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Posted on on March 29th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

THE UPDATE DIRECTLY FROM THE UN CORRIDORS :  On the Arms Trade Treaty – So  Some Try to Re-Define Consensus. 

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 — The Arms Trade Treaty talks were to have concluded this afternoon; chairman Peter Woolcott has scheduled a press stakeout at 6 pm.

But as delegates continued milling around in Conference Room 1, Inner City Press observed the UN Television stakeout being taken apart at 6:10 pm.

By 6:45 pm, Iran, North Korea and Syria had formally objected, blocking consensus.

Mexico and some others argued that the ATT could still be adopted — without a vote — since there is no definition of consensus.

But Syria cited a definition, from the World Health Organization in 1987. Russia echoed that. Iran went further, saying that those trying to change the rules should “leave the building.”

Iran had earlier spoken up with sample objections; sources told Inner City Press their main issue was the inclusion of a reference to UN Security Council Chapter 7 sanctions, which they are under.

North Korea, too, is under them. So is Sudan, but several sources told Inner City Press Sudan does not want to stand alone, or even, as a source put it “be seen as one of the rogues.”

But there are principles, and the proponents of the ATT if they wanted consensus might have paid more attention to them.

As delegates milled around on the first floor, Inner City Press nearly alone staked out the second floor protocol room NLB-2109. Iran’s Permanent Representative came out with his Syrian counter-part Bashar Ja’afari. Soon thereafter, the objections were made, then the attempts to re-define consensus. Only at the UN.


  Privately a speaker said, we can’t just change the rules. Another said, the US pushed for the ATT to be under the rule of consensus, to be able to block it — then “pushed Iran to block it.”

Inner City Press asked the head of the US delegation about this; he did not disagree, including saying, it’s not a criticism. Alright then.

Update of 9:30 pm – We’d be told there would be a Woolcott stakeout, to get his side. But it’s canceled. To be fair we’ll make his argument: there was a list of speakers.

Update of 10:26 pm – after a long stand off resulting in the phrase, “there was no consensus and the draft decision was not adopted.” There’s laughter, cheering – and a cloud over the UN.





General Assembly could vote on arms treaty next week.

The United Nations was prevented today by Syria, North Korea and Iran from adopting a proposed international arms treaty.

But the U.K., on behalf of multiple countries, sent the draft treaty to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, asking the General Assembly to vote quickly on it. “Most people in the world want regulation and those are the voices that need to be heard,” says Joanne Adamson, the chief U.K. delegate.

Even the United Nations Foundation (UNF) seems to have had enough of this UN. What will the US of President Obama say? Can the US oppose the Conventional Arms Control Treaty as previous US Administrations did?


UK Statement on the Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty delivered by Ambassador Jo Adamson – 28 March 2013

A good strong treaty has been blocked by the DPRK, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Syria. But most people in most of the world want regulation and those other voices that need to be heard. So we have sent a text for decision by the United Nations General Assembly.

 This treaty will be the first international, legally binding agreement on the transfer of small arms and light-weapons, and the seven UN categories of conventional arms.

 It will have an explicit requirement for a national control system, with controls to apply to the broadest range of arms.

 It will prohibit exports that will be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, or a broad range of war crimes.

 It will have a mandatory requirement for arms exports – including ammunition, munitions, and military parts and components – to be assessed on the basis of criteria including peace and security, human rights, international humanitarian law, terrorism, which many had called for, and transnational organised crime.

 It will require mandatory refusals for transfers that pose unacceptable risks.

 It will have a requirement to take into account in export licensing decisions, the risks of serious acts of gender based violence, violence against women and children and corruption.

 It will have a requirement for states to regulate arms brokering.

 It will have mandatory record keeping and regular reporting on authorization.

 It will have regulation, where feasible, on imports, transit and transhipment.

It will have strong provisions to prevent diversion of weapons to illicit trafficking or use. And those provisions on diversions will have been negotiated, and I use the word negotiated, in a process which you established for us, the states, to take our own responsibility and to produce by consensus within the United Nations, which we cherish go dearly, a consensus outcome. That new article which we saw in the course of this conference was negotiated following many requests from countries who said that the 26th of July text was not strong enough in this area. It was negotiated. It is in the treaty.

It contains provisions to help the treaty keep up to date with perhaps future, new types of weaponry, and to take our treaty, which we will have up to date and to make sure it is future-proofed. This will be a treaty on which we today can build. This is the sense of this room. This is why we are working right now to bring this treaty, which you gave us the opportunity to create, home. You gave us that opportunity. The overwhelming majority took that opportunity and negotiated this treaty.


Mr President,

I pay tribute to you. I cannot hold back my disappointment that we have been unable to take the opportunity to build on negotiations, which from my perspective, were rigorous, organised, transparent, and which involved Member States of the United Nations taking their responsibilities working on  texts late into the night and producing, with your help, an excellent text.


Mr President,

This is success deferred. This is not failure. We will have the Arms Trade Treaty. We will go to UNGA soon. I pay huge tribute to you for your fairness, for your rigor, for demanding high standards of us. That is the kind of Arms Trade we want to have. It is the same as the way you have run this conference.

I thank you, Mr President.



UK Press Release: Foreign Secretary remains determined to secure Arms Trade Treaty



Foreign Secretary signals UK’s continued commitment to securing an Arms Trade Treaty following failure to reach consensus in the United Nations.   


The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said:


“I am deeply disappointed that the negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty closed today without consensus.  After 7 years of intensive work, the international community had never had a better chance to agree a global, legally binding Treaty that would make the world a safer place.


“The UK has played a leading role and spared no effort to secure a Treaty which would be both strong and globally applied, based on consensus.


