UN General Assembly approves Arms Trade Treaty

On April 2, 2013, the UN General Assembly approved the Arms Trade Treaty with 154 “yes” votes; it will be opened for signing in the UN on June 3, 2013, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

According to Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, Estonia was one of the initiators of this resolution and since the preparations for negotiations began has supported the creation of a strong arms trade treaty that would set high and effective shipment standards for both arms exporters and importers as well as transit countries and intermediaries.

Paet stated that this is an historical agreement.

“There are many trade regulations in the world, but currently there is not a single global agreement regulating the arms trade. And arms shipments strongly influence the security of countries as well as human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Foreign Minister Paet.

“We would like for the Arms Trade Treaty to become an internationally recognised agreement whose principles are considered in every arms supply decision,” he added.

The final stage of negotiations for the treaty took place from March 18-28 at the UN, with Estonia as one vice-president of the negotiations. The treaty bans shipments of conventional weapons, ammunition, and weapon parts if the shipment would violate UN arms embargos or other relevant binding international obligations or if the arms would be used to commit acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. When making decisions regarding arms supplies, countries must consider the effect of the arms on peace and security and whether the weapons will be used to seriously violate international humanitarian law and human rights or to aid international organized crime and terrorism. They must also consider the risk of the arms ending up on the black market.

Over 500,000 people are killed every year in armed conflicts, most of whom are civilians. When the treaty comes into effect, countries will have greater responsibility for those arms shipments that help to ensure peace and security. Illegal arms trading and the related deaths and suffering will decrease. Since Estonia has strong regulations and clear principles regarding arms supplies, it supports all movement towards similarly high international standards.

Preparations for the treaty have taken place at the UN since 2006, a total of seven years. Negotiations took place at diplomatic conferences in July 2012 and March 2013. During the last negotiations, a consensus was not reached regarding the text and the member states decided to send the agreement to the UN General Assembly for approval. The Arms Trade Treaty will come into effect 90 days after the 50th signatory has submitted its ratification.