Arms Trade Treaty
|Signed||Open for signature from 3 June 2013|
|Location||New York City, USA|
|Sealed||2 April 2013|
|Condition||Ratification by 50 states|
|Arms Trade Treaty at Wikisource|
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT; French: le Traité sur le Commerce des Armes, TCA) is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons. International weapons commerce has been estimated to reach US$70 billion a year.
The treaty was negotiated at a global conference under the auspices of the United Nations from 2–27 July 2012 in New York. As it was not possible to reach an agreement on a final text at that time, a new meeting for the conference was scheduled for 18–28 March 2013. On 2 April 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted the ATT. The treaty has been signed by 72 states, but it will not entered into force until it has been ratified or acceded to by 50 states.
The ATT is part of a larger global effort begun in 1997 by Costa Rican President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Óscar Arias. In that year, Arias led a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in a meeting in New York to offer the world a code of conduct for the trade in arms. This group included Elie Wiesel, Betty Williams, the Dalai Lama, José Ramos-Horta, representatives of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Amnesty International, and the American Friends Service Committee. The original idea was to establish ethical standards for the arms trade that would eventually be adopted by the international community. Over the following 16 years, the Arias Foundation for Peace & Human Progress has played an instrumental role in achieving approval of the treaty.
In 2001, the process continued with the adoption of a non-legally binding program of action at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects in 2001. This program was formally called the “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” (PoA).
Later put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates, the ATT was first addressed in the UN in December 2006 when the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”.
The arms trade treaty, like the PoA, is predicated upon a hypothesis that the illicit trade in small arms is a large and serious problem requiring global action through the UN. According to a well regarded 2012 Routledge Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution publication, "the relative importance of diversion or misuse of officially authorised transfers, compared to international entirely illegal black market trafficking has been thoroughly confirmed." The authors go on to elaborate that "For most developing or fragile states, a combination of weak domestic regulation of authorised firearms possession with theft, loss or corrupt sale from official holdings tends to be a bigger source of weapons concern than illicit trafficking across borders."
Development of the treaty
Resolution 61/89 requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, and to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session. 94 States submitted their views, which are contained in the 2007 report A/62/278.
UN Resolution 61/89
On 18 October 2006, UK Ambassador John Duncan formally introduced a resolution requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms , speaking on behalf of the co-authors (Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and Kenya). On behalf of the European Union, Finland highlighted the support for the effort when it said, “everyday, everywhere, people are affected by the side effects of irresponsible arms transfers... As there is currently no comprehensive internationally binding instrument available to provide an agreed regulator framework for this activity, the EU welcomes the growing support, in all parts of the world, for an ATT.”
In December 2006, 153 Member States voted in favor of the resolution, numbered 61/89. Twenty-four countries abstained: Bahrain, Belarus, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, UAE, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. The United States voted against the resolution.
Responding to procedural concerns that were not resolved before the final draft of the resolution, the UK said the aim of the initiative was to start a discussion on the feasibility and draft parameters of an Arms Trade Treaty and that "agnostic" states would have a clear opportunity to engage in the process. After the vote, Algeria indicated that the effort must receive broad-based support from states and be based on the principles of the UN Charter.
Group of Governmental Experts
Resolution 61/89 also requested the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts, on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for such a legal instrument, and to transmit the report of the group of experts to the Assembly for consideration at its sixty-third session. On 28 September 2007, the Secretary General appointed a Group of Governmental Experts from the following 28 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States. The group met three times in 2008 and published a final report on the issue
Preparatory Committee and Conference
In 2009, Oscar Arias, then in his second term as President of Costa Rica, introduced the Treaty at the United Nations, saying:
“I return today, as a Rip Van Winkle of the modern era, to see that everything has changed except this. Peace continues to be a step further away. Nuclear and conventional weapons still exist despite the promises. It is up to us to ensure that in twenty years we do not awaken to the same terrors we suffer today. I am not ignorant of the fact that the biggest arms dealers in the world are represented here. But today I do not speak to the arms manufacturers, but rather to the leaders of humanity, who have the responsibility to put principles before profits, and enable the promise of a future in which, finally, we can sleep peacefully .”
