The Arms Trade Treaty
is the name of a potential multilateral treaty that would control the international trade of conventional weapons. The treaty is in the preliminary stages of development and has not yet been officially negotiated.
Initially put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates led by Oscar Arias, it was first addressed in the UN in December 2006 when the UN General Assembly
adopted resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”
Resolution 61/89 requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, and to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session. 94 States submitted their views, which are contained in the 2007 report A/62/278
Support from Member States
153 Member States voted in favour of Resolution 61/89. UK Ambassador John Duncan formally introduced the resolution in First Committee on October 18, 2006, speaking on behalf of the co-authors (Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, and Kenya). On behalf of the EU, Finland highlighted the support for the effort when it said, “everyday, everywhere, people are affected by the side effects of irresponsible arms transfers... As there is currently no comprehensive internationally binding instrument available to provide an agreed regulator framework for this activity, the EU welcomes the growing support, in all parts of the world, for an ATT.”
24 countries abstained, including: Bahrain, Belarus, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, UAE, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
1 country, the United States of America, voted against the resolution.
Several countries provided explanations of vote: Jamaica, Cuba, Venezuela, China, India, Iran, Algeria, Libya, Russian Federation, Israel, Pakistan, and Costa Rica.
Responding to procedural concerns that were not resolved before the final draft of the resolution, the UK said the aim of the initiative is to start a discussion on the feasibility and draft parameters of an ATT and that those “agnostic” states will have a clear opportunity to engage in the process. After the vote, Algeria indicated that the effort must receive broad-based support from states and be based on the principles of the UN Charter.
Group of Governmental Experts
Resolution 61/89 also requested the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts, on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for such a legal instrument, and to transmit the report of the group of experts to the Assembly for consideration at its sixty-third session. On 28 September 2007 the Secretary General appointed a Group of Governmental Experts from the following 28 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States. The GGE met three times in 2008 and its final report
has now been made public, to be submitted by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly in Fall 2008.
A resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty will likely be put forward in First Committee in fall 2008, though the precise content has yet to be made public. Given the lack of solid recommendations in the GGE report, it may call for the creation of an open-ended working group to further study the issue.