The General Assembly is convening a Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), from 18 to 28 March in New York, “to negotiate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.” The Final Conference aims to conclude the ATT process, following the failure of the July 2012 ATT Conference to reach an agreement on a draft treaty text. The designation “Final Conference” signals Member States’ intention to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion this time.
ATT negotiations have represented the first time ever that States have gathered to negotiate a treaty regulating conventional arms under the auspices of the United Nations. Discussions have been ongoing since 2006. The goal is the adoption of a robust and legally binding ATT that will have a real impact on the lives of millions of people suffering from the consequences of armed conflict, armed violence, crime and insecurity. Non-governmental organizations, such as human rights and development groups, gun-control organizations and gun-rights supporters, have also shown a keen interest in the ATT negotiations, as has the arms manufacturing and trading industry.
The ATT negotiations are not without challenges. The global arms trade has ramifications that touch on core national interests. There are various legitimate concerns and perspectives at play here. There are also misconceptions about the goals of the ATT fuelled by detractors, in particular some sectors of civil society who claim, for example, that “the UN will be grabbing the guns away from law-abiding citizens”. The United Nations Secretariat provides the venue for these talks between governmental representatives, and facilitates their meetings – but it is not a party to the negotiations.
The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs maintains a dedicated website (English only) at: www.un.org/disarmament/ATT.
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