The 74th United Nations General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security (UNGA First Committee) concluded earlier this month, ending a month-long negotiation on all things disarmament, including nuclear weapons, anti-personnel landmines, lethal autonomous weapons and the international arms trade.

This year’s UNGA First Committee was off to a slow start, after discussions were delayed due to a disagreement between the USA, Russia and Iran, over the issue of denying visas for members of certain delegations for entry into the US. Eventually an agreement was reached, and though rushed, discussions on the conventional weapons cluster completed on schedule, with around 102 references made to the ATT. This lower number of ATT references than last year’s tally of close to 160 can be attributed to the limited time allocated for statements this year as well as to shifting political interests.

Ambassador Carlos Foradori, President of CSP6, described the ATT as a “fundamental instrument that articulates three central dimensions for the arms trade: production, responsible trade and human rights.” He explained that the implementation and universalisation of the Treaty is a vital step to create a transparent and responsible system of commerce, avoiding the proliferation of conventional weapons and their use against civilians, through the establishment of criteria, parameters and common standards for all states when authorising a transfer.” 

A strong statement delivered by Control Arms called on states to:

  1. Adopt the highest possible standards and establish rigorous structures to regulate the global arms trade to ensure that the Treaty can make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people, particularly from vulnerable groups, around the world.
  2. Support transparency to help ensure accountability in arms-transfer decisions, prevent diversion of arms and ammunition, and boost confidence-building and mutual security

    Montserrat Martinez delivering the Control Arms Statement

  3. Develop robust risk assessment processes that provide specific training and resources related to gender-based violence and the Treaty.

Control Arms also reminded States that despite the success of reaching 105 States Parties, the Treaty has a long way to go in terms of effective implementation and respecting obligations – citing human suffering fueled by arms flows around the world. 

The annual ATT Resolution, co-sponsored by 97 states this year, was adopted with 150 votes in favor, 1 against and 26 abstentions. In introducing this year’s resolution, L.25, Ambassador Foradori announced the inclusion of language on the CSP6 focus of “transparency and exchange of information for the prevention and combat of diversion of conventional weapons to the illicit market”. 

Three successful Control Arms side events ensured meaningful discussions on various aspects of the Treaty, including gender and gender based violence (GBV), reporting, and a look ahead to the Sixth Conference of States Parties (CSP6) under the Argentine presidency. 

Side event on “The Role of the ATT in Preventing Gender-Based Violence”

A majority of delegations during the general debate highlighted the consequences of the poorly regulated and illicit trade in conventional weapons, citing concerns over arms fueling conflict, terrorism, and organised crime. In her address, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, stated  that “military spending, arms transfers and the incidence of armed conflict worldwide all remain high. Global anxiety about international security continues to grow as the international security and arms control architecture shows signs of unraveling.”

Positively, Angola, China, Malaysia, and Thailand referred to the ATT in a positive light, signalling their intentions to accede or ratify. ATT signatory Thailand described the Treaty as a “core multilateral instrument that promotes transparency and accountability of the illicit use and transfer of arms while also bearing in mind humanitarian principles.”

Several states welcomed the outcome of the Fifth Conference of States Parties (CSP5), and in particular the EU, Guatemala, Finland, Australia, Canada, Portugal, Iceland, Spain, Ireland, Samoa, and the Bahamas welcomed the focus on gender and gender-based violence. New ATT state party Canada praised Latvia’s efforts as president of CSP5, in improving consideration of gender perspectives in the Treaty’s operation, and in strengthening application of the gender-based violence criterion for arms exports.