Monday, June 3, 2013

A Sign of the Times?

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013, was opened for signature today, with 67 States signing the new treaty at the signature ceremony, which represents a solid, if unspectacular start. Particular credit goes to Spain for its provisional application of the core provisions of the ATT. Two states, Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago, said that they would like to host the ATT Secretariat. The blog is being updated during the day with important declarations by signatory states.
 
As you know, the ATT will enter into force 90 days after fifty states have signed and ratified it. The United Nations was "born" on 24 October 1945. Ensuring the treaty entered into force before its 70th anniversary on 24 October 2015 would be a fitting birthday present.

Angela Kane, the UN High Representative for Disarmament, opened the signing ceremony with the statement that the ATT was a "robust treaty". She paid tribute to the "outstanding stewardship" of Ambassador Peter Woolcott, who presided over the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Ambassador Woolcott then took the floor. He said that the treaty was "strong and balanced", and that it would help "to prevent atrocities, violations of human rights, and violations of humanitarian law".

Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the ICRC, said that we had "changed forever" how arms transfer decisions were made. She spoke of the treaty's "humanitarian purpose" and noted that the true measure of success would be the way it changes peoples lives in the years to come.

Anna Macdonald, Coordinator of  Control Arms, said that the days of "easy access" to weapons for dictators were numbered. "The treaty is definitely not perfect, but it is treaty worth signing." She said that the 50 ratifications could be secured within less than two years.

The first to sign the Arms Trade Treaty was the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, followed by the respective Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Minister of Defence Materiel of Australia then signed followed by the Minister of Tourism and Industry of Spain, the Minister of State for Tourism of Ireland, and the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy. and the Under-Secretary for Human Rights of Mexico.

The State Secretary of Norway then signed, followed by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom. Other States that subsequently signed through their Permanent Representatives to the UN in New York or Geneva or the Conference on Disarmament were: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, France, Greece, Guyana, Hungary, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Montenegro, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, the Seychelles, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uruguay, and Iceland.

Thus, a total of 67 states signed the ATT on the day the treaty opened for signature: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Greece, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Portugal, Romania, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, the Seychelles, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom. 

A series of statements were then delivered by signatory states.

Trinidad and Tobago said that it had begun the process of ratification and expected to be among the first 50 states to ratify. It stated that it would like to host the ATT Secretariat.

Spain announced that it would provisionally apply Articles 6 and 7 of the treaty in accordance with its Article 23.

The UK stated it would encourage states to go beyond the minimum standards set down by the treaty. It would aim to ratify "within the year".

Mexico complemented Spain and announced that it aimed to provisionally apply Articles 6 and 7 of the treaty in accordance with its Article 23 upon deposit of its instrument of ratification.

The Republic of Korea said that there should be no exception to the provisions in Article 6 (prohibitions).

Switzerland stated that it would be happy to host the ATT Secretariat in Geneva. It further stated that the reference to "other war crimes" in Article 6(3) included serious violations of Common Article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Brazil wanted the treaty to prohibit all transfers to unauthorised non-state actors.

The UN Secretary-General opened a high-level segment in the afternoon, saying that the world had decided to end the "free-for-all" in arms transfers. He said that the ATT would aid social and economic development.

Guido Westerwelle, Germany's Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that the ATT can "save lives", but "only if it is fully implemented on a global scale". Germany's parliament would start its consideration of the treaty this week.

Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs said that Finland would begin the ratification process soon.

Ireland said that the reference to war crimes in Article 6(3) included those committed in non-international armed conflicts, such as serious violations of Common Article 3.

Norway said that in accordance with Article 7 any transfer that has the potential to undermine peace and security or to amount to a serious violation of human rights or humanitarian law shall not be authorized.

New Zealand stated that it would treat the notion of "overriding" risk in Article 7 as a "substantial" risk.

Statements were interrupted for signatures of the ATT by Mauritania, Suriname, Togo, and Tuvalu.

76 comments:

  1. Dear all at the ATT,

    I am writing an academic paper about the ATT, and your blog has provided me with great information. I wondered if it would be possible to contact you to ask a few questions on the ATT, the conferences and the influence of NGOs in the process.

    Thank you,
    Ian Schechtman

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  6. After long years of campaigning by Amnesty International and the civil society movement, most countries have agreed to adopt a global treaty that can prevent the flow of arms into countries where they will be used to commit atrocities. And today, this still is a big issue.

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