In that same year, an Open-ended Working Group—open to all States—held two meetings on an arms trade treaty. A total of six sessions of this Group were planned. However, at the end of 2009 the General Assembly of the United Nations decided by resolution A/RES/64/48 to convene a Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2012 "to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms". The decisions was influenced by change in position of the United States (the largest arms producer and only country voting against resolution 61/89), which took place upon a change in leadership from George W. Bush to Obama, on the condition they were “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.”.
Adoption of the Treaty
The UN General Assembly of 2 April 2013 (71st Plenary Meeting) adopted the Arms Trade Treaty as a resolution by a 154-to-3 vote with 23 abstentions. North Korea, Iran, and Syria voted in opposition. China and Russia, among the world's leaders in weapon exports, were among the 23 nations that abstained. Cuba, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan also abstained. Armenia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Vietnam did not vote. It was opened for formal signature on 3 June 2013.
"According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, the treaty will not do any of the following: interfere with domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms in Member States; ban the export of any type of weapon; harm States' legitimate right to self-defence; or undermine national arms regulation standards already in place."
Opposition to the ATT can be broken down into state opposition and civil society opposition. Over thirty states have objected to various parts of the ATT during negotiations, the majority of which held strong concerns about the implications for national sovereignty. According to armstreaty.org, the leading ATT negotiations tracking website, countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran have objected to many more aspects of the ATT than has the United States.
From a civil society point of view, groups concerned about national sovereignty or individual rights to armed defense have been negative of the ATT. While not fundamentally opposed to an ATT, these groups are keenly sensitive to ensuring an ATT does not undermine national constitutional protections and individual rights. The most vocal and organized civil society groups opposing objectionable aspects to the ATT originated from the United States. These groups include the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR), the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and The Heritage Foundation. The NRA and the Gun Owners of America say that the treaty is an attempt to circumvent the Second Amendment and similar guarantees in state constitutions in order to impose domestic gun regulations.
Perhaps the largest source of civil society opposition[vague] to the ATT has come from the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which is the lobbying arm of the NRA. In July 2012 ILA wrote that:
"Anti-gun treaty proponents continue to mislead the public, claiming the treaty would have no impact on American gun owners. That's a bald-faced lie. For example, the most recent draft treaty includes export/import controls that would require officials in an importing country to collect information on the 'end user' of a firearm, keep the information for 20 years, and provide the information to the country from which the gun was exported. In other words, if you bought a Beretta shotgun, you would be an 'end user' and the U.S. government would have to keep a record of you and notify the Italian government about your purchase. That is gun registration. If the U.S. refuses to implement this data collection on law-abiding American gun owners, other nations might be required to ban the export of firearms to the U.S."
Advocates of the treaty say that it only pertains to international arms trade, and would have no effect on current domestic laws. These advocates point to the UN General Assembly resolution starting the process on the Arms Trade Treaty. The resolution explicitly states that it is “the exclusive right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through constitutional protections on private ownership.”
On 12 July 2012, the United States issued a statement condemning the selection of Iran to serve as vice president of the conference. The statement called the move "outrageous" and noted that Iran is under Security Council sanctions for weapons proliferation.
International non-government and human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Oxfam, the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, Saferworld and the International Action Network on Small Arms (who lead the Control Arms Campaign) have developed analysis on what an effective Arms Trade Treaty would look like.
It would ensure that no transfer is permitted if there is substantial risk that it is likely to:
- be used in serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, or acts of genocide or crimes against humanity;
- facilitate terrorist attacks, a pattern of gender-based violence, violent crime or organized crime;
- violate United Nations Charter obligations, including UN arms embargoes;
- be diverted from its stated recipient;
- adversely affect regional security; or
- seriously impair poverty reduction or socioeconomic development.
Loopholes would be minimized. It would include:
- all weapons—including all military, security and police arms, related equipment and ammunition, components, expertise, and production equipment;
- all types of transfer—including import, export, re-export, temporary transfer and transshipment, in the state sanctioned and commercial trade, plus transfers of technology, loans, gifts and aid; and
- all transactions—including those by dealers and brokers, and those providing technical assistance, training, transport, storage, finance and security.
