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Conventional disarmament: Arms Trade Treaty


"An effective ATT should not hinder the legitimate arms trade or the legitimate right to self defense under the UN Charter. It should help curb the illicit trafficking in conventional weapons that undermines peace, security and prosperity. It should create a shared responsibility in the international transfer of conventional arms between all states, be they exporters, importers, transit or transshipment states."

Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament, 18 March 2013

1. 2013: UN Final Conference on the establishment of an Arms Trade Treaty Retour à la table des matières



The final Conference on the Arms Trade treaty (ATT) ended on Thursday, March 28 2013. Only three countries, already in violation of their international obligations opposed to the broad consensus of the international community about the outcome of the negotiations. Upon the proposal of a majority of the Member States, the UN General Assembly decided to conduct a vote to preserve the result of this negotiation.

- On 2nd April 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the international trade of conventional weapons. The resolution was adopted by 154 votes in favor, 3 against and 22 abstentions.

During his speech, the representative of France welcomed this historic and ambitious treaty that allowed to strengthen peace and international security. He stressed that through this text, the United Nations had been able to provide an appropriate response to a global security challenge, adding that even if the General Assembly could not reach a legal consensus, this vote was the demonstration a political unity.

- Following the adoption by the General Assembly, France along with 66 other member states, signed on 3 June 2013 the Arms Trade Treaty . This treaty regulates the legitimate trade of arms and intends to fight illegal arms trafficking that feed terrorism and organized crime. The treaty must now be ratified by 50 states to enter into force.

In his intervention, the representative of France called on Member States to take action to achieve rapid universalization of the treaty. He also recalled that the treaty placed the international humanitarian law and Human rights at the core of the criteria that States undertake to respect in controlling their exports.


From 18 to 28 March, a Conference to establish a Treaty on conventional Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has been convened in New York.

The ATT aims at establishing a strong legally binding instrument setting up common international standards of transparency and control for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons, in order to answer the need for controlling and ensuring the transparency of arms trade.

Arms trade, a growing market representing today no less than 700 milliards, has never been regulated, which constitutes a serious risk for the civilians subjects to irresponsible weapon transfers, especially during armed conflicts.

- The current Conference follows negotiations which had already taken place in July 2012, where the member States established a set of common principles serving as a basis for their future work, even though they did not finalize their agreement on a global Treaty.

As a follow-up, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted in November 2012 a resolution convening in March 2013 a final conference with the aim of adopting a ATT, based on the 2012 work.


- A process initiated in 2006, strongly supported by France

The process aimed at regulating the arms trade was launched, following an active campaign by NGOs, through the adoption, by the UN General Assembly on 6 December 2006, of resolution A/Res/61/89 relative to a future “comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms (TCA).” France jointly sponsored and promoted this resolution. Since then, France has resolutely strived to support this draft treaty.

- 2007: Consultation between the States on the feasibility and potential characteristics of an Arms Trade Treaty

In accordance with the terms of resolution A/Res/61/89 of 6 December 2006, the Secretary-General presented, at the 62nd UN General Assembly, the results of the consultations between the Member States on the “feasibility, scope and general parameters” of such an instrument, to which France gave a response.

- 2008: Meeting of restricted Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and launch of a working group open to all States

The Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) from 28 countries (South Africa, Algeria, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Spain, the United States, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine) tasked by the UN Secretary-General “to examine the feasibility, scope and general parameters” of the future instrument met three times in 2008 (11-15 February, 12-16 May, 28 July- 8 August). The conclusions of the substantial report drafted by the group made it possible to take the process forward. France played an active role in this work which represented a crucial step.

Based on this report, the UN General Assembly adopted a new resolution, A/Res/63/240 at the end of December 2008 by a large majority. This resolution ordered the establishment of a working group open to all States and tasked with working on the elements of a text “for inclusion in a future treaty.” In order to prepare for this vote, France organized two seminars in New York to inform the Francophone African countries not represented in the group of experts about the challenges of this resolution. In addition, a process to increase awareness was introduced by our embassies in all capitals.


- 2009-2010: Initial sessions of the Open-Ended Working Group, support of the United States, adoption of a timeline for a conference in 2012


— The first two sessions of the working group which have already been held for 2009, led to the adoption of an intermediate report on 17 July 2009, which allowed progress to be made regarding the points for which there is the most agreement, and established the process within the United Nations. During these sessions the United States developed a more favorable position and the skeptical countries began to approve the process.

— The U.S. Secretary of State announced on 15 October 2009 that the United States now supported the draft Arms Trade Treaty. The French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, indicated in a statement the following day that “this decision signals an important change in the position held by the United States, which now joins the 145 States already supporting the treaty.” He added that “France is delighted by this decision which represents major progress towards the adoption of an arms trade treaty, for which it has striven from the outset.”

— Before the First Committee of the General Assembly, in his speech during the debate on "conventional weapons", the representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament declared on 20 October 2009 concerning the Arms Trade Treaty: "France is confident in the possibility of reaching agreement on a universal and legally binding treaty, incorporating the highest possible standards of export, import and transfer of conventional weapons. We will vote, once again, in favour of the resolution presented this year on the Arms Trade Treaty".

— A resolution entitled "Arms Trade Treaty” was adopted on 30 October 2009 by the First Committee of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly (and on 2 December 2009 in its plenary meeting as resolution 64/48).

The resolution, which received the support of 153 Member States, reaffirms the objective of a universal, legally binding instrument, embodying the highest possible common standards regarding the export, import and transfer of conventional weapons. The treaty should therefore make it possible to limit the supply of weapons and munitions in areas of conflict and instability, to maintain peace, security and regional stability and to enhance respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

The resolution entitled "Arms Trade Treaty” adopted on 20 October 2009 by the First Committee of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly should strengthen and speed up the process : it makes provision for the organization of a UN conference in New York in 2012 on the Arms Trade Treaty. It will be preceded by 5 sessions of a preparatory committee, staggered over 2010 and 2011.

