Wednesday, 3 April 2013

History has been made! An Arms Trade Treaty

By Chris Thompson, Education and Engagement Officer at the WCIA

History has been made! Please forgive the use of an overused expression but I feel in this context it is absolutely appropriate.

On 2nd April 2013 at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly 180 nations voted on an international treaty to control the export of weapons. By an overwhelming majority of 154 in favour, 3 against and 23 abstentions the resolution was passed. Do not underestimate the significance of this vote.

For the first time ever, there exists an international Arms Trade Treaty to control the global flow of conventional weapons. This means that governments will be expected to regulate arms export contracts to ensure that weapons will not be used for war crimes, human rights abuses or organised crime.

Although there already exists arms treaties which regulate weapons for mass destruction, this treaty is the first to cover weapons which are used to kill people on a daily basis. This includes battle tanks, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, warships, missiles, small arms, light weapons and ammunitions.

Now that the General Assembly has voted in favour of the treaty, countries will be able to ratify the agreement from 3rd June 2013. 90 days after 50 countries have signed, it will become international law. However, the success of the treaty will depend on the will of governments to honour the agreement and even then there is no guarantee that governments will be able to persuade their own parliament to ratify the treaty.

This is a massive victory for citizens around the globe and organisations that have campaigned for an Arms Trade Treaty should celebrate. However, there is clearly much more to be done to ensure that governments honour the treaty and take action to regulate the arms trade and ensure that standards become universal.

For now though, let us bask in the glory of the last couple of days and congratulate everyone who took action for an Arms Trade Treaty. Well done!