5 April 2013

Africa: UN Adopts Arms Treaty Resolution, But...

The United Nations General Assembly has voted and subsequently adopted resolution A/67/ L.58 that will eventually lead to the establishment of common international standards to regulate trade and transfers of conventional weapons across regions of the world.

The process which began seven years ago, suffered a setback last week when the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syrian Arab Republic and North Korea blocked the conference from achieving consensus.

During yesterday's vote count, 154 nations voted in favor of the resolution, with 3 against and 23 abstentions. It was considered a significant step toward controlling global trade in conventional arms.

Last week, the conference failed to adopt a draft treaty amid desperation from UN member states to reach a decision that would curb armed conflicts fuelled by unregulated trade in arms.

Speaking on behalf of 96 countries including Liberia, Dr. Roberto Dandisch of Mexico, Chief negotiator for Arms Treaty, said the world has made a historic achievement by adopting the Arms Trade Treaty.

He indicated that after years of hard work and commitment, member states have produced a strong text that fulfils the mandate given them by the General Assembly.

"We believe that an effective implementation of this treaty will make a real difference for the people of the world," Roberto Dandisch said.

He pointed out that although the current treaty does not fully meet every one's expectation, however, the treaty leaves room for improvement and that through its implementation, it can be adapted to future development.

He said those who have voted in favor of the treaty were looking forward to working with all states and other parties to make the treaty effective.

Touching on the merits of the treaty, Dr. Dandisch explained that the treaty prohibits conventional arms transfers when it is established that such transfers would violate relevant international treaty obligation, including those contained in human rights treaties.

In addition, he said the current treaty also prohibits transfers of arms that will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes in all types of armed conflict. The treaty enhances transparency and strengthens accountability in the trade of conventional arms.

However, in an explanation of vote, the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil expressed reservation on a number of provisions in the treaty, saying that they did not meet the international treaty standards.

"Once again, the United Nations conference on Arms Trade Treaty was not able to achieve consensus. One delegation blocked the consensus last July, while three others did last week. Egypt regrets that the final conference was not able to reach agreement on a fair, balanced and robust text that is acceptable to all," Ambassador Khalid added.

Speaking further, the Egyptian Ambassador said his country abstained on the draft resolution entitled "Arms Trade Treaty", because, according to him, the principle of adopting an international instrument on disarmament through a vote was a dangerous precedence that threatens to undermine the basis upon which most international agreements on disarmament are being developed.

He pointed out that the absence of definition to important terms and concepts which are essential for the future implementation of the treaty were lacking, adding "Egypt believes that all countries should be equally accountable to common benchmark; therefore, without agreed definitions, or clear criteria there would be problems," stressed the Egyptian envoy.

He added that implementation of the treaty risks to be subjective and that it would depend only on the national political considerations to have a working definition.

Meanwhile, the West African member states have welcomed the adoption of Resolution A/67/L.58.

In a statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of Ivory Coast, on behalf of ECOWAS, Ambassador Bamba Youssfou said the West African sub-region which has suffered from devastating civil conflicts was fully in support of the treaty because, according to him, unregulated trade in conventional arms especially Small Arms and Light Weapons were causing serious humanitarian crises for the people of the sub-region.

He noted that although the current treaty was not perfect as it fails to address some of the major concerns of the people of Wes Africa, it suffices to say that there is now an international instrument to guard against the illegal trade and transfers of conventional arms.

However, he regretted that the treaty fails to address the issues of transfer denial to unauthorized state-actors or end users, and that the absence of ammunition and munitions from the scope of the treaty which was repeatedly voiced by many African countries as well as the Caribbean, was a setback.

The conference requested the UN Secretary-General, as depository of the Treaty, to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-eight session on the status of signature and ratification of the treaty. In this regards, states are called upon to consider signing and, in line with their respective constitutional processes, become parties to the Treaty at the earliest possible time.

Written by Abu Kamara

Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs

Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations

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