- 2010 - 2011: Preparatory Committee

The first session of the Preparatory Committee of the UN Conference on the Arms trade was held in New York in July 2010. All states, including the most reluctant, participated constructively in the work. Many issues remain to be explained and clarified, but the discussions helped to make progress on the architecture of the Treaty and several chapters.

The second session was held from 28 February to 4 March 2011 in New York. It focused on the scope of a Treaty on Arms Trade, on the criteria governing transfers and on international cooperation in the framework of such a Treaty.

The third session took place from 11 to 15 July 2011. It focused on the implementation of the Treaty and the final provisions. The French delegation actively participated, including through a close dialogue with non-governmental organizations engaged on these issues. For the first time since work began on the ATT, the five permanent members of the Security Council formally gave a joint declaration in favour of an international instrument on conventional arms transfers.


The first two meetings of the Preparatory Committee of the 2012 Conference on Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) were held in July 2010 and March 2011. They confirmed the growing international momentum in favor of a universal and legally binding instrument establishing the highest possible common standards for the regulation of exports, imports and transfers of conventional weapons.

While the previous meetings of the Preparatory Committee have helped to define the structure of the Treaty, its objectives, scope and parameters, the third meeting (11-15 July 2011) was devoted to the implementation of the treaty (on a national and international level).

In order to prepare for the discussions, and contribute to draw lines of convergence on these large and complex issues, the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, the Foundation for Strategic Research and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research held on May 6, 2011 in the Palais des Nations in Geneva a seminar entitled "The TCA: perspectives and issues of implementation". The seminar was attended by over one hundred participants of the diplomatic missions in Geneva, NGOs and think tanks in presence of the President of the Preparatory Committee, HEM Roberto Garcia Moritán.

The discussions have addressed the issues of national legislation to allow effective control of arms transfers, procedures for authorization of transfers, measures to fight against criminal activities, cooperation and assistance to implement the Treaty and fight against illicit trafficking, and institutional mechanisms of the Treaty (entry into force, Implementation support unit, meetings of States Parties, reports on the Treaty’s implementation).

Mr Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel (right), Permanent Representative of France to the Disarmament Conference in Geneva (July 2012)


2. French Position Retour à la table des matières

France hopes that the future treaty will lead States to adopt a responsible and transparent behaviour concerning arms transfers through a legally binding global instrument, respectful of the sovereignty of States.

France wants the architecture of the Treaty to rest on the three following elements:

— States should establish a national control process (as France has done with the CIEEMG, see below);

— States must have in place the possibility of criminal charges for those that do no comply with national legislation on the transfer of arms, in order to fight against smuggling and embezzlement. France also wants corruption and money laundering, which often goes hand in hand with such trafficking, to be criminalized.

— The treaty should encourage cooperation and assistance among States, including international mutual legal assistance.

France wants the general principles of the Treaty to be based on the respect for human rights, international humanitarian law, and economic and social development.

France is among the founding States of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual Use. Its system of export controls on materials of war (Commission Interministérielle d’Etude des Exportations de Matériels de Guerre - CIEEMG) is recognized as one of the most rigorous.

Furthermore, like all EU member states, it respects the Code of Conduct in this area, which took the form of a legally binding common position in December 2008, under the French EU Presidency.

As vice president of the preparatory committee this year, France actively supports the process under way, in which it is fully involved. It initiated the organization of regional seminars to raise awareness of the ATT since 2009 on every continent, with EU financing.

Since the beginning got under way, France has maintained a regular dialogue on the future ATT with its main partners and with NGOs, who have a crucial role to play, as well as with arms manufacturers.

Mr. Eric Danon, in a statement made on 23 July 2010 at the end of the first preparatory committee, said: "We are working on the elaboration of a historical treaty (...). This treaty will improve global governance and will be centered on principles we hold dear, starting with the respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and economic and social rights for development. These principles are the true political pillars of the future Treaty".



(April 2013)

3. Reference Documents Retour à la table des matières

- 2nd April 2013 - Arms Trade Treaty

- 2 December 2009 - Resolution 64/48 - The arms trade treaty

- 11 November 2009 - Time for an arms trade treaty - Opinion column by Bernard Kouchner, French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, and David Miliband, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, published in the Guardian

- 8 January 2009 – A/RES/63/240- Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms

- 6 December 2006 – A/RES/61/89 - Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms

4. French statements Retour à la table des matières

- 8 October 2014 - UNGA / 1st Committee - General debate - Statement by Mr Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel Ambassador, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament, Head of the French Delegation

- 26 September 2013 - High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament - Statement by Mr. Pascal Teixeira, Representative of the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations

2 April 2013- General Assembly - Arms Trade Treaty - Explanation of vote by Mr Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 18 March 2013 - United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty - Declaration by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

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

- 23 October 2012 - 1st Committee - Arms Trade Treaty - Statement by Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann, German Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on behalf of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

- 11 October 2012 - 1st Committee - General Debate - Statement by Mr. Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

- 12 July 2011 - Preparatory Committee on an Arms Trade Treaty - Statement by Mr Eric Danon, permanent representative of France at the Conference on Disarmament, on behalf of the P5

- 19 March 2010 - Security Council - Small arms and light weapons : Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

- 15 July 2009 - International cooperation in the framework of a future Arms Trade Treaty - Statement by Mr. Eric Danon, Head of Delegation, Ambassador, Representative of France at the Disarmament Conference

5. Useful links Retour à la table des matières

- Website of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

- Website of the First Committee of the General Assembly, concerned with disarmament and related international security questions



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