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'We must establish agreement on a robust and effective legally binding Arms Trade Treaty'

UK Opening Statement at the Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty by Ambassador Jo Adamson.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. And in keeping with the request to be brief, I will be so.

I am sorry that my Minister, Mr Alistair Burt, was unable to deliver this statement when he was here on Monday, but he is watching the conference closely. And I would like to say that there is a very good cross-party support for an Arms Trade Treaty back in my country, support that is also added to support from civil society, our defence industry as well, and from many members of the public.

Mr Chairman,

I would like to begin by congratulating you on your appointment as Chair of the Diplomatic Conference and assure you of the UK’s full support over the next four weeks.

It is a pleasure to be able to add my voice to the important interventions we have already heard today about the importance of this conference, and what it is trying to achieve. The United Kingdom aligns itself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, which went into a great number of details.

Mr Chairman,

It is an over-used phrase but this really is a historic moment. Other delegations have referred to this already: the distinguished delegate from Turkey, this morning the delegate from Kenya, just now the delegate from Mexico on behalf of a group of countries. This is an initiative the UK has championed since we and our fellow co-authors tabled the initial UN Resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2006. The support of the overwhelming majority of states, together with the active engagement of civil society and of the legitimate defence industry has brought us, under your skilful leadership, to this critical point.

For far too long, the international trade in conventional arms has lacked proper and coherent regulation. This has fuelled conflict, undermined security and diverted resources from development. Millions of lives have been, and continue to be, blighted. The security and humanitarian effects of this are all too clear. Let me repeat. The security and humanitarian effects of this are all too clear. The time to act is now.
Now is the time for us to fulfil our responsibility. In the three short weeks ahead, we must establish agreement on a robust and effective legally binding Arms Trade Treaty. I believe we can do it. The Ambassador from New Zealand this morning reminded us how much we already have on which to work. We can do it.

Mr Chairman,

It is right that this negotiation is being undertaken within the framework of the United Nations. Not only because the Treaty requires global coverage to be fully effective, but also because our work on the Arms Trade Treaty is guided by the principles of the UN Charter, something which many delegations have referred to. This Charter provides the foundation upon which our efforts are built and it is crucial that the UN arms control and disarmament machinery delivers an effective Treaty. The world is watching the United Nations machinery to see whether we can deliver on arms control and disarmament. I come from Geneva; I don’t need to repeat how much pressure is on the UN to show it can deliver.

Article One of the Charter highlights the very purpose of the United Nations. An effective Arms Trade Treaty, with the highest possible standards, as my colleague has just said from the United States on behalf of the P5, and the widest participation of states, will directly support that purpose. Such a treaty will directly help to maintain international peace and security, whilst encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Let me repeat. It will directly help to maintain international peace and security, while encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is the Charter that provides the mandate for our actions and the guidance for our endeavours.

Mr Chairman,

The Arms Trade Treaty has the potential to bring real and significant benefits to all UN Member States. Over the next three weeks, it will be important that we listen to each other, approaching the negotiations with determination and mutual respect. Part of that respect is heading the Chairman’s call to make interventions brief. It is a measure of our respect to each other. We have a responsibility to our citizens to ensure we reach an agreement that fully meets their needs and ambitions, and makes a meaningful difference to millions of lives.

Mr Chairman,

I would like to add a brief personal comment at this point. Ten years ago I was standing watching the fireworks on the East River. I was standing with a number of devoted United Nations civil servants, among them Fiona Watson, who was a UN Peacekeeper who worked in Iraq. It was an amazing evening. It was good that we had the chance to have that evening because one year later on the 19th of August 2003, twenty-three international civil servants were killed when a bomb exploded at the UN Headquarters. They were civil servants from Brazil, Sergio Vieira de Mello; civil servants from Egypt, Nadia Younes; civil servants from my own country. When I look back on that period, I know why I am here to do this job today. We should raise our eyes outside this conference room, beyond the rules of procedure and look at why we are undertaking this task. Those people I mentioned are just a small indicator of the vast numbers of people whose lives have been affected or taken by conflict. I appeal to us all as we show respect for each other and we negotiate hard. Let us not lose sight of what we are here to do. We are here to change things on the ground when we walk away from this conference. We should negotiate as though implementation matters. I am determined to do that. My team is determined to do that. Please let us all do that.

Thank you.

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Published 6 July 2012