First Committee of the 69th session of the General Assembly- 22 October 2014
The thematic debate on conventional weapons on 22 October 2014 saw discussions on small arms and light weapons (SALW) and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by the delegations of Equatorial Guinea on behalf of the Economic Community of Central African States, Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Finland, France, India, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Lao, Myanmar, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States of America (US).
The African Group, India, Pakistan, France, Ethiopia, Republic of Korea, and Nigeria reiterated concerns regarding the challenges in combating the illicit trade, transfer and circulation of weapons. Pakistan stated that SALW have caused havoc around the world by abetting crime, terrorist activities, narcotics trafficking and deaths of civilians including women and children. The easy availability of these weapons is facilitated by lack of or weak regulatory controls, excessive production and transfers. Pakistan and Belarus stressed that the international community should ensure that SALW do not fall into the hands of unauthorized and non-state actors, and the UNPoA is a key instrument in ensuring this.
The majority of delegations reaffirmed their support to the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) and underlined the importance of full and effective implementation of the instrument in combating the illicit trade and trafficking of SALW. The African Group noted the UNPoA as a key instrument in tackling the issue of SALW while India expressed that the instrument outlines realistic and comprehensive approaches to combating the illicit trade in arms at national, regional and international levels. Japan stated that the UNPoA remains an important tool because, along with the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), it covers a wider range of issues including marking, tracing and stockpile management. The African Group, the League of Arab States, Belarus, China, Australia and Kazakhstan also reiterated the importance of the ITI and its full implementation. Netherlands, Kazakhstan, South Africa, and Nigeria emphasized the importance of international cooperation and assistance in the effective implementation of the UNPoA, while Cuba and China insisted that international cooperation needed to be strengthened in order to ensure the success of the instrument. Costa Rica, Finland, and the Republic of Korea underlined their hopes for synergy between the UNPoA and the ATT.
Spain highlighted the need to strengthen control over trade in ammunition and underlined that this key issue must be included at the center of the UNPoA in order to effectively reach the objective.
A large proportion of delegations highlighted the success of the BMS5 and their support for the outcome document. Security Council Resolution 2117 on the issue of SALW was welcomed by Spain, Australia and the Republic of Moldova. The success of the Second Review Conference on the UNPoA in 2012 was also noted by India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh, Spain, China and Kazakhstan further emphasized support for the UN Register on Conventional Arms and the UN Report on Military Expenditures.
Most delegations welcomed the adoption of the ATT. Colombia and Republic of Korea noted the treaty as a milestone in the fight against the illicit trade in arms, while Nigeria described it as an efficient tool in combating the illegal trade. Finland acknowledged that the ATT shows the testimony of the international community in fighting the issue and Slovenia noted the unprecedented pace at which the treaty was signed.
Australia noted that the text of the treaty is strong, balanced and effective but emphasized that efficient implementation is key for the success of the treaty. The African Group, US, Senegal, Pakistan, Djibouti, and Romania also noted that the implementation of the treaty must be of a fair, balanced and non-discriminatory manner so that the interests of all States and not just major exporting States be protected. The African Group and the League of Arab States reiterated the importance of the sovereign rights of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import, and retain conventional arms and their parts and components for their self-defense and security needs and called for no undue restriction to be placed on this right. Djibouti emphasized the need for effective multilateralism in implementing the ATT, while Bangladesh and Nigeria called for universality of the treaty. Bangladesh further noted that some main arms producing and exporting States that have not yet joined the treaty and called for them to do this as soon as possible.
Cuba, on its part, underlined that the treaty is imbalanced because it favors, and provides privileges to, major arms exporting and producing States while the interests of other States are not taken into account. India also noted deficiencies with the ATT, calling into question whether the treaty would provide any meaningful impact on curbing the illicit trade in arms and whether it would curb the transfer of SALW to non-state and terrorist groups.
Switzerland acknowledged its offer to host the Secretariat of the ATT in Geneva and Austria reaffirmed its offer to host it in Vienna.