Moving the International Arms Trade Treaty forward, DSEi i London, 9 september 2009 10 september 2009
Carl Bildt, Utrikesminister
(Gunnar Wieslander, Statssekreterare)
Tal av statssekreterare Gunnar Wieslander vid seminariet Moving the International Arms Trade Treaty forward vid DSEi i London, 9
DET TALADE ORDET GÄLLER
(Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen),
I am indeed very honoured to have been invited to speak at this important and timely seminar in connection with "the Defence and Equipment International 2009", one of the most important Defence Exhibitions in the world. I note that several important seminars are held in connection with the DSEi and greet with special satisfaction that the process towards an Arms Trade Treaty is the object of this seminar. It is of great importance to be able to discuss this project with representatives of the defence industry who are naturally well represented here.
The United Kingdom has since many years been in the lead of the process towards an International Arms Trade Treaty and has spent considerable resources to develop this project. This has been of great value and has, indeed, enhanced the awareness of the problems involved in the unregulated trade in conventional arms. The UK work has also facilitated the work on this issue within the European Union.
Sweden is currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Thus my country has a special responsibility to promote the EU agenda and the ATT process belongs to our priorities.
An Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) should be a universal, legally binding Treaty, creating common international standards on the export, import and transfer of conventional arms. Why is it then so important - even urgent - to achieve such a treaty? I would say that the absence of international standards in this respect is an important contributory factor to conflict, the displacement of people, crime and terrorism, which in turn undermines peace, reconciliation, safety, security, stability and sustainable development. Through an ATT , we would promote legal, responsible and transparent trade in conventional arms by assuring that all transactions are subject to an an effective prior assessment with the purpose of guaranteeing that the transactions will be legal and not contrary to the standards and principles agreed upon in the treaty.
To be effective and efficient virtually all types of conventional weapons should be covered by a treaty. Not least important are the small and light weapons (SALW) which are the categories most widely used in conflicts in many parts of the world. Small and light weapons are particularly easy to transport and to physically divert in a more or less clandestine way. We have seen it and still see it not least in Africa, where also air trafficking in small and light weapons is particularly spread. Also after a conflict has ended the accumulation and spread of small and light weapons in a region add to the post-conflict problems with wide-spread criminality and human insecurity.
Thus, it is clear to me that the illegal trade in conventional weapons, not least small and light weapons, is a very serious problem, because it fuels conflict, it facilitates terrorist acts and gross criminality and diminish human security. We have to create a system that prevent weapons to reach terrorist and criminal groups or regimes which violate human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Why is it that important that an international agreement will be legally binding? There have been several international efforts to tackle the illegal side of the conventional arms market. United Nations has a Program of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and the European Union has adopted a strategy to combat illicit trade and excessive accumulation of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. However these programs and strategies, even if they have proved useful in many respects, do not have real teeth. Only a global, legally binding, treaty will have a real effect.
To handle the problem with the illegal and irresponsible trade in conventional arms is therefore a political imperative. It is my conviction that a universal treaty setting international standards for export, import and transfer of conventional weapons is the best and most efficient way to tackle this problem. Through such a treaty we would render the diversion of weapons much more difficult and considerably diminish it.
An Arms Trade Treaty is also important for Sweden from our national point of view. Sweden has - as the United Kingdom - a significant defence industry. So it needs a level playing field in the international competition. About 30.000 people are employed in the defence-related industry in Sweden and its products amount to some 1,5 per cent of the Swedish total export. Our defence industry is important not only for our national security but it also serves as an important motor for high technology development and industry in general. Sweden is nowadays more and more a knowledge-based and high-tech nation and to remain so is crucial for the future well-being of my country. So creating a level playing field for the defence industry is a high priority.
In Sweden we are anxious to uphold a responsible policy in all aspects of our arms export. We have a very strict and, I dare to say, a very efficient export control system. The Code of Conduct of the European Union, now replaced by a so-called Common Position, has also enhanced the export control systems in the whole of the European Union. But - we could never compete with villains. That is why a level playing field is that important for Sweden and for other countries upholding a responsible policy in the arms trade. Therefore Sweden forcefully support the work towards an Arms Trade Treaty.
My British colleague has just eloquently developed what an ATT would be and what it would NOT be. Unfortunately there are still a lot of suspicions and misunderstandings out there. Therefore, it has to be stressed, repeatedly, that an ATT is not intended to undermine and will not undermine the inherent right of self-defence of each and every state, which is guaranteed in the Charter of the United Nations. Nor will it threaten in any way the legitimate security needs of any state or its ability to take part in international peace support operations.The aim of a Treaty is to diminish and render more difficult the illegal and irresponsible trade in conventional weapons.
To make an effective ATT a reality, all states have to develop an efficient export control system. They must create a system with written applications for licenses on a case-by-case basis, and there must be well educated civil servants, who try the applications against clear criteria in an objective and impartial way.
Undoubtedly, in many countries in the world such a system does not exist today. That is why outreach activities are crucial parts in the process towards an Arms Trade Treaty; the European Union has a program for such activities. It has up till now been successful but so far directed mainly towards awareness-raising in different parts of the world. At the next stage it is important to aim still more at capacity-building. It is also crucial that a future Treaty contains provisions about assistance.
Also the civil society has made and make very important contributions in the process towards an ATT. That is the case not least in the UK but also in Sweden and in many other countries. I appreciate very much their work and look forward to a fruitful cooperation in the continuous process. It also goes without saying - I think that is clear from what I have said here earlier - that a continuous dialogue and cooperation with the industry is self-evident.
I said earlier that it is a political imperative to take the ATT process forward and get a result as soon as possible. Where are we now in the process and what can we do to further it?
I would argue that during this year we have seen a certain positive movement in this process. In the UN Open-ended Working Group, which has met in New York two times this year, there has been an increasingly positive atmosphere. It is true that the new administration in the United States has not yet concluded its policy review, but positive indications have been given. It is also true that the countries who have been negative to an ATT, are still sceptical, but in the report of the Working Group to the General Assembly this autumn a consensus emerged that the unregulated trade in conventional arms is a problem that the international community has to tackle. That is after all a fairly good point of departure for the negotiations about a mandate for the future work of the UN working group which will begin in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in a few weeks time.
It is my hope that the UN Working Group will get a stronger and more focused mandate for its sessions next year, so that more concrete negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty can begin during 2010. Certainly, these negotiations will take time; many complicated questions and details have to be sorted out and agreed upon. And the aim must be a Treaty with virtually global adherence. Anything less would not have the effect we are aiming at.
To conclude: An Arms Trade Treaty is now firmly on the international agenda. The European Union and Sweden give its full support to the process and we will do what we can to speed it up. A global, legally binding, Arms Trade Treaty is a political imperative. It has to be a strong treaty which will eliminate the loopholes that without such a treaty make diversion of weapons to not-intended recievers, such as terrorist and criminal groups, much too easy. Weapons should not easily reach such groups or regimes which use the weapons for internal repression or human rights abuses or in a way that violates international humanitarian law. Also capacity-building will be an important task for the years to come. An ATT will be efficient only if the Parties to a Treaty have the capacity to fulfil its obligations.
We look forward to work energetically for a strong and efficient ATT in cooperation with all stakeholders, among them civil society and industry.
I thank You very much.