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18 March 2013 - United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty - Statement by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

Mr Chairman, dear colleagues,

Please permit me to begin by congratulating you on your nomination as President of this Conference. This is a heavy responsibility. I am certain that your experience and personal qualities will allow you to carry out your task perfectly. You can be assured of the full cooperation and support of my delegation in carrying out your mission.

France associates itself with the statement of the European Union.

The final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty is a major event for the United Nations. Today we must all assume our responsibilities: to conclude a process that was launched seven years ago, by adopting a strong, effective instrument to regulate legal trade and to combat illicit trafficking. This instrument will contribute to international security and to the protection of populations against the devastating effects of the uncontrolled dissemination of conventional weapons worldwide. We have nine days to provide the international community with this new universal legal standard and to prove that the United Nations is capable of successfully carrying out such negotiations.

Nine days is also very little to accomplish such a task. We can only be successful in reaching our goals by building on the consensus which was very nearly found last July.

Mr Chairman,

France’s position on the content of the Arms Trade Treaty is now known. It has not changed. France was prepared in July to sign up to the essential components of the draft treaty. While wording adjustments and a few improvements may obviously be made to it, we must also bear in mind that the text we are beginning to work on is the result of a compromise. It appears desirable to us to not attempt to shift the overall balance, as it seems that the treaty in its current wording does take into account everyone’s interests. We are aware that importers have legitimate expectations.

All the countries that participate in the chain of transfer, exporters, transit countries and importers, have a responsibility in regulating the arms trade.

Beyond the legal scrub of the text, which will have to concern the provisions which introduce iniquities or confusions, we consider that it remains possible to improve the text on the following points:

We have achieved a relatively ambitious scope of application which includes all conventional weapons including small arms and light weapons. But we must go further. The provisions covering munitions and parts and components must be further strengthened, particularly regarding the application of the criteria to their transfer. At the very least, Article 6.4 must refer to all the criteria of Articles 3 and 4, including therefore the last subparagraph of Article 4. In my view, it is possible to achieve a compromise. We also continue to advocate for the presence of a criterion regarding gender-related violence, without which the humanitarian dimension of the Treaty will be weakened. Similarly, we remain committed to criteria relating to corruption and economic development.

Regarding the activities covered by Articles 6 to 9, we consider that the whole transfer chain, including non-commercial activities, must be covered. We also consider it necessary to make transit States accountable and encourage them to the greatest extent possible to apply the criteria to this full transfer chain.

Articles 3 and 4 (prohibited transfers and national assessment of transfer authorizations) are central to the Treaty. France is aware of the difficulties that these articles constitute for certain delegations but it is possible to strengthen them. It is essential to preserve the “golden rule” and enhance the efficiency of the provisions regarding respect for human rights and international humanitarian law through editorial changes. For example, the use of the term “for the purpose of” is not appropriate and should be amended.

It is essential that the Treaty include transparency measures. The draft of 26 July last year stipulated the drafting of reports on the implementation of the Treaty, including indications on transfer authorizations and delivered arms. These reports must be communicated to the Treaty secretariat, and in our opinion they should be published.

An effective treaty also requires an national control system, made up of adequate laws and administrative procedures. In this respect, Article 11 should be more detailed, specifying, for example, that States should put in place criminal sanctions for the authors of unauthorized transfers.

France considers that this Treaty should also allow integrated regional organizations to be Parties, so long as they have competency in maters of conventional arms transfer.

Moreover, this Treaty should not be an obstacle to strengthening regional cooperation, for example, in my country’s case, in the European framework, particularly in terms of capacity sharing. From this point of view, Article 5.2 aims at addressing legitimate expectations. It must naturally be understood in the light of Article 24.

Hence, Treaty amendments decided upon after its entry into force should be applicable only to States which have ratified them. Similarly, the provisions on dispute settlement contain different terms to qualify implementations, leading to confusion and redundancy between the different paragraphs of the Article. Lastly, Article 23 seems to penalize membership of the Treaty regime.


We attach great importance to the active participations of all delegations in the negotiations. We thus set great store by the translation of the different documents in the official languages of the United Nations. We will be vigilant regarding the French version which will be authentic. We have submitted our remarks to the United Nations, as the initial version was problematic, particularly regarding Article 2, paragraph 1, as well as Article 4. Lastly, we welcome your choice to involve civil society even more closely in our work.


You have led the consultations of these recent months with talent and remarkable expertise. I would like to thank and congratulate you for your commitment and the manner in which you have been open to all delegations.

Once again, I assure you of France’s full support for your action and our commitment alongside you to achieve a robust and effective instrument.

Thank you, President

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU