The UN General Assembly last Tuesday April 2nd, 2013 overwhelmingly approved the first international treaty that will regulate the multi-billion-dollar global arms trade, and prevent the weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, warlords, organized crime figures and human rights violators. The General Assembly voted 154 in favor, 3 against and 23 abstentions.
Elated at the adoption of the treaty, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki -Moon, stated that he ”wholeheartedly welcomed the adoption of a first-ever Arms Trade Treaty by the General Assembly. It is a historic diplomatic achievement — the culmination of long-held dreams and many years of effort.” The UN boss went on to say that, “This is a victory for the world’s people. The Arms Trade Treaty will make it more difficult for deadly weapons to be diverted into the illicit market, and it will help to keep warlords, pirates, terrorists, criminals and their like from acquiring deadly arms. It will be a powerful new tool in our efforts to prevent grave human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law. And it will provide much-needed momentum for other global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.”
The UN Secretary General applauded ”States for their willingness to compromise on a number of complex issues, thus making it possible for us to have a balanced and robust Treaty text. I commend the members of civil society for the critical role they played from the inception of this process, through their expert contributions and enthusiastic support.” He explained further that, “The adoption of this Treaty demonstrates the great things that can be achieved when Governments and civil society work together through the United Nations.” He called on “all Governments to join forces with civil society to ensure its full and effective implementation.” He assured the Assembly that, ”The United Nations will provide its full support as we strive to fulfill the great promise of this landmark global instrument.”
Also expressing delight at the adoption of the treaty was the deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, Mr. Frank Jannuz. He said that, ”Today’s victory shows that ordinary people who care about protecting human rights can fight back to stop the gun lobby dead in its tracks, helping to save countless lives “. He went on to say that ,”The voices of reason triumphed over skeptics, treaty opponents and dealers in death to establish a revolutionary treaty that constitutes a major step toward keeping assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons out of the hands of despots and warlords who use them to kill and maim civilians, recruit child soldiers and commit other serious abuses.”
The General Assembly President, Vuc Jeremi of Serbia , described the treaty as groundbreaking and that the final text was robust and actionable. Through this treaty, he went on, arms-exporting countries would be legally bound to report arms sales and transfers. They would be obliged to assess whether the weapons they sold could be used to facilitate human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations. He stated that the treaty will also protect the rights of its signatories to regulate the buying and selling of conventional armaments, as well as the primacy of national legislation in defining the conditions under which citizens could own and operate arms.
The Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was held in New York from 18 to 28 March 2013.
Sierra Leone was represented at the Conference by the Deputy Permanent Representative for Legal Affairs, Ambassador Osman Keh-Kamara , the Deputy Commissioner of the National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA), Rtd. Col. Saa Anthony Sinah , the Military Attache at the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN, Col. Ronnie Harleston and Mr. Saifu George.
Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary and Coordinator of the Committee of 10 on UN Security Coucil Reform, Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN, NY