The Amnesty International website "loopholes" include shotguns marketed for deer hunting that are virtually the same as military/police shotguns and rifles marketed for long range target shooting that are virtually the same as military/police sniper rifles. AI advocates that the civilian guns must be included in any workable arms trade controls; otherwise, governments could authorize export/import of sporting guns virtually the same as military/police weapons in function.
It must be workable and enforceable. It must:
- provide guidelines for the treaty's full, clear implementation;
- ensure transparency—including full annual reports of national arms transfers;
- have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance;
- ensure accountability—with provisions for adjudication, dispute settlement and sanctions;
- include a comprehensive framework for international cooperation and assistance.
NGOs are also advocating that the Arms Trade Treaty must reinforce existing responsibilities to assist survivors of armed violence, as well as identify new avenues to address suffering and trauma.
The U.S. NGO Second Amendment Foundation has voiced concern that a multinational treaty limiting the firearms trade might infringe on the constitutional right of private firearm ownership for self-defense in the US and other countries.
- Arms industry
- Arms trafficking
- Mine action
- National Rifle Association
- Preparatory Committee for an Arms Trade Treaty
- United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms
- United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs
- "Arms Trade Treaty: Treaty Status". United Nations. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
- "UN Assembly approves first-ever Arms Trade Treaty – Xinhua | English.news.cn". News.xinhuanet.com. 31 July 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty
- "UN: Global Arms Trade Treaty a step closer after resounding vote". Amnesty International. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- UN General Assembly approves global arms trade treaty
- "Overwhelming majority of states in general assembly say ‘yes’ to arms trade treaty to stave off irresponsible transfers that perpetuate conflict, human suffering". United Nations. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- Edited by Greene and Marsh. Small Arms, Crime and Conflict: Global governance and the threat of armed violence. London: Routledge Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution. p. 90.
- Ibid., p. 91. Missing or empty
- "Arms Trade Treaty". Un.org. 21 June 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- “Statement by H.E. Mr. Kari Kahiluoto, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the Conference on Disarmament, on behalf of the European Union, UN 61st Session; First Committee, Thematic Discussion: Conventional Weapons, 12 October 2006, New York.”[dead link], retrieved 3 October 2008
- United Nations General Assembly Verbatim Report meeting 67 session 61 page 31 on 6 December 2006 (retrieved 2012-11-05)
- “The First Committee Monitor, 2006 Final Edition.”[dead link], Reaching Critical Will. Retrieved 3 October 2008
- "Links to documents". Un.org. 9 September 2002. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty”, UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, retrieved 4 August 2012
- “Global week of action to support Arms Trade Treaty” Amnesty International retrieved 12 September 2008
- "United Nations Official Document". Un.org. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- "U.S. Backs Arms Trade Treaty at UN, Abandoning Bush Opposition". Bloomberg. 30 October 2009.
- "U.S. reverses stance on treaty to regulate arms trade". Reuters. 15 October 2009.
- Barbara Plett. "BBC News – UN passes historic arms trade treaty by huge majority". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- "UN General Assembly approves global arms trade treaty". UN News Centre. 2 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
- Overwhelming Majority of States in General Assembly Say ‘Yes’ to Arms Trade Treaty to Stave off Irresponsible Transfers that Perpetuate Conflict, Human Suffering
- "NRA to UN: don't regulate US arms ownership". SFgate.com. 15 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-21.[dead link]
- "Disinformation Continues as U.N. Arms Treaty Takes Shape". NRAila.org. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- "Separating fact from fiction on the Arms Trade Treaty". oxfamamerica.org. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
- "A big deal about small arms". birchbarkletter.com. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- "The Arms Trade Treaty: A Response to the 2nd Amendment Critique". law.marquette.edu. 1 December 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
- Kornblau, Mark. "Statement by Mark Kornblau, Spokesman, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, on the Selection of Iran to Serve as a Vice President to the Arms Trade Treaty Conference". United States Mission to the United Nations. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- See http://www.controlarms.org/en
- Loopholes "Can you spot the difference?" demonstrating virtual identity between military/police weapons and sporting arms.
- "Saf Press Release :: Saf Report Live From The Un". Saf.org. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
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