links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on April 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



Statement by UK Ambassador Joanne Adamson, Head of Delegation, to the United Nations General Assembly meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty – 2 April 2013
10:00 PM (18 minutes ago)


Statement by UK Ambassador Joanne Adamson, Head of Delegation, to the United Nations General Assembly meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty – 2 April 2013

Thank you, Mr President.

Last Thursday, we were disappointed that success was deferred. Today, we have taken a decision that will save lives. It was the right decision, and we are proud of it.

Today, I have seen statements from my Prime Minister, my Foreign Secretary, my Deputy Prime Minister, and I have been in touch with our Foreign Office Minister, Mr Alistair Burt, who has been watching these negotiations with baited breath for the last two weeks.

This is a great success for the United Nations today and we in the UK are extremely proud.

Our action today is the product of ten years of campaigning and seven years of negotiation. But now, we must look ahead, to the future generations that will have a better chance to live safe and peaceful lives if this Treaty fulfills its promise.

Mr President,

It is up to us to make this happen.  Today, we have shown what the United Nations can achieve. We have a strong text. We made it together. But it is the global implementation of this text that will make a real difference. The United Kingdom stands ready to play its part. We will work with others to ensure this Treaty matters.

So what we have achieved today is a significant milestone on our journey to a better world. But it is just one part of the process. We cannot rest now. Today is the end of the beginning. Tomorrow we begin the practical work of changing lives and improving the future.

As we move forward we will keep together that team – the team of diplomats, of people working in civil society, of people from our industry, of our politicians, of public opinion. I pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in this long journey and my message to the conference today is let’s move forward together.

Don’t look back in anger.

Let’s take the next step.


And the US joins its voice for the regulation of passing on arms to other countries:


Mr. President, the United States is proud to have been able to co-sponsor and vote in favor of adopting the Arms Trade Treaty. The treaty is strong, balanced, effective, and implementable, and we believe it can command wide support. We join others in congratulating Ambassador Peter Woolcott for his tireless efforts in guiding the negotiation.

The treaty is the product of a long, intensive negotiation, and I know that no nation, including my own, got everything it may have sought in the final text. The result, however, is an instrument that succeeds in raising the bar on common standards for regulating international trade in conventional arms while helping to ensure that legitimate trade in such arms will not be unduly hindered.

The negotiations remained true to the original mandate for them from UN General Assembly Resolution 64/48, which called for negotiating a treaty with the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms and for the negotiations to be conducted in an open and transparent manner, on the basis of consensus. The consensus rule remains important
for the United States; the United Nations is most effective when it is able to take decisions by consensus.

Mr. President, as the United States has urged from the outset, this Treaty sets a floor – not a ceiling – for responsible national policies and practices for the regulation of international trade in conventional arms. We look forward to all countries having effective national control systems and procedures to manage international conventional arms transfers, as the United States does already.

We believe that our negotiations have resulted in a treaty that provides a clear standard, in Article 6, for when a transfer of conventional arms is absolutely prohibited. This article both reflects existing international law and, in paragraph three, would extend it by establishing a specific prohibition on the transfer of conventional arms when a state party knows that the transfer will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, or the enumerated war and other crimes. Article 7 requires a state party to conduct a national assessment of the risk that a proposed export could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as well as acts of terrorism or transnational organized crime. Taken together, these articles provide a robust and complementary framework that will promote responsible transfer of decisions by states parties.

Thank you, Mr. President.



At UN, ATT Passes With 22 Abstentions, Woolcott Tells ICP of Speakers List
By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 2 — When the Arms Trade Treaty was blocked on March 28 under the rules of consensus, the headlines read that only three countries were against it: Syria, North Korea and Iran.

But even then, in speeches like Sudan’s and Belarus’, one could hear abstentions coming.

And Tuesday in the UN General Assembly there were 23 abstentions, including the two most populous countries on Earth, China and India, and the most populous predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia.

Afterward, Inner City Press asked ATT president Peter Woolcott, after thanking him on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, about criticism of his allowing, before a promised ruling, Mexico and others to make an argument against the UN meaning of consensus.

  He replied that there was speakers list that he followed. He said he personally does not favor negotiating under the rule of consensus. Other might say: it showed.

 Inner City Press asked Mexico’s Luis Alfonso de Alba, who gave a thoughtful answer about “no vetoes,” that may resonate in the UN Budget Committee.

   It was announced that Angola did not abstain, but voted Yes (hence, 22 abstentions, still quite populous.)

In speeches before Tuesday’s vote, as Syria’s Bashar Ja’afari spoke, US Ambassador Susan Rice was walking out. After that, a full hour into the speeches, Qatar’s delegation rolled in. They ended up abstaining. Qatar supports rebels in Syria.

Sudan on the other hand said it was abstaining, citing the failure to address the arming of “mutinous” groups, like the SPLM-North and rebels in Darfur.

Russia, which by a point of order Thursday night put an end to the Mexico-launched attempt to redefine consensus, on Tuesday morning zeroed in on what knowledge of genocide might mean, in Article 6.3. Its Ambassador Churkin said Russia would not have broken consensus on March 28, but would now abstain, as did China. It’s hard to call this consensus.


