Speech

"I sign the Arms Trade Treaty for lives needlessly lost"

Remarks by Mr Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, upon signing the Arms Trade Treaty

Today is a great success for the United Nations. After 10 years of campaigning and 7 years of negotiation the Arms Trade Treaty has opened for signature and the international community has queued up to sign it. That is because we recognise how important this Treaty is, and the potential it has to make the world a safer place.

I am very proud to be here representing Foreign Secretary William Hague, to sign on behalf of the United Kingdom. As one of the original Co-Authors, who first introduced the initial Resolution in 2006, I sign with a parental flourish, but I am also proud to sign on behalf of all those who ever wrote a letter, or signed a card to their Member of Parliament and wondered if it truly made a difference. To sign on behalf of all those who joined groups in their villages or towns, who join NGOs and charities, and those who lead them and who cry with despair at injustice and wonder if anything will ever become of their campaigns. And I sign on behalf of successive UK governments and their incredibly committed diplomats and officials, who by their efforts have displayed strength of leadership to help bring about today. For the United Kingdom, the ATT has been a real joint effort with government, industry and civil society all working together for the delivery of a Treaty that is strong, responsible and implementable.

The Arms Trade Treaty matters because, as soon as it is brought into force:

  • It will save lives.
  • It will promote sustainable development by enabling resources to reach schools, healthcare services, and critical infrastructure rather than being wasted on conflict.
  • It will reduce human suffering by preventing arms being used in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
  • And it will help to combat terrorism and crime by steadily reducing the unfettered proliferation of weapons which threaten the security of not only the countries where terrorists base themselves, but also their neighbours and the rest of the world.

At the same time, the Treaty will protect the legitimate arms trade, allowing states to access and acquire weaponry to lawfully defend themselves, but it will also ensure that this process is not circumvented, abused or exploited by the unscrupulous who care little for the pain and suffering they inflict.

The Treaty is now the international blueprint for the regulation of conventional arms and it is a fresh starting point for international cooperation. We will encourage States to rigorously implement the Treaty, to be transparent in their implementation and to go further than the minimum standards of regulation required by the Treaty.

We urge all States to make this a priority. The world has already waited too long and we should not and will not lose the momentum gained. Our goal is early Entry into Force and universal application.

The United Kingdom will play its part. We will aim to ratify within the year and we will spare no effort to ensure this Treaty makes a real difference to the people that need it most, for finally I have signed for the innocent, caught up in conflict instigated by the wickedness of others, I sign for lives needlessly lost, in the hope that by making it more difficult for illicit arms to cause misery, an extra chance may be allowed for peaceful resolution of conflict, so that the world of my children and granddaughter will be that bit more bearable.

Thank you.

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