Minister Tuomioja's speech at the Nordic Arms Transfer Controls and Global Challenges Seminar

Minister Tuomioja's speech at the Nordic Arms Transfer Controls and Global Challenges Seminar

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja's speech at the Nordic Arms Transfer Controls and Global Challenges Seminar. House of the Estates, Helsinki 14 April 2015.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me warmly welcome you all to this seminar. The topic of the day is important, and as you may know, these issues are also high on my personal agenda. Arms control and arms trade touches millions of people. It is responsible business, needed also for national security purposes. At the same time, we face illegal arms trade, trade that may end up being used for repressive purposes or prolonging conflicts, or violence against innocent civilians, including women and children. Especially in fragile contexts like Horn of Africa the matter is all too familiar.

I am particularly delighted that we are here today also in a Nordic context. As you all know, Nordic cooperation is strong in many fields, and not least in security policy. During the past years, the Nordic countries have enhanced their cooperation also in arms control and disarmament issues. The Nordic countries and the Baltic states, as well as EU experts exchange information on a regular basis about their practices in export control.

Arms control and disarmament is part of the broader foreign and security policy picture. It also impacts trade and development policy.  Some may argue that today there is less room for advancing the arms control and disarmament agenda. If true in the current security environment with all the global challenges, I take it as a call for working harder for more cooperation in the field of arms control. Especially now we need to maintain our existing commitments and to pursue for more.

There are two positive developments that I want to highlight. One is the dismantling of the Syrian chemical weapons program, where also Finland played an active role. The other one, and the one I want to focus on today is ATT, the Arms Trade Treaty that came into force last Christmas eve, the 24th of December 2014. I guess that for those who participated actively in the ATT process, Christmas will never be the same.

Many of us present in this room worked hard for making the ATT become true. And we succeeded in relatively short a time. I want to commend especially the role of the NGOs during the process. I also want to thank our own team at the Ministry for their dedicated, professional work. It was also important that we had industry representatives in our delegation when negotiating the ATT. At the end of the day, the ATT is a trade treaty, and not so much an arms control treaty.

The philosophy behind the ATT is fairly simple: that all play by the same rules.  This is of course easier said than done, which is why we need this treaty and more countries to join it.

The main aim of the Treaty is to regulate international, legal arms trade and to reduce illegal trade and diversion. The ATT is expected to enhance arms embargoes and sanctions, peace building and peace keeping operations, improve human rights, living conditions of men, women and children. Especially fragile areas like Horn of Africa, can benefit a lot from the universality and effective implementation of the ATT. As the ATT aims at reducing illegal trade in arms and their diversion to other than legal end-users, it also forms a tool to fight against terrorist groups like Isil/Isis.

Dear colleagues

Let me elaborate first briefly how we came here, second what is the situation at the moment and third, and most importantly, how do we take the ATT forward.

















1. A few words about the history

The ATT process originally begun with the initiative by several Nobel Price Laureats and became more concrete in 2010 with the establishment of the UN Group of Governmental Experts who studied the feasibility of the Treaty. Finland was active in this group and, subsequently, Finland became also one of the seven original co-authors of the Treaty. The group of co-authors pushed the process forward by frequently consulting and meeting with the chairs of the Preparatory Committee and other stakeholders. Having played an essential role in the creation of the Treaty, Finland together with the other co-authors, is now working for its effective implementation and universalization.

Also the NGOs were very supportive to the Treaty from the very beginning whereas some of the big players and major arms producers like the US doubted its merits, however later the Obama administration decided to support the negotiations. The US now continues to be active in the implementation process, even though the Treaty has not been officially ratified by the Senate. Some other big producers like China, India and the Russian Federation are still reflecting whether to join or not.

The process went on under the very skillful guidance by Ambassador Moritán from Argentina. A draft Treaty was prepared but not accepted in 2012, which was a disappointment for many, including us. The most disappointed man in New York at the time was, however, Ambassador Moritàn.

Many countries, Nordic and others, refused to take this as a final word and failure. A second negotiating conference was organized in New York early 2013. This time the very able chairman was Ambassador Peter Woolcott from Australia. The conference presented a Treaty text, much better in quality than expected, but failed to get the document accepted. Three countries North-Korea, Syria and Iran voted against. 

But yet another effort was made by states that wanted the Treaty. An extraordinary UN General Assembly Session was organized in April 2013 where the landmark Treaty was finally accepted with an overwhelming majority. Finland and other Nordic countries were amongst the first ones to sign and later ratify the Treaty. The ATT entered into force in a record time.







2. The state of play today

There are now 65 States Parties and 130 signatory states in the ATT. The numbers are growing, but major challenges remain, especially as regards the big producers and smaller arms importers.

At present our work is focused on the implementation of the Treaty. Such issues as rules of procedure, the rights and responsibilities of the signatory states, the participation possibilities for the NGOs, financing and reporting mechanisms are being negotiated. The first Conference of State Parties will convene in Mexico at the end of August. The preparations are proceeding all in all quite well. The aim is to create an effective and transparent system that would allow states parties, signatories, non-signatories, international and regional organizations, NGOs, industry and academia to participate in the State Parties’ Conferences.

The big question is where the Treaty’s permanent secretariat should be located and who should head it. I hope that the next time we meet there will be answers to these questions. All the three candidates for the location – Geneva, Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, and Vienna, as well as all the three candidates to lead the Secretariat have their merits. And more candidates may arise. We would not like to politicize the issue, but to agree on an effective Secretariat to support the implementation of the Treaty.

3. The way forward

There are two elements that I want to stress in our future work. One is the role of national implementation and national export control systems, and the other one is the universalization of the treaty. The ATT is already now a major achievement, but if we want to bring additional value, we need more countries to join it. All arms producing states, big and small as well as importers, developed and developing states in all continents should become parties to the ATT.


Many states still outside the Treaty first want to see how it is being implemented. Thus we need to show that the Treaty works and that we can agree on all the details related to its implementation.

For smaller and developing states, it may also be an issue of capacity. Technical assistance is however available to overcome possible challenges related to the establishment of the licensing system required by the ATT, and to conform with the licensing criteria and reporting. The reporting obligation is important as it is the sole “monitoring mechanism” in the Treaty. Finland is also ready to provide technical assistance. We have decided to allocate four million euros to the Treaty’s Trust Fund to help the implementation of the Treaty. 

The ATT contains the best possible international standards for various types of arms transfers we could agree on today, which does not exclude the possibility for agreeing on even better standards tomorrow. When considering export licenses, all participating states need to take into account the same criteria. Human rights and international humanitarian law are in a central role. Reducing the risk of diversion is another relevant factor.

As I already mentioned, the ATT will be implemented at the national level.  For Finland or other Nordic states, the Treaty will not require changes to our national legislation as our arms export system follows the common EU rules and procedures that are already in line with the ATT obligations. But the Treaty is beneficial for our industry as it equals the level playing field with more countries following the same rules.  

Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude

The consequences of irresponsible, unregulated arms trade are multiple:  violence and increase of armed conflicts, breaches of human rights, gender based violence, and hindrance for socio-economic development. The ATT can reverse this trend.