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The Arms Trade Treaty: Towards entry into force, ATT event, 25 September 2013

25-09-2013 Statement

Statement of the ICRC delivered by Peter Maurer, President, Arms Trade Treaty High-Level Event, New York, 25 September

I am honoured to be among you today to express congratulations on States' rapidly growing adherence to the Arms Trade Treaty. I would also like to applaud the States that steered this process, the United Nations, Ambassadors Moritán and Woolcott, and the many non-governmental organizations and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that worked tirelessly to reach this point. As of today – less than six months after the treaty's adoption – 6 States are party to and 106 States have signed the Arms Trade Treaty. These numbers show that more than half of the world's countries have endorsed the treaty's objective of reducing human suffering through strict controls on the international trade in conventional arms. States have recognized that the poorly regulated transfer of weapons can have devastating consequences on civilians and that we can no longer regard arms and ammunition as just another form of commercial goods.  

As we celebrate such strong support for the Arms Trade Treaty today and the prospect of a safer world, we must remain lucid about the fact that weapons are continuing to flow into some of the most acute crisis in the world."

In many countries, we witness the high cost for civilians of insufficient controls on the availability of conventional arms. Weak controls on the availability of conventional weapons have facilitated violations of international humanitarian law and endangered medical and humanitarian assistance. More weapons would only make things worse.

We are therefore profoundly heartened by the express humanitarian purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty, its explicit recognition of the duty of States to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, and its broad scope. Implemented in good faith, and applied in a consistent, objective and non-discriminatory manner, the treaty will positively affect the lives, health and well-being of millions of people around the world. Its transfer criteria in particular are vital to ensuring that conventional arms do not end up in the hands of those who may be expected to use them to commit war crimes or serious violations of human rights.

We welcome the declarations that some States have made of their intention to implement the treaty in a manner most conducive to achieving its humanitarian object and purpose. We encourage other States to make similar declarations upon signing and ratifying the treaty.

The path to effective implementation will require the continued engagement of local civil society actors and international organisations. Within the limits of its mandate and its expertise in international humanitarian law, the ICRC stands ready to assist States in implementing the treaty, notably through the ICRC's Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law, which can provide guidance to governments on incorporating the treaty's requirements into national legislation. In 2014, the ICRC plans to hold a series of regional seminars notably in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, in order to facilitate capacity-building efforts. The ICRC is also developing a number of publications to assist States in understanding the treaty's requirements and adopting effective implementation measures. These will include an update of the ICRC's practical guide on Arms transfer decisions: Applying international humanitarian law criteria.

I recognize that for some States, joining the Arms Trade Treaty may have certain political and economic ramifications. But these costs will be largely overridden by increased  protection for civilians that the treaty will achieve. As we celebrate such strong support for the Arms Trade Treaty today and the prospect of a safer world, we must remain lucid about the fact that weapons are continuing to flow into some of the most acute crisis in the world. Openly acknowledging the gap that subsists between the transfer requirements expressed in the ATT and the transfer practice of certain States is a necessary step in the process.

We call on all States to join the treaty, and we look forward to working with governments, the United Nations and civil society to ensure that its promises become a reality as quickly as possible.
Thank you.