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UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, July 2 – 27, 2012

From 2-27 July, all countries of the world are coming together in New York to negotiate what is seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the United Nations. A robust arms trade treaty can make a difference for millions of people confronted with insecurity, deprivation and fear.

The following essential documents available at:

– Provisional rules of procedure of the Conference (adopted 3 July)

– Compilation of views on the elements of an arms trade treaty

– Report of the Preparatory Committee


In all parts of the world, the ready availability of weapons and ammunition has led to human suffering, political repression, crime and terror among civilian populations. Irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons can destabilize security in a region, enable the violation of SecurityCouncil armsembargoes and contribute to human rights abuses. Importantly, investment is discouraged and development disrupted in countries experiencing conflict and high levels of violence, which also affect their ability to attain the Millennium Development Goals.

A problem for the UN

The United Nations, in its work to assist people all over the world, is confronted with many of the negative impacts of lax controls on the arms trade. Think of peacekeeping, delivering food aid, improving public health, building safer cities, protecting refugees, eradicating poverty or fighting crime and terrorism. In all those activities we witness the consequences of armed violence and conflict, and that often lead to violations of international law, abuses of the rights of children, civilian casualties, humanitarian crises and missed social and economic opportunities necessary for development – often fueled by irresponsible arms deals.

How does the UN help in the regulation of the arms trade?

No global norms

Many areas of world trade are covered by regulations that bind countries into agreed conduct. At present, there is no global set of rules governing the trade in conventional weapons. An eclectic set of national and regional control measures and a few global instruments on arms transfers exist, but the absence of a global framework regulating the international trade in all conventional arms has obscured transparency, comparability and accountability.


Governments remain primarily responsible for providing security and protecting their populations, keeping to the rule of law. They take decisions on arms transfers across international borders.  That is why governments are expected to show responsibility in their decisions regarding arms transfers. This means that before approving international transfers (e.g., exports) of weapons, governments should  assess the risk that such transfers would  exacerbate conflict or be used to commit grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Concerned by the misuse of weaponry around the world, civil society organizations have successfully mobilized governments and parliamentarians to call for the global regulation of the conventional arms trade. Countries have discussed the matter within the UN since 2006 and are set to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty in July 2012.