with states on this issue, and it seems to us quite clearly that there are ways in which we can break this down into very practical criteria. There’s a lot of support amongst African states, for example, around seeing sustainable development as being a very key part of the treaty, and indeed one of their reasons for supporting it. So it’s something we’ll be progressing during this next period.
MS. STOHL: Well, I want to thank our panelists and the audience as well. I got a note that the undersecretary is running a few minutes behind, and so since it’s perhaps difficult for people to get up and use the restroom, given the close quarters, I think we might take the advantage of having the few extra minutes if people want to use the restroom or to get a cup of coffee in advance of her presentation, and she should be arriving in the next five minutes. So please make it a brief pause so that we can start back on time. Thank you again to our panelists. (Applause.)
JEFF ABRAMSON: Good morning. My name is Jeff Abramson. I’m deputy director of the Arms Control Association. Thank you all for being here. Let me, before I get to my very quick introduction, give you a status of what is happening right now. Undersecretary Tauscher regrets that she cannot make it today to the meeting, which I am at. She’s very apologetic and has offered to do this again sometime, so we’re going to take her up on that.
But Ambassador Don Mahley has agreed to read her prepared remarks. Afterwards, he’s willing to take questions, but unfortunately for the media here, those will have to be off the record, and he will be a little bit more clear on that as well.
So we do have remarks. I’ll be introducing him in just a second. We are trying to print it out – (laughter) – so that he can give the speech. I will be back momentarily.
MR. ABRAMSON: So thank you all once again for being here. I’m delighted now to turn our focus – turn our focus to emerging U.S. policy on this. The issues we’re confronting, as you know, including the lack of transparency and weapons flows, potential fueling of destabilizing arms races and arms accumulations, and the dreadful humanitarian consequences of unregulated trafficking in conventional weapons are not new, and the need to arrive at more effective solutions are no less urgent.
I’ll point out a little bit from our archive. A few months ago I stumbled across the June 1991 special edition of Arms Control Today, which focused on reigning in the arms trade. And one of the articles called for gaining control, building a comprehensive arms restraint system. And this was in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. That was a window where we thought there was opportunity. Nearly two decades have passed and today we have a new policy window, in part made possible by this administration’s decision last year to get engaged in the arms trade treaty process.
The organizations, as you’ve heard, who have sponsored this gathering, are committed to working with this administration and others in this room to create what, in Secretary of State Clinton’s words is, quote, “a strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible legally binding standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons,” unquote.
We’re delighted that Don Mahley, the ambassador who has been working on this issue for a number of years, is willing to step in and deliver the speech on this issue. And we are encouraged that the United States, as the world’s largest arms supplier, is prepared to be part of the solution to this tough challenge, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts about where the U.S. is on arms trade treaty concepts and how you think those in this audience could engage in this process.
Ambassador Mahley, thank you again, and the podium is yours.
DONALD MAHLEY: Thank you, and we’ll start out by – again, I’ll offer my apologies. I realized that you expected to see the undersecretary, who is much younger and more dynamic than I am up here, but unfortunately the United States government, being engaged in multiple things at the same time – and for those of you who may think differently, we can indeed walk and chew gum at the same time, and this case she’s doing exactly that in another context and unfortunately can’t be here.
MR. : (Off mike.)
MR. MAHLEY: The microphone is on?
MR. : Yes, it is.
MR. MAHLEY: Yeah. And so, again, I will apologize for her absence. She did want to be here and she sends her own apologies.
Also, as I give you these comments, I am literally going to be reading the text that Undersecretary Tauscher was going to be delivering, so in this sense there may be a couple of things that don’t sound exactly right, but just assume, again, that you have the undersecretary here and this is only a bad mask that she’s wearing for Halloween – (laughter) – that you’re seeing behind the platform.
And then when we finish that, I will certainly be prepared to take questions and answers, but that will be me taking questions and answers and so therefore those will be off the record at that point and I want to make sure that everybody understands that before we get down to get started on that.
