Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

3 July 2012 - Statement to the UN Arms Trade Treaty Conference


3 July 2012

Australian National Statement

Senator the Hon Bob Carr
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr President

I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as President of this Conference and register Australia’s appreciation for your leadership during the preparatory process of an Arms Trade Treaty. We appreciate your role over the past two days in finding a solution that has enabled us to forge ahead, to move to this most decisive stage of negotiations. Australia looks forward to working with you and all Member States during the next four weeks of negotiations.

Mr President

The illegal trade in arms has been a chronic cause of profound human suffering.

Just think, ten years ago tens of thousands of AK47 assault rifles were transported into Liberia in violation of the UN arms embargo. These weapons were used to commit the most terrible crimes by young boys forced to kill.

Small arms and light weapons became weapons of mass destruction.

Conventional weapons including tanks were transported into South Sudan on helicopters by unscrupulous arms dealers, intensifying conflict in this newest member of the UN.

In our region, the Asia-Pacific, Solomon Islands has shown just how serious the unregulated transfer of firearms can be. The Australian-led regional assistance mission turned things around, but illicit firearms had ignited ethnic tensions and exacerbated internal conflict. There were drastic impacts on economic development.

Every day some 2000 people are killed in conflicts fuelled by illegally traded arms – most of these deaths are from small arms and light weapons. Many more people are maimed, injured and live in fear.

The presence of illegal arms in communities starts or prolongs conflict. Women and children are all too frequently disproportionately affected.

These weapons perpetuate economic and social disadvantage and entrench poverty. Oxfam has estimated that the conflicts fuelled by imported weapons cost Africa up to $18 billion a year.

On top of all this, irresponsible and illegal arms facilitate other social threats - crime, gang warfare and terrorism.

We cannot allow the catastrophic impact of this irresponsible trade to continue, especially when we know a major cause – the inadequate control of this trade in conventional arms – and we know that we can do something to fix it.

On a regional basis we’ve seen action to prevent these impacts. But the problem is global in nature and requires a global solution. This is why we are pursuing a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty.

We need an ATT that establishes the highest possible international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms; one that would promote much needed accountability and transparency in the global arms trade.

The agreement must be comprehensive. It is crucial that an ATT has a broad scope covering all conventional weapons – including small arms and light weapons, and their ammunition.

It must have strong criteria on which to assess arms exports; and must have provisions that are clear and implementable for national control systems.

Mr President

Australia is proud to have been at the core of the group of countries advocating for an ATT, and we intend to see this process through.
It matters to Australia that an ATT is effective globally.

Every State has a stake in the outcome of these negotiations. This is why Australia has been pleased to work with many others to ensure this goal is reached.

We sponsored workshops in three regions where an ATT would make a real difference - the Pacific, Caribbean and Africa. We are also sponsoring nearly 50 delegates from some 35 developing countries to participate in this Conference.

We also recognise that the Treaty will present implementation challenges for many countries – small countries and least developed countries. This must not present an obstacle to a strong outcome.

Those in a position to do so should provide technical assistance; should provide capacity building to ensure all countries have the ability to implement the Treaty when it is concluded.

Australia will provide such assistance, and today I am announcing that we will provide 1 million dollars for a multilateral assistance fund to help developing countries implement the Treaty’s provisions.

Mr President

A remarkable aspect of these negotiations is the strong readiness by the vast majority of States to achieve a robust Treaty at this Conference. This is the result of many years of preparations that have brought us to this point.

We are determined to achieve a substantive outcome at this meeting. We are not interested in a further process of negotiation. We simply can’t afford to have this process delayed. Any delay means more lives lost: half a million a year, 2000 a day.

The Preparatory Committee meetings have positioned us well – they have brought us to a solid understanding of our varied positions.

We have much yet to agree, and our limited time means we must make good use of the next four weeks.

I urge all countries present here to aim for a strong Treaty, one which upholds the security and humanitarian objectives of our mandate.

This ambition will need to be combined with flexibility over the coming weeks as we move to resolve our differences and find common ground on which to achieve an international Arms Trade Treaty to benefit all countries present in this hall today.

Thank you.