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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Thank you for giving me the floor. I have the honour to represent the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security policy, Catherine Ashton.

On 2nd April 2013, the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) brought a seven-year long negotiating process to a successful end and made the ATT a reality. The EU worked hard in supporting the UN process leading to the Treaty notably in promoting the Treaty’s principles through world-wide awareness-raising activities.

The Treaty adopted by the General Assembly is a robust and effective text. It will significantly contribute to international peace and security by regulating the international trade in conventional arms, making it more responsible and transparent,  and eradicating illicit trade. It is the result of comprehensive and inclusive negotiations. The international community can therefore claim full ownership of this Treaty and stands much to gain from it. I believe that this is well reflected in the rising number of signatories, with a number close to 107 countries. I am very happy that, in this regard, all the 28 EU Member States are signatories and are presently preparing ratification.

This Treaty is a grand achievement for the UN as a whole. Reaching agreement on such a sensitive matter as the arms trade, closely tied to national security concerns, is quite a remarkable matter. The role of civil society deserves credit here as well: many NGOs have made tireless efforts in supporting the international community towards the Treaty.

At the same time we should be aware of the challenges for this new Treaty. Let me name three of them: securing an early entry into force, ensuring effective implementation and, finally, working towards universalization. The first two challenges relate to which resources and capacities States that ratify and implement the ATT can actually apply to arms transfer control. Assistance will be crucial in this regard whereby States with experienced and well-resourced transfer control capacities could assist in the development of national transfer control systems that meet the ATT requirements.

The EU has a significant track record of providing transfer control assistance with the arms and dual-use export control assistance activities it has funded over the past years. In line with its early committed support to the ATT, the EU now intends to build upon the lessons learnt and opportunities provided by its experience to best support the ATT’s effective implementation. The EU is thus working towards enlarging its assistance portfolio with a dedicated ATT implementation assistance programme. 

The third challenge relates more broadly to the fact that regulating international arms trade is by definition a global ambition. All countries, to one extent or another, are involved in imports, exports, transit or brokering of arms. Arms traffickers are good at identifying and using regulatory loopholes. The difference the Treaty can make is therefore proportionate to its scale of adherence. Let me therefore use this opportunity to warmly welcome the new signatures and ratifications registered so far and to call on all other states who have not yet done so, to become signatories of the Treaty.


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