Statement by Minister Tuomioja at the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty

New York, on July 2, 2012

Speech was given by H.E. Ambassador Jarmo Viinanen on July 5, 2012

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,
Dear colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finland fully associates itself with the statement by the European Union.

We are gathered here today to negotiate an arms trade treaty on conventional arms. Since it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of lives are lost every year in use of these arms, we are in fact talking about weapons of mass destruction. And because the terrifying potential of other weapon of mass destruction has not been recently employed, addressing the need to regulate trade in these lethal arms with an international treaty is long overdue. We have now a momentum for an effective Arms Trade Treaty and we must seize the opportunity to make it a reality.

Finland, co-author of the original resolution, has worked actively on various fora for the conclusion of the ATT. We have both participated in and organized numerous outreach activities. I have always stressed the importance of the ATT in my meetings with colleagues. In addition, we have also worked closely with the civil society.

An efficient and universal ATT should include a wide definition of various types of arms transfers and the widest possible arms scope as its central elements. As the ATT should be a modern Treaty, also the most sophisticated and technologically advanced conventional arms should be included. It is also vital to include small and light weapons (SALW) as well as ammunition.

Use of small arms unfortunately affects Africa worst. Arms from earlier conflicts are still diverted to other states as no controls exist. One of the most destructive aspects of illegal arms trade relates to the trafficking of small arms like various types of rifles and pistols. These arms are responsible for hundreds of daily deaths.

Mr. President,

Easy access to these arms has caused worldwide human suffering, increased criminality and threat to civilian population. Irresponsible transfers of conventional arms can easily lead to destabilization of security in various states and regions, contribute to human rights abuses, especially those of women and children, and add to internal conflicts.

There is indeed a gender dimension to the trade whereby women are disproportionately affected by armed gender-based violence. Therefore, there should be strong references to gender in the treaty text and the criteria in the treaty should address risks of gender-based armed violence.

States must protect their citizens. This responsibility must be exercised by deciding on arms licensing. This must be reflected in the licensing criteria of the Treaty.

It goes without saying that to be robust and effective the ATT should bind the state parties legally. It is of utmost importance that the Treaty includes clear and precise criteria for licensing. The most important criteria relate to human rights, international human rights law and humanitarian law. These criteria must be binding.

Mr. President,

As the Treaty will be implemented at the national level, full engagement from all States is needed. States with an efficient administration as well as a developed and open arms trade policy do not need further guidance. For these states, the most important question is the added value of the Treaty and the level of ambition of its obligations. States with no licensing system are in a different situation. The effectiveness and universality of the ATT requires adherence also by these states. This is why the Treaty should include provisions on assistance to these states.

The requirement of equal application of the ATT with commonly agreed licensing criteria relates to basic questions like state sovereignty as reflected inter alia in their right to acquire arms for self-defense as stated in the UN Charter. The verification of breaches of human rights is also very relevant. A lot of political will is required to solve these and other open questions successfully.

The regulation of conventional arms lags behind global developments. I am personally hopeful of the conclusion of the Treaty at the end of this Conference. The ATT forms no doubt an important step forward and a means with which the international community can reduce problems caused by arms trade and enhance respect for human rights.

I hope we will have a successful Conference – thank you.

(Speech was given by H.E. Ambassador Jarmo Viinanen on July 5, 2012 on behalf of Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja).