Preventing illegal transfers
New Zealand supports both the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.
This agreement regulates international trade in conventional arms, from small arms (eg, guns) light weapons (eg, rockets and grenades) and battle tanks to warships and battle aircraft. It came into force in December 2014. So far, 63 countries are party to this convention and therefore legally bound by its terms.
The treaty requires state parties to assess the risk that weapons or ammunition transfer might worsen conflict or be used to violate international humanitarian or human rights law. It's particularly significant because illicit transfers and the ready availability of arms are increasingly disrupting the humanitarian and development work of the UN.
The UN has established a voluntary trust fund, the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR), to help fund projects by member states to implement the Arms Trade Treaty.
Pacific countries have been firm supporters of the treaty throughout its negotiation, and New Zealand is keen to support the implementation of the treaty for the benefit of our region. As a first step, we've developed an Arms Trade Treaty ‘Model Law', which helps Pacific states to translate the treaty commitments into their own legislation. The model legislation has also been used by other countries around the world, including in Africa and Latin America.
This is a non-binding agreement for states to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons at all levels – national, regional and international. The programme provides:
- measures so states can develop standards and procedures to manage weapon stocks
- programmes to destroy surplus, collected and confiscated stocks of weapons.
Despite this programme, the proliferation of illicitly obtained small arms and light weapons has continued, including within the Pacific. New Zealand is focused on strengthening the implementation of the Programme of Action.