I'm going to speak briefly on why we need an arms trade treaty and provide a contemporary example of a situation that we hope will be addressed by an effective arms trade treaty.
What exists now in terms of regulating conventional arms is a patchwork of national, regional, and international rules and principles involving few common standards or obligations. There are significant gaps through which too many weapons simply end up in the wrong hands.
States are playing by different rules. Some states like Canada have comparatively tight export controls; others have practically none. Some states abide by arms embargoes, while others seek to get around them for political reasons or simply greed. Some states blatantly back one side in a conflict and sell arms accordingly, regardless of how they will be used.
An arms trade treaty should embrace one simple idea: if there is a substantial risk that arms exported to another country will contribute to serious human rights abuses, those arms transfers must be stopped. We need only look to Syria for evidence of how badly the current system can fail.
Despite an ongoing and serious human rights crisis in Syria over the past year, in which thousands have been killed, arrested, tortured, and many more have fled over the borders looking for safety, the UN Security Council has been unable to impose an arms embargo. Some governments, including Canada, took independent measures to impose sanctions and prohibit arms transfers. Canada's response was in fact very robust, including some seven rounds of sanctions.
For others, however, notably Russia—Russia is, of course, one of the permanent five Security Council members—it remained business as usual. The prevailing attitude can be found in the words of the general director of the Russian state-owned arms manufacturer, Rosoboronexport:
As long as no sanctions have been declared yet and as long as there have been no instructions and directives from the government, we are obliged to comply with our contractual obligations, which we are doing now.
However, you'll notice in that quote it says “as long as no sanctions have been declared”.
Russia has played a central role in preventing a wide range of sanctions. It has exercised two vetoes to block UN Security Council resolutions. Russia also voted against a recent UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning the killing of some 108 people, including 50 children, in Houla. Despite being Syria's main weapons supplier, Russian President Putin said on June 1, right after the Human Rights Council vote that “Russia does not provide weapons that could be used in a civil conflict.” No information, however, was offered to substantiate that claim.
There are many other cases, many other clear cases, where populations suffer from irresponsible arms transfers, including, notably, Sudan. I would welcome further discussion of these following our presentation.
I'll turn it over to Lina.