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UN Arms Trade Treaty: Preamble | The Will County News
Steve Ad II

UN Arms Trade Treaty: Preamble

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August 1, 2013 by greybeardbard
UN Arms Trade Treaty: Preamble



Let’s dive in to the ATT and, as they say, begin at the beginning. Rather than include links to text I will copy and paste the ATT text I’m discussing into these posts so you can follow along. Fair warning – this is going to be a long post. If you want to, skip down to the Summary and then come back and read the whole post.

Preambles generally cover the “why” question as in “why are we creating this piece of legislation”. This one is no exception. It does set, in my mind at least, a new standard for fuzziness and vague wording and justifications. My comments will be interspersed with the Italicized text from the treaty

The Preamble:

The States Parties to this Treaty,

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, Recalling Article 26 of the Charter of the United Nations which seeks to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources,

Did you catch that phrase “least diversion”? I translate that as ‘we want world peace and security without having to spend any more than absolutely necessary to achieve it’. If you remember that this is coming from the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), then you have their essential philosophy in a nut shell. The fewest possible weapons to get the job done. I have never heard of a military person who believed in using “just enough” force. You never want to end up in a fair fight – you want to win with as few casualties to your folks as possible so a little ( or maybe a lot) more firepower is very desirable.

Underlining the need to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to the illicit market, or for unauthorized end use and end users, including in the commission of terrorist acts,

The treaty does not define what “illicit trade in conventional arms” means. If you plug that phrase into Google, you can find your way rather quickly to another UN document: ILLICIT TRADE IN SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS IN ALL ITS ASPECTS PROGRAMME OF ACTION (POA). This document does not explicitly define the term either – but it does provide enlightenment as to what the UNODA considers “illicit trade”. They call for

Complete control of the in-country small arms production by each national government

…put in place, where they do not exist, adequate laws, regulations, and administrative procedures to exercise effective control over the production of SALW within their areas of jurisdiction, and over the export, import, transit, or re-transfer of such weapons.”

Complete control of distribution and sales of small arms to other nations and to appropriate military and law enforcement within the nation

…ensure that armed forces, police, and any other body authorized to hold SALW establish adequate and detailed standards and procedures relating to the management and security of their stocks of these weapons…

Disarmament of civilians, even if you are former military or police. you MUST be disarmed and turn in your weapons.

…develop and implement, where possible, effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program…

…encourage disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants and their reintegration into civilian life…

Banning private sales of small arms either internally or across national borders

…identify groups and individuals engaged in the illegal manufacture, trade, stockpiling, transfer, possession, as well as financing for acquisition, of illicit SALW, and take action under appropriate national law against such groups and individuals…

In short – total and complete gun control at the national level is UNODA’s goal. It’s pretty clear in that document that the terms ‘illicit’ and ‘illegal’ apply to any manufacture, sales, transfers, etc. that are outside the control of a national government, i.e, private enterprise and capitalistic business endeavors are a no-no unless approved and controlled by the current government in power.

I would have you note that if you just read the treaty language by itself and make the assumption that UNODA is primarily concerned with stopping genocide and mega sales of arms, then you might buy into the treaty language. But how do you define “mega”? Is 100,000 AK-47s a mega sale? How about 1000? In the right (or wrong) hands and in the right place, a single weapon can change history and topple a regime. To make UNODAs policy goals workable, they MUST promote total and complete control of weapons. From their perspective, anything less is half measures.

Continuing on with the treaty Preamble:

Recognizing the legitimate political, security, economic and commercial interests of States in the international trade in conventional arms,

Meaning we can’t stop folks from selling arms, so we might as well bless it.

Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system,

Meaning UNODA won’t dictate ‘how’ you control arms – just so you do.

Acknowledging that peace and security, development and human rights are pillars of the United Nations system and foundations for collective security and recognizing that development, peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing,

I could probably spend a whole post on this topic alone but will simply note that ‘peace and security’ for the leaders of a nation seldom mean peace and security for the populace they rule.

Recalling the United Nations Disarmament Commission Guidelines for international arms transfers in the context of General Assembly resolution 46/36H of 6 December 1991,

You can look this one up if you want. It deals mostly with nuclear weapons and waste. There are, however, sections that presage many of the paragraphs in the preamble we are looking at.

Noting the contribution made by the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light ‘Weapons in All Its Aspects, as well as the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, Recognizing the security, social, economic and humanitarian consequences of the illicit and unregulated trade in conventional arms, Bearing in mind that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict and armed violence

This is the POA document that I cited above. I was particularly intrigued by the last sentence of that paragraph – about women and children being the chief victims of violence. I tried to track that phrase down and the earliest reference I could find to it was in UN Resolution 1325 (2000). There the phrase appears as an assertion without reference to any sort of evidence to support it. It shows up thereafter in subsequent documents and in numerous documents by others, many of them pointing back to the UN resolution. While the statement seems obvious and even logical, especially for third world conflicts – I am bothered by the complete lack of supporting evidence to back it up. History is rife with statements that everyone knew was “true”, until someone actually checked them out.