“We have come very close. It is disappointing that three countries blocked the historic agreement that lay within our reach.


“UK Ministers and officials in London, New York and in overseas capitals worked intensively to achieve the strongest possible outcome. I would like to thank everyone involved, including our close partners in civil society and industry, who have worked so hard together towards our common goal, and whose disappointment we share. 


“This Treaty is too important for us to let it end here. The overwhelming majority of the international community want this Treaty and we are determined to take it forward. 


“We will now focus our efforts on securing the adoption of the Treaty at the UN General Assembly as soon as possible. We will encourage the widest possible support for it, so that it delivers its promise of greater security, protecting human rights, challenging poverty and helping to secure sustainable development across the globe.


“When adopted, this will be the first international, legally-binding Treaty setting controls on the transfers of weapons. It will prohibit transfers that would be used for genocide or war crimes. Arms exports will be refused if they pose unacceptable risks.  Strong steps will be taken to prevent weapons being diverted into the illegal market. Authorisations of exports will be reported and arms brokering regulated.  It will also protect the legitimate trade in arms and promote international collaboration.


“The UK will not rest until we have secured an effective global Arms Trade Treaty.”


From the United States:  Statement by Secretary Kerry on the U.S. Support for the Arms Trade Treaty 0n 3-15-13

The United States looks forward to working with our international partners at the upcoming conference from March 18-28 to reach consensus on an Arms Trade Treaty that advances global security and respects national sovereignty and the legitimate arms trade. We supported and actively participated in negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty held at the United Nations in July 2012. Those negotiations made considerable progress, but ended before a treaty could be concluded. Accordingly, the United States supported a UN General Assembly resolution December 24, 2012 to convene the conference this month to build on those efforts.

The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability. An effective treaty that recognizes that each nation must tailor and enforce its own national export and import control mechanisms can generate the participation of a broad majority of states, help stem the illicit flow of conventional arms across international borders, and have important humanitarian benefits.

The United States could only be party to an Arms Trade Treaty that addresses international transfers of conventional arms solely and does not impose any new requirements on the U.S. domestic trade in firearms or on U.S. exporters. We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment.

While the international arms trade affects every country, over one hundred states today do not have a system for control of international conventional arms transfers. We support a treaty that will bring all countries closer to existing international best practices, which we already observe, while preserving national decisions to transfer conventional arms responsibly. The international conventional arms trade is, and will continue to be, a legitimate commercial activity. But responsible nations should have in place control systems that will help reduce the risk that a transfer of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including those involving terrorism, and serious human rights violations.

I wish the conference well and hope that we can reach consensus on a treaty that improves global security, advances our humanitarian goals, and enhances U.S. national security by encouraging all nations to establish meaningful systems and standards for regulating international arms transfers and ensuring respect for international law.



Statement of Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman

Arms Trade Treaty Conference

Morning Plenary Session

March 25, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.  For years now, the United States has sought to achieve an Arms Trade Treaty that is strong, meaningful, and implementable — a treaty on which the United States could join consensus, a treaty the U.S. government could sign, and ultimately recommend to our Senate for ratification.  Thanks to you, Mr. President and your exceptional team, that goal is in sight and the U.S. will spare no effort to achieve it.

To give you examples of how hard we have worked with you and other delegations, let me mention Article 6, which was just mentioned by our friend from Norway.  Last week, we endorsed a suggestion by Japan, which we saw as a sound basis for negotiation, and which led to a discussion among the U.S. and many others that has made real progress towards addressing an important issue.  We will, of course, take this latest proposal by Norway into consideration.  Article 6 and 7 together are the heart of the treaty, a barrier against the misuse of conventional arms.

We have worked toward a compromise on Article 5.2 but none has been found.  In the end, we cannot accept language that is contrary to the plain meaning of the treaty.

My delegation came to this final UN conference prepared to work, as the General Assembly decided, on the basis of the July 26 text, a text that had its flaws but was the result of real, politically balanced compromise, a text that would both be meaningful and attract the widest possible consensus.  At that time, 90 countries said they could accept that text.  Since that time, your March 22 text is stronger, clearer, and more implementable.  I would hope all those who could accept the July text could accept this stronger one.

Let me remind you that this is not an arms control treaty, not a disarmament treaty — it is a trade treaty regulating a legitimate activityAllow me to comment on its two primary purposes.  A minimum requirement for national action is to regulate, in a fashion that will curb abuses against humanity and common sense, what is, nonetheless, a very legitimate international activity: the transfer of conventional arms to enhance, rather than undermine, peace and security — this is the heart of the regulation provisions.  This text contains strong language on these points that would bring the world closer to the standard of the United States and other major exporters.  On the second major goal, combating diversion, we are prepared to work on meaningful language either in a separate article or in clauses throughout the text.  Some diversion occurs between exporter and importer.  More diversion occurs after receipt by the importer.  To address all aspects of diversion, we are ready to work on meaningful language that expands international cooperation but recognize it must have language that respects domestic jurisdictions over domestic criminal activity.

Let’s be honest with each other; we are barely 48 hours away from a final text.  It is much too late to try to reopen some of the hard-fought compromises that were achieved last July — or to push the treaty into something new.  The U.S., like other delegations, has been constructive and leaned forward as much as we could, but trying to stretch that attitude into new topics at this point in time simply risks the rubber band snapping back and leaving us with a far less useful result than we already have seen.  So I would urge my colleagues to keep their focus on the object we share: ensuring that we produce and agree on, at the end of the week, an instrument that will optimize — not maximize, but optimize — the prospects for completing the full process of making an effective Arms Trade Treaty a working and living instrument.



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