First arms trade treaty signed today

3 June 2013 | ResolutionPossible

After years of preparation, pressure by campaign groups and failure to reach consensus, governments around the world are signing the first international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) today at 10.30am in New York.

Top 10 arms suppliers, 2012

Top 10 arms suppliers, 2012 (BBC)

The treaty requires signatories to develop regulations on the international trade of conventional arms and ammunition, worth £46bn each year. This includes tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters and warships as well as the small arms that flow freely into the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they are used to control populations and perpetuate mass casualties.

The Control Arms coalition, which includes organisations such as Amnesty and Oxfam has spent more than ten years calling for regulations that focus on protecting human rights.

The world has been waiting a long time for this historic treaty. After long years of campaigning, most states have agreed to adopt a global treaty that can prevent the flow of arms into countries where they will be used to commit atrocities.

— Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International

Despite attempts to block the treaty by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria, a UN vote revealed overwhelming support by 154 countries. The US voted in favour despite strong opposition by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), which believes it infringes on the constitutional right  for Americans to bear firearms. Russia and China are among 23 countries that abstained from the vote.

This is a victory for the world’s people. The ATT will make it more difficult for deadly weapons to be diverted into the illicit market and it will help to keep warlords, pirates, terrorists, criminals and their like from acquiring deadly arms. It will be a powerful new tool in our efforts to prevent grave human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law. And it will provide much-needed momentum for other global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

— Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, 2 April 2013

Until 50 countries sign and ratify the treaty it will not be put into practice. The UK, Germany, France and Brazil will sign today. The US, the world’s biggest arms exporter, does not have Senate majority support to ratify and decided against attending the signing ceremony today. The ratification process could take years.

Do you think the implementation of an international arms trade treaty can have a practical impact on the violence experienced by civilians?

Do opposition groups have grounds for concern that regulations could develop to include domestic firearms?

How can the obstacles standing in the way of treaty ratification by key weapons exporters such as the US be overcome?

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council hold the largest market share of all arms exports. They also represent the split in views on the treaty, with the UK and France proceeding to ratify and the US, Russia and China declining to come forward at this point. What effect is this likely to have on the flow of arms around the world? How likely is it that governments will be able to enforce international regulations on the highly profitable corporate arms trade?



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