Didier Reynders reacts to the approval of the international Arms Trade Treaty

date: 02 April 2013

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs Didier Reynders stresses the importance of the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which was approved by an overwhelming majority at the UN General Assembly on 2 April. Last week, a number of countries made approval by consensus impossible. Approval of the Arms Trade Treaty gives a boost to international diplomacy. It is the first time in years that such a sensitive theme has achieved global agreement.

The treaty has come about after years of preparation and negotiations. Belgium and the EU partners have defined a number of clear criteria for the export of arms, including respect of human rights and international humanitarian law. The export of arms is forbidden if they could be used for genocides, crimes against humanity or war crimes. A special reference has been adopted for evaluating the risk of certain weapons being used to commit violence due to sexual orientation or against civilians, especially women and children. Belgium has advocated for the export criteria to contain a clause regarding child soldiers, as exists in Belgian legislation.

The scope of application of this treaty is broad, encompassing not just warfare arms but also small and light weapons, ammunition and weapons components. Export, import, transfer and brokering will also be controlled. The treaty aims to make the arms trade more transparent, and help to make the rules the same for all.

As with any compromise, a balance has been sought between the sometimes strongly varying standpoints of the participating countries. Not all of our proposals were accepted. But this treaty is not the end. There will be a follow-up process, with voting to take place on certain amendments. The treaty will, in many cases, make a difference to current practices. This joint approach, aimed at preventing arms from ending up in illegal circles, directly benefits those who are confronted on a daily basis with armed violence. Didier Reynders calls on all countries to respect the balanced result of the negotiations, and to sign and ratify the treaty.

The treaty will come into force once 50 countries have ratified it. In Belgium, the Federal Parliament and the Parliaments of the Regions must have their say. Belgium remains bound by the sometimes more stringent legislation on arms trade in force within the European Union.