A farewell to (uncontrolled) arms

The political and diplomatic struggle waged for many years has been worth it, since it has driven us to the Arms Trade Treaty. Yesterday saw the historic milestone of its approval by the General Assembly, which we must celebrate as a success of the international community and the United Nations. It was approved by 154 votes, which is a wide majority, and was met with open opposition by Iran, North Korea and Syria, for reasons linked to the political situation. By means of this instrument, we shall not only reinforce global security through regulation of the arms trade, but also a major human cost and many grievances shall be avoided, while making the prosecution of traffickers, genocide criminals and war criminals easier. Its approval and subsequent ratification shall prevent the use of weapons against the civil population and shall foster a greater observation of human and humanitarian rights as well as market transparency.


Spain, as a co-sponsor of this treaty, must feel satisfied and proud today for its contribution to its conceptualisation and negotiation. A great leap forward came in the 61st session of the General Assembly, in December 2006, with Resolution 61/89. One year later, our country approved Law 53/2007 on control of external trade in defence and dual-use material, aimed at tuning in to the spirit as treaty cosponsors and avoiding proliferation and uncontrolled exports. Thus, and as highlighted by the Law preamble, Spain ensured that its exports are consistent with commitments currently in force in accordance with international law so as to guarantee that these exports do not foster human rights violations, do not heighten armed conflicts or significantly contribute to poverty. Thanks to it, we now hold the instruments to carry out the appropriate coordination with European institutions and international forums, the standardisation of legal systems and the exchange of information, as well as international cooperation and technical assistance to third countries.


Amid a deluge of bad news and dramatic episodes, the Arms Trade Treaty initial approval by the United Nations is a major event and really great news. Although it does not entail a final farewell to arms, like the title of one of Hemingway’s most famous novels, it means at least a farewell to arms uncontrolled in the world market.