UN opens Arms Trade Treaty conference

Mr Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General, has asked state parties to reach an agreement at the on-going final Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) conference because it would establish adequate systems for controlling the trade in arms and ammunition.

“By so doing, it will put warlords, pirates, human rights abusers, organized criminals, terrorists and gun runners on notice,” he said.

He said the treaty would strengthen the rule of law by contributing to the development of an emerging network of international norms against trafficking, misuse and the illicit proliferation of weapons and ammunition.

Mr Ban said this during the opening of the final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty at the UN Headquarters in New York, monitored by Ghana News Agency through Ghana’s Permanent Mission at the UN.

The 10-day event is considering the preamble, principles, goals, objectives, scope, prohibitions and criteria for the treaty. It will also consider the adoption of the final document and report on it.

Six years of preparatory work and negotiations have failed to get a treaty to regulate the international transfers of conventional arms.

The Secretary-General charged the member-states to overcome past setbacks and to negotiate the final details of the treaty through consensus by March 28.

“We owe this landmark UN Treaty to those who have fallen victims to armed conflict and violence, to all the children deprived of a better future and to all those risking their lives to build peace and make this a better world,” he said at the opening of the conference.

Giving his full commitment to the finalization of the treaty, the Secretary-General said the trade in conventional arms touched on many complex matters of commerce, national security, human rights and humanitarian law and policy.

He attributed the difficult situation to the absence of the rule of law in the conventional arms trade, despite the fact that there are international standards regulating everything from T-shirts to toys and tomatoes.

“There are international regulations for furniture. That means there are common standards for the global trade in the armchairs but not the global trade in arms,” the UN boss stated, pointing out that “families and communities around the world have paid a heavy price”.

Mr Ban said: ‘We know this at the United Nations because poorly regulated international arms deals directly affect every dimension of our work”.

They undermine sustainable development, he noted, saying that “they foster armed conflict and undercut our peacekeeping, peace building and humanitarian efforts.

They lead to massive human rights violations and threaten gender empowerment”.

Armed violence kills more than half a million people each year – including 66,000 women and girls, the Secretary-General said.

He expressed concern that various non-state groups were adding to their arsenals, adding that “some drug cartels in Latin America now outgun the armies of entire countries.

“All of these tragedies raise the same questions. Where were those weapons produced? Were they properly licensed for export or re-transfer? What standards were used to authorize such transfers?” the UN boss asked.

An effective and strong ATT, Mr Ban said, would require exporting countries to assess the risk of weapons being used to commit grave violations of international humanitarian law or even fuel conflicts.

He said: “I t would be difficult for these outlaws to obtain weapons because all states-parties will be required to establish adequate systems for controlling the trade in arms and ammunition.”

Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia, who chaired the opening session, expressed the hope that their deliberations would lead to a consensus outcome. GNA

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