Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

20 March 2013 - Statement to the Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty

Wednesday 20 March 2013


Statement by Senator the Honourable Bob Carr
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

(Check against delivery)


Thank you Mr President.

I congratulate you on your appointment as President of this Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Around 500,000 people are killed each year by the estimated 875 million small arms currently in circulation.

More than 325,000 people are said to have lost their lives through armed violence since the previous round of negotiations in July last year.

The example of one weapon in particular underlines the importance of these negotiations.

With only eight moving parts, weighing less than five kilograms loaded, and costing less than $100 US dollars in some locations, it is little surprise the AK-47 rifle has become a ubiquitous feature of conflict zones around the globe.

Around a decade ago, tens of thousands of AK-47 rifles were transported into Liberia in violation of the UN arms embargo – firearms that were used to commit terrible crimes by young boys forced to kill.

Today, around 70 million are in circulation world-wide.

The AK-47 is a classic example of a weapon that has proliferated as a result of the illicit and irresponsible arms trade – a weapon that has become an enabler for war crimes, criminality and gender based violence, including in the hands of children.

At the last round of negotiations in July, I said we cannot allow the catastrophic impact of the illegal trade in arms to continue to harm humanity, especially when we know a major cause – the inadequate control of trade in conventional arms – and we know that we can do something to fix it now.

It is a problem which cuts across national boundaries, regions and traditional groupings.

Unabated, the illicit arms trade will continue to undermine the security, stability and welfare of communities around the globe.

We must work together to deliver an Arms Trade Treaty that establishes the highest possible common standards for the international transfer of conventional arms.

Australia seeks to adopt, by the broadest possible consensus, a Treaty that provides practical and effective means of combatting the illicit and irresponsible trade in arms.

Australia’s commitment to this goal remains as strong as ever.

I appreciate that this is a complex task.

I encourage all delegations to show flexibility over the coming days and to work in a spirit of cooperation to finish the job.

Mr President

Australia recognises that the Treaty is just the beginning.

A strong outcome on the Treaty’s text must be followed by effective implementation.

This, we recognise, will be a challenge for many.

Australia is committed through the pledge I announced here last July to provide AUD $1 million to initiate a multilateral assistance fund to help developing countries implement the Treaty’s provisions.

The fund will support measures such as national legislation, setting up export control agencies, and building expertise in assessing and enforcing arms controls.

Australia will continue to work with Germany to promote and seek broader support for the fund.

I urge all delegations, in the limited time that we have here at this Final Conference, not to lose sight of the practical impact that this Treaty must bring to all countries present in this room today.

We can only truly do this with a consensus outcome.

This is within our reach.

Thank you.