U.N. Treaty Is First Aimed at Regulating Global Arms Sales.

Published by The New York Times on-line  April 2, 2013  – 107 Comments

Readers’ Comments: “There are too many in Congress who owe allegiance to the NRA and the armaments industry and not to the best interests of the U.S.” RHSchumann, Bonn

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to approve a pioneering treaty aimed at regulating the enormous global trade in conventional weapons, for the first time linking sales to the human rights records of the buyers.

Although implementation is years away and there is no specific enforcement mechanism, proponents say the treaty would for the first time force sellers to consider how their customers will use the weapons and to make that information public.

The goal is to curb the sale of weapons that kill tens of thousands of people every year — by, for example, making it harder for Russia to argue that its arms deals with Syria are legal under international law.

The treaty, which took seven years to negotiate, reflects growing international sentiment that the multibillion-dollar weapons trade needs to be held to a moral standard.

The hope is that even nations reluctant to ratify the treaty will feel public pressure to abide by its provisions.

The treaty calls for sales to be evaluated on whether the weapons will be used to break humanitarian law, foment genocide or war crimes, abet terrorism or organized crime or slaughter women and children.

“Finally we have seen the governments of the world come together and say ‘Enough!’ ” said Anna MacDonald, the head of arms control for Oxfam International, one of the many rights groups that pushed for the treaty. “It is time to stop the poorly regulated arms trade. It is time to bring the arms trade under control.”

She pointed to the Syrian civil war, where 70,000 people have been killed, as a hypothetical example, noting that Russia argues that sales are permitted because there is no arms embargo.

“This treaty won’t solve the problems of Syria overnight, no treaty could do that, but it will help to prevent future Syrias,” Ms. MacDonald said. “It will help to reduce armed violence. It will help to reduce conflict.”

Members of the General Assembly voted 154 to 3 to approve the Arms Trade Treaty, with 23 abstentions — many from nations with dubious recent human rights records like Bahrain, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The vote came after more than two decades of organizing. Humanitarian groups started lobbying after the 1991 Persian Gulf war to curb the trade in conventional weapons, having realized that Iraq had more weapons than France, diplomats said.

The treaty establishes an international forum of states that will review published reports of arms sales and publicly name violators. Even if the treaty will take time to become international law, its standards will be used immediately as political and moral guidelines, proponents said.

“It will help reduce the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement after the United States, the biggest arms exporter, voted with the majority for approval.

But the abstaining countries included China and Russia, which also are leading sellers, raising concerns about how many countries will ultimately ratify the treaty. It is scheduled to go into effect after 50 nations have ratified it. Given the overwhelming vote, diplomats anticipated that it could go into effect in two to three years, relative quickly for an international treaty.

Proponents said that if enough countries ratify the treaty, it will effectively become the international norm. If major sellers like the United States and Russia choose to sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world negotiates what weapons can be traded globally, they will still be affected by the outcome, activists said.

The treaty’s ratification prospects in the Senate appear bleak, at least in the short term, in part because of opposition by the gun lobby. More than 50 senators signaled months ago that they would oppose the treaty — more than enough to defeat it, since 67 senators must ratify it.

Among the opponents is Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican. In a statement last month, he said that the treaty contained “unnecessarily harsh treatment of civilian-owned small arms” and violated the right to self-defense and United States sovereignty.

In a bow to American concerns, the preamble states that it is focused on international sales, not traditional domestic use, but the National Rifle Association has vowed to fight ratification anyway.

The General Assembly vote came after efforts to achieve a consensus on the treaty among all 193 member states of the United Nations failed last week, with Iran, North Korea and Syria blocking it. The three, often ostracized, voted against the treaty again on Tuesday.

“Having the abstentions from two major arms exporters lessens the moral weight of the treaty,” said Nic Marsh, a proponent with the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. “By abstaining they have left their options open.”

Numerous states, including Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, said they had abstained because the human rights criteria were ill defined and could be abused to create political pressure. Many who abstained said the treaty should have banned sales to all armed groups, but supporters said the guidelines did that effectively while leaving open sales to liberation movements facing abusive governments.

Supporters also said that over the long run the guidelines should work to make the criteria more standardized, rather than arbitrary, as countries agree on norms of sale in a trade estimated at $70 billion annually.

The treaty covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber weapons, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms and light weapons. Ammunition exports are subject to the same criteria as the other war matériel. Imports are not covered.

India, a major importer, abstained because of its concerns that its existing contracts might be blocked, despite compromise language to address that.

Support was particularly strong among African countries — even if the compromise text was weaker than some had anticipated — with most governments asserting that in the long run, the treaty would curb the arms sales that have fueled many conflicts.

Even some supporters conceded that the highly complicated negotiations forced compromises that left significant loopholes. The treaty focuses on sales, for example, and not on all the ways in which conventional arms are transferred, including as gifts, loans, leases and aid.

“This is a very good framework to build on,” said Peter Woolcott, the Australian diplomat who presided over the negotiations. “But it is only a framework.”


Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York, and Jonathan Weisman from Washington.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article