On a side note, I wonder how many women and children’s lives would be saved if those women and the mothers of those children had access to a reliable low cost easily concealed firearm? It would certainly reduce the repeat offenses.

Recognizing also the challenges faced by victims of armed conflict and their need for adequate care, rehabilitation and social and economic inclusion, Emphasizing that nothing in this Treaty prevents States from maintaining and adopting additional effective measures to further the object and purpose of this Treaty,

Mindful o/the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law

Here is where folks point to to say “America, we don’t threaten your 2nd amendment rights”. But there are some important words missing here: “Self Defense” being two of them. Nowhere in my reading of the ATT so far has there been any mention of the legitimate use of firearms for self defense at the individual level.

This paragraph also uses the phrase “where permitted or protected by law” as if the use of firearms was a privilege to be granted by a government rather than a human right independent of the current government.

Mindful also o/the role regional organizations can play in assisting States Parties, upon request, in implementing this Treaty, Recognizing the voluntary and active role that civil society, including non- governmental organizations, and industry can play in raising awareness of the object and purpose of this Treaty, and in supporting its implementation,

Meaning the folks who are to be stripped of their firearms are to acquiesce and help with the effort.

Acknowledging that regulation of the international trade in conventional arms and preventing their diversion should not hamper international cooperation and legitimate trade in materiel, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes, Emphasizing the desirability of achieving universal adherence to this Treaty,

Determined to act in accordance with the following principles;


– The inherent right of all States to individual or collective self-defence as recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations;

They mean individual nations – not individual people – have a right to self defense.

– The settlement of international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered in accordance with Article 2 (3) of the Charter of the United Nations; – Refraining in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations in accordance with Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations;

Meaning: Please talk first before you try to bash each others heads in.

– Non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State in accordance with Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the United Nations;

if it’s a strictly internal affair, then don’t intervene. This is how genocide happens – it’s a strictly internal affair, such as in Rwanda or what is currently happening in Syria. This principle raises such a high bar that intervention to stop a genocide almost never happens until way too late in the process.

– Respecting and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law in accordance with, inter alia, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and respecting and ensuring respect for human rights in accordance with, inter alia, the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

For those who care – “inter alia” is Latin for “among other things”.

– The responsibility of all States, in accordance with their respective international obligations, to effectively regulate the international trade in conventional arms, and to prevent their diversion, as well as the primary responsibility of all States in establishing and implementing their respective national control systems;

Note again the assumption that there will be a national control system. Whether it is solely focused on the international arms trade or all weapons trade is left unsaid.

– The respect for the legitimate interests of States to acquire conventional arms to exercise their right to self-defence and for peacekeeping operations; and to produce, export, import and transfer conventional arms;

In recognizing a legitimate interest and right to self defense, UNODA is also recognizing that there are nation states and sub-national groups that will continue to commit acts of violence against states and their citizens. Yet they do not see the analogy at the level of the individual person and their individual need for self defense. This is an inherent contradiction. One viewpoint is to consider that the the people who have the most to gain by such a treaty are leaders of countries that are vulnerable to a peoples rebellion, i.e. an “Arab Spring”

– Implementing this Treaty in a consistent, objective and non-discriminatory manner, Have agreed as follows:

And here after follow the 28 articles of the treaty.


The preamble (nor the treaty as a whole) does not give a hint of the total control of small arms needed to achieve UNODAs goal of eliminating genocide and other atrocities. You have to dig into the background documents to see what they are actually saying
UNODA does not recognize Self Defense at the individual level to be a legitimate use of firearms.
UNODA’s Goal is the elimination of civilian firearm ownership. In UNODA’s view, only government approved groups (e.g. military and police) have a need for firearms and then only under government approva

There is plenty of ammunition in even the Preamble for Gun Control advocates to use in deconstructing the Second Amendment. One basic argument will be “We must do this to meet our international obligations”. Another argument would be “We are a world leader, therefore we must lead the way and disarm”. Throughout all of this is an emphasis on the harm that bad folks with weapons can cause. Nowhere is there a recognition of the good that can happen when people use firearms to protect themselves, their families or their neighbors.

In going back and reading what I’ve written here so far, I was struck by a memory from a long, long time ago. It was an image from the 1960′s of the hippies in Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. They were marching and protesting the Vietnam war with signs about banning war and banning the bomb, making love not war and so on. Why this image came back to me was that I realized those hippies are still with us. They just traded in their tie-dyed shirts for business suits and went to work for UNODA.

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