Estonia Joined World’s First International Arms Trade Treaty
At the signing of the international Arms Trade Treaty at UN Headquarters in New York yesterday, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that the agreement is a historical milepost in the areas of arms control and human rights.
“The first global arms trade treaty in history sets clear and high standards that will reduce illegal arms trading and the number of civilian victims in conflict areas,” Paet noted. “International security will increase, because the treaty contains vital clauses on human rights and international humanitarian law, which must be taken into consideration when making arms supply decisions,” he added.
Paet stated that it is exceptional for an agreement to be reached on a very sensitive subject like arms trading, which directly affects countries’ security but also human rights and business interests. “It is also significant that the agreement was achieved in the UN, where all countries participated in the negotiations,” he added.
Estonia would like for the treaty to become a widely recognised international agreement whose principles are followed in each and every supply decision. “We hope that the agreement will come into effect right away and that all countries will join it – including major arms exporters and importers,” Paet noted. “Over half a million people die every year in armed conflicts, most of whom are civilians, including nearly 66 000 women and children,” said Paet. He added that every six weeks more money is spent in the world on arms than has gone to UN peace-keeping operations over the past 60 years.
Paet said that Estonia will implement the principles and supply standards laid out in the treaty. “Estonia’s arms trade control system is a good example for other smaller and primarily import or transit countries, which are in the majority in the world,” said the foreign minister. “We have helped to build up control systems in Georgia, Armenia, and Indonesia in co-operation with the United States and the European Union, and such work will continue.”
Preparations for the Arms Trade Treaty began in the UN in 2006, but the idea came about in 1997 from former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Prize winner Óscar Arias. The treaty was developed during the UN Diplomatic Conference from 2-27 July 2012 and in the last stage of negotiations from 18-28 March 2013. The treaty got votes in favour from 154 countries at the UN General Assembly on 2 April; North Korea, Syria and Iran voted against it.
Estonia was one of the vice-presidents of the final stage of negotiations.
In 2012 the primary exporters of conventional weapons were the USA (30% of the export market), Russia (26%), Germany (7%), France (6%), and China (5%). The primary importer of conventional weapons are India, China, South Korea, Pakistan, and Singapore. Currently there is not a single global agreement regulating the arms trade. There was one previous attempt to conclude an Arms Trade Convention in the League of Nations in 1925, but an agreement was never reached.
The last global agreement in the area of arms control was the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996, which has still not come into effect.