Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Arms Trade Treaty a major step towards a safer world

‘Today we have taken a major step on the road to a safer world.’ This was foreign minister Frans Timmermans’ reaction to the UN General Assembly’s vote to approve by an overwhelming majority a treaty instituting global regulation of the arms trade.

Mr Timmermans welcomed the UN’s rapid adoption of the treaty, following the blockage of consensus by Iran, Syria and North Korea last week at the UN conference that was negotiating the text of the agreement. ‘It is a historic step for virtually the entire world to agree on strict criteria for arms exports,’ the minister said.

The Arms Trade Treaty prohibits the export of weapons that could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or where there is a high probability of their being used to violate human rights. It also requires countries to monitor their arms exports and to report on the export licences they issue.

Mr Timmermans called the treaty ‘a success for the UN as a whole, especially on an issue as sensitive as arms exports, which affects national security’. He called on other countries to quickly sign and ratify it, as the Netherlands itself plans to do. The treaty will be opened for signature at the beginning of June.

The Netherlands already subjects its arms exports to criteria that have been agreed at EU level, including human rights criteria. The fact that non-European countries will shortly be held to these standards is in the interests of the Dutch and European defence industries.