Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

26 July 2012 - Statement to the Arms Trade Treaty Conference


Thursday 26 July 2012

Statement to the Plenary of the Arms Trade Treaty Conference

Statement by HE Mr Peter Woolcott, Ambassador for Disarmament of Australia


Mr President, I want to thank you for your immense work over the past four weeks and in bringing together this text for our consideration.

I hear your appeal to focus on specific elements of your draft text. Time is against us and there is work still to be done.

Australia remains committed to a treaty binding us all to the highest possible standards - and it must therefore meet the needs of the widest possible number of states.

Under your wise guidance we have a unique opportunity now to secure agreement on what would represent a massive achievement for the United Nations. This will potentially benefit many hundreds of millions of people whose lives, well-being and economic circumstances are threatened by the illicit and unregulated trade in conventional arms.

On a quick examination of the draft, it clearly reflects the six years and more of work that has led us to this point.

Your draft text, of course, does not in all aspects achieve the very high ambitions, many of us including Australia have brought to this process.

But it represents a massive improvement from the current situation where we have virtually no legally binding international standards for managing the trade in conventional arms.

Your text contains most of the key issues to which we as Co-authors have dedicated our efforts over the last years.

The draft establishes requirements for States to have mechanisms and standards or criteria for managing the international movements of conventional arms.

But we should still do better.

Now, turning to scope, from Australia’s perspective, one of the outcomes from this text is that it includes ammunition. You have skilfully sought to find a solution taking into account of the divergent views. For it is crucial that ammunition be covered in the draft treaty. We have said before that we would have liked it to be expressly in scope (Article 2) – we still do.

But on balance, the operational effect of the ammunition provision in Article 6(4) requires national control over export of ammunition and, importantly, the application of most of the criteria to all exports of ammunition, under Articles 3 and 4. This is a clear strengthening on your paper of 24 July.

We would also like to recognise your efforts in ensuring the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in this text – again this is essential and an important outcome. For many States, these weapons are the reason for the many lives being lost, and in some cases political instability that prevents development.

The draft treaty text provides for doable controls on transit and brokering. These must not be weakened further.

And importantly it is forward looking and aspirational. We will have a framework for future work elaborating and enhancing our commitments, and a framework that will enable us to cooperate, consult one another, exchange information and views to ensure good practice in trade and stewardship.
And crucially, we have a framework for the provision of practical assistance and cooperation in developing capacities of all States to meet their obligations and implement the treaty.

Mr President, it is important to be clear about the relationship between this Treaty and other instruments. We note that Article 24 makes clear that any future agreements entered into by States Parties will have to be compatible with the obligations under this Treaty and not undermine its object and purpose.

That said, we consider that the text in Article 5(2) should be clarified to confirm our view that any obligations under existing treaties only apply to the extent that they are consistent with this Treaty.

Mr President, I would conclude my comments noting that Australia commits to work with you to finalise this text over the next 24 hours to achieve the strongest possible outcome.

Thank you Mr President.