Caribbean pleased with role played in UN Arms Trade Treaty

Caribbean Community (CAICOM) countries were on Wednesday expressing satisfaction with the roles they played in a United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

CARICOM countries voted in favour of the treaty on Tuesday to regulate the US$70 billion global trade in small arms, light weapons and some ammunition.

Lead CARICOM negotiator, Ambassador Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking on behalf of the 14 CARICOM states, said that the UN system “had adopted an instrument to prevent divergence, that is the movement of small arms to countries and parties to whom they were not intended, and used for illegal activities, including activities related to drug trafficking”.

A statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Trinidad and Tobago later quoted Charles as saying that the governments ad people of the region “now have an international instrument which has the potential in the near future to supplement their efforts at preventing the diversion to the illicit market of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons, their ammunition, as well as parts and components”.

The diplomat said that the illegal arms trade, which is associated with international drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime, has negatively impacted the societies of CARICOM.

He said that the ATT can assist CARICOM countries in maximizing the use of existing agreements and in concluding new ones for mutual legal assistance in investigations and prosecutions in addressing violations of the Treaty.

CARICOM was among the diverse grouping of States, crossing different political and legal systems, from developed and developing countries, from exporters and importers of conventional arms which welcomed the ATT as a necessary instrument for ensuring that States are responsible and accountable in the conduct of their trade in conventional arms.

Veteran Grenadian diplomat Dessima Williams said while the treaty is “not a perfect or final attempt to regulate a major threat to humanity, it is a very helpful one and Grenada is surely playing its part in global management of yet another dangerous reality.

“Like the entire United Nations, we wanted a more rigorous regime; but like the majority of negotiators, we believe this is the highest common denominator possible among 193 countries; it is a welcome and decent start,” she added.

Jamaica and St, Vincent and the Grenadines also played lead negotiation roles.

Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia and Russian Federation were among the 23 countries abstaining during the vote on the treaty with most arguing the treaty did not have adequate sanctions on importers while giving exporters too much latitude.

Almost all of the Arab states, Africa, the United States and Mexico voted for the document. Iran, Syria and North Korea voted against the resolution, arguing the right of self-determination and prohibitions against trade that support terrorists were not strong enough.

“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago and its CARICOM counterparts are satisfied that the Treaty imposes an obligation on States Parties involved in the transfer of conventional arms to take measures to prevent the diversion of these arms, including small arms and light weapons to the illicit market.

“This is a significant achievement for the CARICOM States which had called for strong provisions on diversion to be included in the ATT bearing in mind that diversion is the biggest problem associated with the illegal trade in these weapons in the region.

“Through diversion, small arms and light weapons such as hand guns fall into the hands of drug traffickers, gang leaders and other individuals bent on engaging in criminal activity, to the detriment of law abiding citizens and the peace and security of CARICOM States,” the Trinidad and Tiobago government statement said.

The draft treaty will be open for signature at the UN beginning under the authority of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on June 3 with hopes of ratification and entry into force within a year.