UNLIREC, the regional office of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), seeks to advance the cause of practical disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of its commitment to support Member States in their implementation of international disarmament and non-proliferation instruments. To this end, UNLIREC implements a series of field-based activities, including the delivery of capacity-building courses for the security sector in the area of arms control.

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UNLIREC celebrates regional support to the Arms Trade Treaty

The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) celebrates the progress made towards early ratification and strong implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) during the 68 General Assembly in New York. Costa Rica, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago made history ratifying the Treaty and reaffirming the leadership of Latin America and the Caribbean in the process. Not in vain, eight out of the thirty one ratifying countries are from the region. Additionally, UNLIREC acknowledges the signature of the Treaty by Colombia, Peru, Barbados, Honduras, Dominica and Haiti. Currently, 28 States from the region signed the ATT, illustrating the strong commitment of Latin America and the Caribbean. Finally, UNLIREC recognizes the efforts of Argentina and Costa Rica, which led and cosponsored the ATT process from its conception, along with the recent high level meetings in New York.

The Arms Trade Treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Arms Trade Treaty has opened a door of hope to millions of women, men and children who live in deprivation and fear because of the poorly controlled international arms trade and the proliferation of deadly weapons.”

Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon


On April 2nd 2013, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was approved in the General Assembly of the United Nations by a large majority of member states. After more than seven years of negotiations, the General Assembly has given the green light to the signing of a treaty that establishes minimum standards in the application of common norms and controls that regulate the international transfers of conventional arms. In his own words, General Secretary Ban Ki Moon stated that the lack of a general international framework “defied any explanation”. The purpose of the treaty is to prevent and eradicate diversion of arms to the illicit market, to contribute to peace and security, as well as to reduce the suffering from armed violence consequences in the population.

The ATT will obligate the signatory states to establish control mechanisms on a national level for the international transfer of conventional arms, ammunition, and their parts and components. The treaty includes an express mandate of prohibiting the transfer of arms that can be used to commit acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, attacks against civilians and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Additionally, in the case of exports, before authorizing each transfer, states will have to evaluate the risk at which the arms, ammunition, and their parts and components can be used to commit serious violation of international humanitarian rights or human rights, acts of terrorism or organized crime offences, or serious acts of gender-based violence or against children. However, the Treaty will not regulate the internal use of arms or transfers in a country.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, the ATT is a fundamental instrument to combat the illicit trafficking of arms, to increase security levels and to reduce the number of victims provoked by armed violence in the region. Not surprisingly, the different American sub regions have the highest homocide rates in the world involving firearms (South America, the Caribbean, Central America, and North America). Therefore, a large majority of countries in the region have not only supported the adoption of the Treaty, but have been at the forefront of efforts of the international community to establish better controls on the international arms trade to avoid its illicit use and for that matter, to reduce the negative consequences on the population. In this regard, during the opening of the negotiations for the Arms Trade Treaty, Costa Rican Foreign Affairs Minister, Enrique Castillo reaffirmed the importance of a legally binding instrument that protects persons and also gives priority to human rights on the interests of the industries that produce these arms. Along the same lines, Winston Dookeran, Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Affairs Minister, described the agreement as a historic landmark for Trinidad and Tobago and the entire world and emphasized the importance of assuring transparency in international transfers of conventional weapons in order to avoid diversion to the illicit markets.

The Arms Trade Treaty opened for signature in New York on June 3rd 2013, and on that same day, 67 states affixed their signatures to the document. Once it has been signed, states must approve the incorporation of the treaty in accordance with its national procedures. Subsequently, they must declare their approval of being bound by the provisions of the treaty by means of an instrument of ratification or approval that would have to be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The ATT will enter into force 90 days after 50 states deposit their instrument of ratification with the United Nations. For those states that sign after, the treaty will come into effect 90 days after depositing their instrument of ratification.