Okay, what Undersecretary Tauscher meant to say was:
Jeff, thanks very much for your introduction. (Laughter.) I also want to thank everyone here for your energy, your commitment to these issues and your patriotism. It’s nice to see such friendly faces. Now, I look out there and I’m not sure that they’re as friendly as she might have imagined they would be, but that’s okay. (Laughter.) That’s not in her comments.
You all are what I consider my base. Let me start by thanking the sponsors of this meeting, the Center for International Trade and Security, Oxfam America, the Arms Control Association and Project Ploughshares.
As everyone here knows, President Obama has set forth a bold arms control and nonproliferation agenda, and for good reason, and because so many of us have made such an effort to speak out about the Prague agenda, it has garnered a lot of support, a lot of attention, and a lot of media coverage.
I know that conventional arms have gotten much less attention, even though they kill more people every year than nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. I am here to make sure that everyone knows the United States is strongly committed to addressing the problems posed by the irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons.
So last October, Secretary Clinton said that the United States, quote, “is committed to actively pursuing a strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible legally-binding standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons.”
We will work between now and the U.N. Conference in 2012 to negotiate a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty, and we’ll need your help in achieving it. We have made that a fundamental policy commitment. So let me explain what it means in practical terms and let me explain why we're doing this now.
Like a lot of ideas, an arms trade treaty has been in the works for a long time. The U.N. Register of Conventional Arms opened the door to global discussions of a range of conventional weapons. These discussions have broadened so that we now have an A to Z list of meetings and forums on how to limit or eliminate small arms, anti-personnel landmines and other indiscriminate weapons.
But conventional arms transfers are a much wider question than just small arms or voluntary registration of some information about transfers. We need a treaty that looks at regulating all conventional weapons, from small arms and light weapons to aircraft carriers.
Unlike chemical or biological weapons, an arms trade treaty cannot be a ban on conventional weapons. When conducted responsibly, arms transfers are a legitimate commercial enterprise that supports global stability.
The international arms trade provides nations with material necessary to fulfill the most basic functions of a government: protecting its citizens and enforcing its national sovereignty. What we are after is a means to have all nations do what the United States already does: examine each conventional weapons transfer before it is authorized to be certain that it will enhance and not undermine security and stability.
We all know that there is a dark side to arms transfers that can have devastating consequences for people and regions. Irresponsible transfers can support terrorists, enable genocide and create, sustain and compound proliferation nightmares.
The Arms Trade Treaty discussions have gained momentum by a shared recognition by all of the disruptive and oppressive impact of illicit or ill-advised arms transfers by a number of countries and organizations. What we need, therefore, is to explore a legally binding measure to better control transfers across international borders.
For the Arms Trade Treaty to be effective at thwarting irresponsible transfers, it must ensure that members effectively implement national laws that criminalize such transfers and allow for the monitoring of commerce. Without this, it won't necessarily deter or stop terrorism, or any of the other things that we are concerned about.
So-called “legally binding instruments” are absolutely meaningless, for example, to terrorists. They are criminals who don’t and won’t abide by any reasonable agreements. That means that the only way to effectively control or inhibit their activity is indirectly.
All states must recognize the obligation to enact and enforce laws within their territory that criminalize, isolate and punish those terrorist groups operating within their territory or profiting from transactions that originate in or transit through their territory. And, if the state claiming sovereign jurisdiction does not have the capability for such enforcement, then the international community must make available the resources to create such capability, both in the short and long run.
This means that any international instrument hoping to make real impact on so-called “illicit” arms transfers must focus on requiring each party to put in place those necessary means to eliminate such rogue non-state actors, both from within their territory and on the receiving end of their international commerce.
It means that weak states, where terrorists operate with relative freedom, must adapt to the very real and difficult requirements any effective instrument will lay out for them. They must take all necessary steps to become an effective, law-abiding state.
At the same time, conventional arms transfers are a crucial national security concern for the United States. Our government has always supported effective action to control and ensure responsibility in the international transfer of arms. That’s because we believe that stable societies and secure environments are the very best places for the growth of freedom and prosperity.
