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23 October 2012 - 1st Committee - "Conventional weapons" - Statement by Mr. Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

(Unofficial translation)

Mr Chairman, dear colleagues,

France associates itself with the European Union’s statement. I would like to make some additional remarks from our national perspective. This has been another year of great progress on multilateral conventional disarmament, leading us to hope that conventional weapons, which cause many deaths around the world, will be subject to more effective controls or limitations. Once again, many of the resolutions of the First Committee will deal with conventional arms, and we should welcome this development. This Committee initiated the negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty, to which France is very attached. This is positive proof of the vitality of the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr Chairman,

Our efforts with regard to conventional arms help to strengthen peace and security. They contribute to achieving the longer-term goal of general and complete disarmament, to which France is attached. This objective was clearly upheld by the first Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD-1) in 1978, which stressed that “the ultimate objective of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control”. It is also part of Article VI of the NPT, which means that nuclear disarmament should not lead to an arms race in other areas, especially conventional arms. It also means that nuclear disarmament is inconceivable without parallel progress on disarmament regarding other weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms. Our efforts also have humanitarian objectives that have become increasingly important since the adoption in 1980 of the Convention on Prohibition or Restriction on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, which may be deemed excessively injurious or to have indiscriminative effects. Some of these weapons have particularly cruel effects on innocent victims that can last for decades after a conflict ends. Civil society played a key driving role in this area, spurring governments to take action to prohibit anti-personnel landmines in 1997 and cluster munitions in 2008. The Ottawa Convention and the Oslo Convention, to which France is very attached, are components of international humanitarian law, along with the CCW and its five protocols. We call on all States that are not yet parties to these conventions to accede to them and take part in the collective effort of the international community to eliminate the threat posed by such weapons.

Ultimately, our efforts contribute to the general objective of reducing armed violence. In particular, this explains our commitment to fight the dissemination of small arms and light weapons, which cause the most victims in the world and have a profoundly destabilising effect in certain vulnerable countries, especially in Africa. To date, what we have in this area is the United Nations Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small arms and Light Weapons. This is a political instrument that provides a useful framework for defining international cooperation and ambitious national policies in this area. France welcomes the consensus reached by the Review Conference on the United Nations Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons on an outcome document that reaffirms the main commitments of the Programme of Action and provides a framework for the future work of the States parties up until 2018. However, we were disappointed that we were unable to strengthen certain aspects of the Programme of Action during the Review Conference and, more specifically, the fight against the dissemination of MANPADS or the inclusion of a gender perspective in the implementation of the Programme of Action, to respond to what is unfortunately one of the most serious ravages deriving from the spread of SALW.

Mr Chairman,

There is one area that, we hope, will make a major contribution to strengthening international security and reducing armed violence, while also contributing to respect for Human Rights and international humanitarian law. I am talking about the Arms Trade Treaty. The negotiation process started right here 6 years ago and we hope to see it completed successfully next year. Our objective is to adopt the first universal legal standard on the arms trade, which is the only area of globalisation not to have such a standard yet. The point is to make States further accountable in order to regulate legitimate trade better and prevent illicit trafficking. I would like to mention a few items that have been the key points of my country’s position since the beginning of the process. The scope of equipment to be covered must be as broad as possible. It should naturally cover the categories in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and include small arms and light weapons, along with their munitions and ammunition. The treaty should impose control of all activities constituting the arms trade (exports, along with imports, transit, transhipment and brokering activities). The criteria of this treaty should consider compliance with States’ international obligations, preserving international peace and security, the risk of diversion, compliance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including with regards to genders issues. We attach the greatest importance to these criteria. The impact on the economic and social development of recipient States should also be assessed, along with the risk of corruption.

In July 2012, we were very close to agreement on the latest text presented by the President of the Conference, Roberto Garcia Moritan. I would like to salute once more his great talent as a diplomat, his transparent working method and his attention to the concerns of all delegations. We achieved clear progress during the conference and, even though we are disappointed that we were unable to wrap up the negotiations, we are not in the least discouraged. We will continue our determined action with our partners to come up with an ambitious treaty. In a spirit of continuity and efficiency, it seems logical and appropriate to continue our work with the same president.

The draft resolution of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly we have seen has our full support. We think that the best way to achieve our objectives is to continue the negotiating process within the framework of the United Nations, with the involvement of all of the relevant stakeholders, on the basis of consensus, and using the same rules of procedure as we did in July 2012. This is a treaty of regulation and not an instrument of prohibition. The universality, even more than for humanitarian disarmament treaties is essential.We should build on the achievements of the July conference, using the latest draft of the treaty circulated on 26 July 2012 as a basis for our future work. We also think that we need to hold the second conference on the Arms Trade Treaty as early as possible in 2013 to maintain the positive dynamic already at work.

Mr Chairman, my dear colleagues,

This is a major challenge. The world needs an Arms Trade Treaty that is ambitious enough to have a real impact on the harm caused by inadequate regulation of conventional arms trade. It will also be the first arms control treaty adopted by the United Nations in more than fifteen years and this proves that the United Nations can successfully carry out this type of negotiation on the basis of consensus. Together, we can achieve a great victory for the multilateral system as a whole.

Thank you.


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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU