I would like to update the House on the outcome of the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which took place in New York from 2 to 27 July 2012.
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 of 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. I and the Minister of State for International Development 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 clear in his statement of 28 July, we were disappointed that the negotiations did not reach a conclusion. However we recognise that to be fully effective the Treaty will need broad and ideally universal participation.
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 amongst the whole UN membership. Whilst 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 - 2013.