Monday, 21 May 2018

UN in your language

Member States gather at the UN to negotiate a treaty regulating international arms trade

smallarmsBetween 1990 and 2005, 23 African countries lost an estimated $284 billion as a result of armed conflicts, fuelled by transfers of ammunition and arms — 95 per cent of which came from outside Africa.

From 2-27 July, all countries of the world have come together in New York to negotiate what is seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the United Nations. A robust arms trade treaty can make a difference for millions of people confronted with insecurity, deprivation and fear.

The goal is to seek agreement on standards for assessing if an arms export should be given a go-ahead, making it harder for weapons to be used in conflict and human rights abuses, to be diverted to conflict zones and illegal markets, and into the hands of terrorists, warlords, drug traffickers or criminal cartels.

Standard-setting on this rather sensitive topic – with key security and economic interests at play – has never been attempted before.

The United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty is the culmination of a preparatory process spanning over five years, facilitated by the Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.

In all parts of the world, the ready availability of weapons and ammunition has led to human suffering, political repression, as well as crime and terror among civilian populations. Irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons can destabilize security in a region, enable the violation of Security Council arms embargoes and contribute to human rights abuses. Importantly, investment is discouraged and development disrupted in countries experiencing conflict and high levels of violence, which also affect their ability to attain the Millennium Development Goals.

“Together, we must act. The world is overarmed and peace is underfunded. Military spending is on the rise. Today, it is well above $1 trillion a year. And globally, 60 years of United Nations peacekeeping operations have cost less than six weeks of current military spending”, said Ban Ki-moon in his opening statement. “An agreed set of standards for arms exports, along with strict national legislation, can help begin to change all of that. But it will do even more — it will improve our ability to deliver across the board: from promoting social and economic development to supporting peacekeeping and peacebuilding; from monitoring sanctions and arms embargoes to protecting children and civilians; from promoting women’s empowerment to fostering the rule of law. A robust arms trade treaty can make a difference for millions of people confronted with insecurity, deprivation and fear”.

If you want to know more about the work of the United Nations to facilitate this important agreement, visit the conference website ( We have also just released our latest Library Backgrounder on "Disarmament", which you can download here.

Join the global conversation on Twitter using #armstradetreaty and get the latest information from the Department for Public Information on the UN Facebook, @UN twitter, and conference twitter channel @ATT_Conference.

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