“The journey of the ATT to date and looking ahead”, Arms Trade Treaty – International Parliamentary Seminar, London, 3.11.2014

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,


I would like to thank the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union and its chairman Rt Hon Alistair Burt, with whom I have had the pleasure to work in our co-authors group to bring this treaty into being, for inviting me as a key note speaker at this seminar.


The Arms Trade Treaty is very dear to me since I have participated actively in the ATT process right from the beginning. That is why it gives me great pleasure that the treaty will enter into force on Christmas Eve. This happens not a day too soon. With this historic Treaty we take a major step forward in controlling the use of conventional arms and small arms and light weapons that kill hundreds of thousands of people – men, women and children – every year.


The Arms Trade Treaty is a result of nearly twenty years of diplomacy and advocacy. The very origins of the ATT date back to 1997 when several Nobel Peace Prize winners led by then President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, first proposed a Code of Conduct for the international arms trade. This initiative later led to the adoption of a non-binding UN Program of Action on Small Arms in 2001.


The actual process towards the Arms Trade Treaty started in 2006 as seven countries – Finland, Argentina, Australia, Costa-Rica, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom – took the initiative and introduced UN resolution 61/89. This resolution instructed the UN Secretary-General to explore the feasibility of a future arms trade treaty. A significant majority – 153 states – voted in favor of the resolution which provided a basis for further work. The seven co-authors of the 2006 resolution – the so called co-authors group – have been active in promoting the ATT ever since.


Based on the resolution the UN Secretary-General appointed in 2007 a Group of Governmental Experts to examine the “feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument for the import, export, and transfer of conventional arms”. The Group’s work paved the way towards the treaty negotiations.


In 2009 the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 64/48 which called for a treaty negotiation conference to be convened in 2012. The resolution tasked the Conference to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible international standards for the transfer of conventional arms. The resolution also mandated all the treaty negotiations to be conducted on the basis of consensus. Ambassador Garcia Moritàn of Argentina chaired three preparatory meetings of the ATT PrepCom. The PrepCom’s work enjoyed the support of all regional groups.


As the Conference then met for four weeks in July 2012 no consensus was reached on the draft Treaty text. There was some divergence of opinion between the arms producing and arms importing countries. The consensus was, however, basically broken by some states that had been hostile to the ATT from the very beginning. That is why some states even considered moving the ATT process outside the UN framework to safeguard a positive outcome. The Conference ending without a conclusion was a personal disappointment for many of us. The story tells that Ambassador Garcia Moritàn didn’t meet with anyone and didn’t speak with anyone for hours after concluding the session but sat alone in a small conference room. Such was his disappointment after all his efforts had been in vain.


Nevertheless, the co-authors group remained determined and introduced a new resolution to the UN General Assembly later the same year. The resolution called for convening a Final ATT Conference in March 2013 with the draft treaty text of 2012 as the basis of the work. The UN General Assembly voted in favor of the resolution with an overwhelming majority. Ambassador Woolcott of Australia was appointed as the President of the Final Conference.


The negotiation atmosphere at the Final Conference was more constructive. A draft Treaty text was finalized in less than two weeks. However, the treaty was blocked from consensus approval by three states – Iran, North Korea and Syria – but they could not halt the momentum. A large group of countries pushed the treaty forward to the UN General Assembly where only a majority was needed for the adoption. A large number of delegates led by the UK from different countries and continents worked way past midnight to find a way to take the treaty to the General Assembly as soon as possible.


The 2nd of April 2013 was a memorable day and history was made. It was right after Easter. Many of the delegates stayed in New York over Easter holidays and collected co-sponsorships for the resolution by phoning UN member states and asking their representatives to come and sign the roster. The British and Finnish delegates among others were at a hotel lobby to make these calls. And in the end there was a record number of co-sponsors.


The UN General Assembly adopted the ATT with 155 states in favor, 3 opposed and 22 abstaining. This was a truly remarkable achievement and a clear testimony of the need for a legally binding treaty. After seven years of complex negotiations, we had reached a major milestone.


Like any other international instrument, the Arms Trade Treaty is not perfect. But it certainly is a robust treaty. Indeed, the final result was actually better and more far-reaching than looked possible only a few weeks before the final push. The Treaty as it stands represents a good compromise. No essential elements were left outside the Treaty’s substantial scope. There were differing views on some substantial issues – amongst them the licensing criteria and the arms scope – that could have hampered the positive outcome. The final Treaty text was accepted as there was strong political commitment and will to reach agreement.


