Today, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour on a resolution adopting a draft for an International Arms Trade Treaty. The result of over a decade of campaigning, at last there will be some control over one of the world’s least regulated trades. It shall apply to small arms, tanks, attack helicopters, warships and missiles, among other weapons. This is the first ever global treaty of its kind and there is, understandably, much jubilation and optimism among the treaty’s supporters. Here’s a map of how the countries voted:
Unsurprisingly, Syria, Iran and North Korea voted against the resolution, no doubt fearing a threat to their ability to use such weapons upon their own uncooperative citizens. What is surprising is that countries such as China, Russia and, most of all, the USA, did not vote against it. The majority of the abstentions cited a lack of provisions for arming non-state entities as a reason for not voting in favour. With such comments voiced by more, shall we say, ‘respectable countries’ like Indonesia or India, it’s clear that there are flaws in the treaty. However, rights groups including Amnesty International appear mostly happy with the treaty, and I’m happy to go along with their judgments.
Clearly, there will not be changes overnight. The treaty still needs to be ratified by UN member states, due to happen sometime in June, I believe, and once 50 states have done so it will enter into practice after another period of time. Bureaucratic reasons will halt its effectively but also, inevitably, the lack of will among certain countries. Russia and China, two of the world’s largest arms exporters, abstained on the vote and therefore may not immediately ratify the treaty. The world’s largest arms exporter, the USA, still must get the treaty through Congress which may prove a challenge as the National Rifle Association will put up fierce opposition, believing the treaty to be a contravention of the country’s 2nd constitutional amendment. North Korea, Syria and Iran will have no obligation to curb their arms sales.
Despite these limitations, today is a landmark day. In the long run, most commentators are agreed that it will have a beneficial effect in reducing arms-related violence around the world and prevent the fueling of wars.