First UN arms trade treaty signed
Sales of tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and light weapons will be covered
More than 65 countries signed the landmark treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade on 3 June and the United States announced it will sign soon, giving a strong kickoff to the first major international campaign to stem the illicit trade in weapons that fuel conflicts and extremists.
More than 65 countries signed the landmark treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade on 3 June and the United States announced it will sign soon, giving a strong kickoff to the first major international campaign to stem the illicit trade in weapons that fuel conflicts and extremists. The treaty aims to end the "'free-for-all' nature of international weapons transfers," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated. It establishes international standards that will apply to global trade in conventional arms, ranging from handguns to tanks, as well as munitions and parts for weapons.
The announcement by US Secretary of State John Kerry that the US - the world's largest arms dealer - will sign is critical, but the treaty's ultimate strength rests on support by all major arms exporters and importers. "The Treaty is an important contribution to efforts to stem the illicit trade in conventional weapons, which fuels conflict, empowers extremists, and contributes to violations of human rights," Kerry said in an official press statement.
While the treaty was overwhelmingly approved on 2 April by the UN General Assembly, key arms exporters including Russia and China and major importers like India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Egypt abstained and have given no indication yet that they will sign it. Though the treaty states that it will not interfere with the sovereign right of each nation to regulate its domestic arms trade, US lawmakers also were concerned that the terms of the agreement will be used as justification to tamper with gun rights within the United States. One hundred and thirty members of Congress, representing both parties, sent a letter to President Obama and the secretary of state asking them to reject the treaty.
The treaty will require countries that ratify it to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and components and to regulate arms brokers. It prohibits the transfer of conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, and if they could be used in attacks on civilians or civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals. What impact the treaty will have in curbing the global arms trade - estimated at between $60bn and $85bn - remains to be seen. A lot will depend on which countries ratify it, and how stringently it is implemented once it comes into force. Signatures are the first step to ratification, and the treaty will only take effect after 50 countries ratify it.