Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
The absence of any international standards for trade in conventional arms has negative and far-reaching consequences. Many countries operate only rudimentary arms export control systems or have no such systems at all. As a result, there is a flourishing market in illicit weapons, especially for small arms and light weapons (SALW), conflicts escalate more quickly, and weapons may be misused against the civilian population.
In this context a treaty to regulate the international arms trade that is universally agreed and also implemented on the ground will help prevent armed conflict, as well as curb organized crime and terrorism and prevent human rights violations. In the long term, moreover, regulating the arms trade will increase the chances of drying up or at least curbing the illicit market for weapons of all types and limiting irresponsible arms dealing.
Germany's aim with an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is to make a substantial contribution towards ensuring peace and security, regional stability and sustainable social and economic development. The four-week UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in July 2012 ended with clear progress in the negotiations, although no agreement was reached on a treaty text based on the draft put forward by the presidency.
The July 2012 Conference was the latest stage in a process which was kick-started by civil society about ten years ago and which has been running under UN auspices since 2006. Following a commission of governmental experts in 2008, in which Germany was represented, and an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) comprising all UN member states in 2009, a Preparatory Committee mandated by the UN General Assembly in December 2009 had since 2010 been considering the substantive issues to be dealt with at the 2012 Conference.
In the run-up to the ATT Conference in July 2012, the Federal Government worked intensively to promote a strong and robust ATT in seminars and workshops run by the EU and other organizations, as well as in exchanges with major partners in the ATT process and in bilateral talks. Further, in June 2012 it held a discussion event for the German public and civil society outlining the various aspects of the Treaty; at the Berlin Export Control Seminar it debated key issues regarding implementation of the future ATT with export control regime participating states.
At the start of the July Conference, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and his counterparts from France, the UK and Sweden published a joint article in various international newspapers pointing to the urgent need for such a treaty. At the beginning of the UN General Assembly session in September 2012, Foreign Minister Westerwelle and those same colleagues, along with their Italian and Spanish counterparts, issued a communiqué emphatically calling for the continuation of the ATT process under UN auspices on the basis of the progress made in July.
On 24 December 2012, the UN General Assembly decided by a large majority to adopt a resolution on the continuation of the ATT process. This is fully in line with the Federal Government’s ideas, and provides for a two-week “Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty” to be held at the end of March 2013, working from the last draft treaty from the previous conference and with the same rules of procedure.
The Federal Government strongly supported the continuation of the ATT process, urging its partners to do likewise. It will continue its engagement for a strong Treaty in 2013 and beyond.
Together with its European partners, the Federal Government continues to maintain that the range of arms to be controlled should be as wide as possible, including small arms and ammunition, and that the ATT should contain a binding catalogue of clear criteria for arms exports (including the safeguarding of human rights, respect for international humanitarian law, the preservation of regional stability and consideration of the domestic situation in the recipient state) as well as an effective system of guarantees concerning end use.
Around the world the EU and its member states are among the most prominent advocates of the idea of an Arms Trade Treaty. The EU has promoted such a Treaty by organizing seminars and regular consultations in all regions of the world; it will continue to do so, with the support of its member states.
Germany will play an active part in the negotiations at the Final UN Conference on the ATT, which is to be held in New York from 18 to 28 March 2013. It will make every effort to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty which is robust and demanding, but at the same time possible to implement.