Arms Trade Treaty
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Alistair Burt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Afghanistan/South Asia, counter terrorism/proliferation, North America, Middle East and North Africa), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North East Bedfordshire, Conservative)
The conference followed six years of work in the UN to secure a legally binding treaty to regulate the international trade in conventional arms. The illegal, or poorly regulated, trade in conventional arms costs lives and blights futures. More than 740,000 men, women and children die each year as a result of armed violence.
The UK has led international efforts to secure an ATT over the last six years, and last month the UN conference came close to reaching an agreement on a treaty.
The UK delegation was led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and comprised representatives from the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for International Development and a representative from the UK defence industry. The Minister of State, Department for International Development and I also travelled to New York during the negotiations to help sustain the momentum of the process. The UK delegation played a leading role in the negotiations, co-ordinating closely with civil society, and supported by Ministers and officials from across Whitehall and by the UK’s extensive network of international posts. I pay tribute to all the individuals involved.
Four weeks of difficult and complex negotiations led to a robust and balanced treaty text which the United Kingdom and the vast majority of other states felt able to support. However on the final day of the conference a small number of countries asked for more time to consider the text, meaning that the conference ended without agreement. As the Foreign Secretary made it clear in his statement of
This is not an end to the arms trade treaty process. We are absolutely committed to securing a robust and effective treaty, and will continue to devote significant diplomatic efforts to this goal. We will continue our work on the basis of the draft treaty considered at the conference. The UN General Assembly will be the next opportunity for us to address the issue among the whole UN membership. While there is still work to be done, we remain optimistic that a meaningful and coherent ATT that will make a positive difference to millions of lives is in reach, and our goal will be its agreement during the next UN General Assembly session in 2012-13.