It was always the aim that the ATT should be a modern, viable Treaty able to take into account the latest developments in arms technology. This means that we have to be ready to amend and strengthen the Treaty. In order to amend the ATT, the Conference of States Parties needs to seek consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, amendments can be adopted by a three-quarters majority vote. This applies also to the provisions on the Treaty’s arms scope. First amendments can be made only six years after the Treaty’s entry into force and after that every three years. Therefore the question arises whether the Treaty can keep pace with the development of modern arms technology.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The states, the UN Secretariat, and other international organizations owe a great deal to the civil society that participated in the ATT process. The role of various NGOs was essential in keeping up the spirit of the ATT alive throughout the years. They were able to keep up the momentum. They always pushed us in solving problems and made us work even harder. For example, they went in front of the FCO to assemble a helicopter from parts to show why parts and components need to be included in the Treaty.


I would particularly like to thank and congratulate Control Arms, Oxfam, Amnesty International and Saferworld with whom I have personally had many meetings during the ATT process. In addition, I would like to thank the International Committee of the Red Cross, SIPRI in Stockholm, Geneva Forum, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue for all their valuable work for the ATT. The work of African and Latin-American NGOs should not, of course, be forgotten.


During the years to come the NGOs’ active role is definitely still needed in supporting the universalization and implementation of the Treaty.


The Arms Trade Treaty also bears testimony to the unforeseen and positive results of cooperation between states and civil society. I truly hope that the ATT could serve as a trigger for this kind of co-operation also in many other important areas where international co-operation is required.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The anticipated impacts of the Arms Trade Treaty are far-reaching. Provided that it is effectively implemented at the national level, the Treaty will bring added value and make a difference in the lives of millions of people who have suffered from armed conflicts or weapons in wrong hands, from corruption and lack of transparency in global arms trade.


The ATT prohibits exports of arms and ammunition in violation of UN Security Council arms embargoes. It also prohibits exports of arms and ammunition that could be used against civilians and in the commission of serious violations of international law. Furthermore, the ATT requires states to regulate arms brokering and to assess the risk that exports of arms and ammunition would be used in grave violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law.


As a consequence, the ATT can contribute to creating a more secure and stable environment for everyone, everywhere. When implemented effectively, it will reduce the violence against millions of civilians in conflict-ridden countries. It will make it harder for weapons to be diverted into the illicit trade which fuels terrorism and terrorist acts – ISIL serves as a recent example of this.


I am particularly pleased that the Treaty requires the exporting states to take into account the risk of the arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children. This paragraph is really a historic and groundbreaking international achievement. Due credit must be given to Iceland which collected the names of over one hundred Member States to support this provision to be included in the Treaty. And also Ambassador Woolcott was brave enough to include it in spite of strong opposition.


Furthermore, the ATT helps create an environment in which the UN and other international actors can better carry out their work, particularly in humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The ATT should also have a major effect on development particularly in the least developed countries where conflicts are major obstacles to development. The ATT helps create an environment which is conducive to social and economic development – an environment that enables countries to reach their development goals. This is also a major support to the Post-2015 agenda for sustainable development that is under negotiation and is to be adopted next September.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The Arms Trade Treaty reached 50 ratifications in record time. We will witness its entry into force already on Christmas Eve this year which is only about 20 months after the Treaty’s approval in the General Assembly. While this is an amazing achievement our work is not yet over.


So far 122 states have signed and 54 have ratified the Treaty. To meet the important requirement of universality, countries big and small, major arms producing and major arms importing states alike should become parties to the ATT. Finland as one of the co-authors will continue working for the ATT’s universalization. When meeting my colleagues the ATT is always on the agenda. In my meetings I have heard many excuses for not becoming a party. None of them has been convincing.


The five permanent members of the Security Council gave a joint declaration in favor of the ATT in 2011. From the P5 the UK and France have shown good example: they have already ratified the Treaty. The US signed the Treaty last autumn and we expect the US to abide by the Treaty even if ratification will take some time. Last week we also received encouraging news from New York: China voted in favor of an ATT resolution and stated that it is seriously considering signing. Among the P5 it is only Russia that has not committed itself to signing. Also other big countries such as Brazil and India should drop their hesitations. I urge all these countries to show leadership and bear responsibility. We owe that to people suffering from unregulated arms trade.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is only through effective implementation at the national level that the ATT will make a difference. Some developing states might need technical assistance to be able to meet the requirements of the ATT. The Treaty encourages cooperation and assistance between countries. All states in a position to do so should consider supporting countries in need.


You, parliamentarians, play a very important role in the implementation of the ATT. It is your task to ensure that national legislation and procedures are in line with the Treaty. I wish you success in this!


I thank you.