On October 30 2009, UN members voted in favour of forming an Arms Trade Treaty.
153 countries voted in favour, 19 abstained and one country (Zimbabwe) voted against.
Negotiations on the terms of the Treaty began this year, and we hope agreement on a Treaty will be secured in 2012. It will provide a framework for all UN States to adhere to the same high standards for arms control. On 4 March 2011, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt welcomed progress on an Arms Trade Treaty at the latest negotiations at the UN in New York. He said, "A global Arms Trade Treaty has the potential to prevent human rights abuses, reduce conflict and make the world a safer place".
The UK supports the development of an international Arms Trade Treaty - find out why below.
The arms market is increasingly complex and global. Existing regional and national arms export control systems don’t give complete, global coverage and are often inconsistent with each other. This creates gaps which are being exploited so arms can pass onto the illicit market. A global ATT would close these gaps.
An Arms Trade Treaty would be a legally binding agreement between States that they will all use the same high standards in assessing whether to export conventional arms. This will help regulate the global arms market to prevent weapons reaching the hands of terrorists, insurgents and human rights abusers. For example, this would stop weapons reaching those who use them to:
Securing a robust ATT remains a very high priority for the UK. The UK introduced the initial Resolution in December 2006 calling for work towards an ATT.
The Resolution was co-authored with six countries, Australia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Finland, Kenya and Japan.
We're working closely with NGOs, the defence industry, and international governments and organisations to take forward work towards an ATT.
Support for an ATT is widespread and growing, both across civil society and among States. Secretary of State Clinton announced on 14 October 2009 that the US fully supports working towards a strong ATT.
In October 2008, the UK and the six original co-authors introduced a Resolution in the UN calling for further detailed work in 2009 on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
116 countries agreed to co-sponsor the Resolution – this means they fully supported the text of the Resolution and wanted to be associated with it.
On 31 October 2008, the vote in the UNGA First Committee confirmed the overwhelming level of support for work towards an ATT. 88% of States present, totalling 147 countries, voted in favour. 18 states abstained from voting and only two, the US and Zimbabwe, voted against.
In the early morning of 24 December 2008 in the UN General Assembly, 133 States voted in favour of a draft resolution 'Towards an Arms Trade Treaty'. There were 19 abstentions and only one State, the United States, voted against. 41 States did not vote. The text of this and other related Resolutions can be found on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) website.
The Resolution established a series of Open Ended Working Groups (OEWG), the first of which was held in March 2009. A small number of States remain sceptical of how an ATT might help regulate the international trade in arms but there was clear agreement there is, as one State put it, 'a crying need' to do so.
There was also a clear majority view that, working together, the international community can shape an ATT into an effective legally binding mechanism to regulate the international trade in arms.
The second OEWG was held from 13-17 July. Following extensive discussions among States, it was agreed that the lack of international regulation of the trade in conventional arms is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The Chair of the OEWG, Ambassador Moritan of Argentina, reported the outcome of these two meetings to the UN Secretary General.
Along with the original co-author States, the UK submitted a new resolution at the UN General Assembly First Committee meeting in October 2009. This resolution built upon the consensus that action was needed to address the lack of international regulation of the trade in conventional arms by establishing, for the first time, an agreed timetable to negotiate a strong ATT.
153 states voted in favour of the Resolution, with 19 abstentions and one vote against (Zimbabwe) and it was subsequently adopted by the UN General Assembly. set a timetable for negotiations with Preparatory Committee meetings taking place in 2010 and 2011, leading to a UN Conference in 2012.
The first Preparatory Committee meetings took place in New York from 12 to 23 July 2010 and were a positive start to the negotiations. Following initial discussions between UN Member States, the Chair of the process, Ambassador Moritan, released a series of papers on Treaty Elements, Principles and Goals and Objectives. Further discussion papers on Scope, Parameters and Implementation/Application were added during the second week. These papers will now form the basis of negotiations moving forward. The next Preparatory Committee meeting will take place in New York from 28 February to 4 March 2011.
Further details on the UN process towards an ATT and submissions from States (including the UK’s views on an Arms Trade Treaty, which were submitted to the UN on 12 March 2007) are available on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) website.