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'Final' Arms Trade Treaty A Good Step Forward

For Immediate Release: March 27, 2013, 3pm EST
Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association, 202-277-3478

(United Nations, NY)--Today, arms control analysts welcomed the new, compromise Arms Trade Treaty text that has emerged from intense negotiations and that states may endorse on the final day of the March 18-28 UN diplomatic conference.

"The emerging treaty represents an important first step in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent, U.S.-based Arms Control Association.

"The ATT should help set a new global standard and new sense of responsibility for all arms transfers and ammunition exports. The new treaty says to every United Nations member that you cannot simply 'export and forget,'" he said.

"While text could have been stronger and more comprehensive, it can make an effective and important difference. This text represents what major exporters, importers, and the states most affected by the illicit arms trade can agree to at this point. It represents a floor, not a ceiling for common sense behavior. In the remaining hours, states should clarify their understanding of the text in ways that strengthen the treaty, and in the coming years, through its effective implementation and tougher national regulations and practice," Kimball said.

At its core, the treaty would establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized. It would require states to assess the potential that the transfer "could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "international human rights law," terrorism, organized crime, and take into account the risk of serious acts of gender-based violence or acts of violence against women and children. If there is an overriding risk of any of these negative consequences, states are required not to authorize the export.

The ATT also prohibits transfers of arms or exports or export of ammunition or weapons parts & components if the state "has knowledge" that the transfer would be used in the commission of "genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians" or other war crimes.

The treaty also requires that all states establish effective, regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts & components.

"At the outset of the negotiations, several states opposed the inclusion of ammunition in the treaty in any way. The end result on ammunition is a net plus," Kimball said.

"The treaty also requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers, which would help improve transparency and public accountability for states' actions," Kimball noted.

"Over time, the treaty will help tip the scales in favor human rights and human security when states consider arms sales in the future. It will help close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering," Kimball said.

"We urge the United States and other arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, the U.K., and India, to support the emerging treaty. President Obama should be among the first to sign the treaty as its advances U.S. and global security, raises the standards for global arms transfers, and will help fulfill our responsibility to protect from armed conflict," Kimball urged.

When states gather on Thursday to consider final approval by the conference, some states may choose to block consensus, in which case the vast majority of states would likely take the draft treaty forward for approval by the UN General Assembly.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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