So we are a leading advocate of ensuring that arms transfers are done only for legitimate purposes. We carefully consider them before they are approved. I should know since I sign off on them, and I put in place safeguards designed to ensure, for example, that small arms are used in the manner for which the transfer was intended.
The United States has one of the most comprehensive sets of requirements in the world that must be satisfied before a U.S. manufacturer is authorized to transfer arms internationally. Every month, literally thousands of applications for export of weapons are reviewed in detail by our government.
We have a strong and robust regulatory body. The transfer of arms are approved only when there is realistic and reasonable evidence the intended recipient has shown that they have a legitimate need and sufficient safeguards, and those safeguards are there to preclude either deliberate or unintended re-transfers or unapproved end uses.
We also consider the effect of the transfer on regional stability. This process requires enormous effort, it is expensive, and it results in denying exports in questionable circumstances. Although this can work to the commercial disadvantage of U.S. firms, it is a price we have to pay to try to stem the flow of conventional arms to terrorist groups, to rogue states and to others who would undermine the rule of law.
It is also why the United States believes that it is the responsibility of the entire international community to settle for no less than the highest possible standards in international agreements and in reporting activities. We believe that robust and vigorous regulation and enforcement would make it much more difficult for terrorist groups or rogue nations to destabilize regions or support terrorist activity.
This is why, after careful consideration, the Obama administration has decided to actively support international efforts to achieve an effective global framework and to set high the bar that everyone must meet. The United States will seek a result that establishes high standards of expected conduct in international activity and in national enforcement.
The Arms Trade Treaty negotiations will likely be long and difficult. Some participants will be tempted to take the easy road, seeking the lowest common denominator just to get a quick agreement from those states who would like to continue to support, directly or indirectly, terrorists, pirates and genocidal warlords for a quick profit or short-term advantage.
Let me be clear: We will not rush to judgment by approving a weak or loophole-laden agreement. The United States is not interested in a vague or weak outcome just to feel good. That would not do anything to address the real issues in arms transfers.
The United States believes an arms trade treaty is sufficiently important to national security and to international stability that the deliberations needed to produce consensus decisions in order to command the widest possible participation. A document that failed to gain support from important international players capable of acting outside their reach will undercut the objectives and purposes and would be worse than having no document at all.
Therefore, we firmly believe that consensus is needed to ensure the high standards necessary for an effective arms trade treaty. It is not, nor should others hope it to be, an excuse for avoiding hard choices or real, deliberative controls. There will no doubt be serious, lengthy negotiations over most of the elements of any outcome.
In fact, it has been our experience, sometimes painful, over the course of four decades of such negotiations that there is an inevitable rush by many participants in those negotiations to seek simplified or shallow provisions because they sound good and they’re easily agreed to.
The United States considers the subject of conventional arms transfers, with their pervasiveness, dual-use capabilities and potential harm, too important to national security to be treated with less than the level of detail and engagement they deserve. This will not make the negotiations easier, but it will give them the greatest chance of being meaningful and of commanding both the attention and participation by those states necessary to their eventual success.
I know that some will argue that a consensus agreement will make it tough to get real progress. Let me say two things:
First, some states could attempt to derail negotiations to seek an individual concession. Our goal is to make such behavior transparent to bring public and diplomatic pressure onto the offending party. It’s sort of like earmarking for Congress; it’s better to know what’s being done in the light of day rather than being slipped into a 1,000-page bill in the dark of night.
And there are, as you know, a handful of states who make up the backbone of the worldwide arms trade. Excluding them or not getting a universal agreement would make any agreement less than useless. In political terms, this requires a big-tent policy even if bringing some into the tent is time consuming and painful. But it is the only way to address this issue and bring about an enduring and meaningful agreement that enhances our national security and also enhances international stability.
The treaty is worth doing because it can have, unlike many things we do, a more immediate impact. Lessening the arms trade can lead to less killing and less maiming, but the reality is that it is a very big challenge and we’re going to need your help to build the political support necessary to get this one done.
Thank you very much. And, as I said, I’m prepared to answer questions. They will have to be off the record at this point, however. Thank you. (Applause.)