International law has firmer rules for the trade of commodities like bananas and electronics than it does conventional arms.
Abigail Nehring for Think Africa Press.
A key step to remedy this situation was taken today, April 2, 2013, when the United Nations overwhelmingly approved the 1st– ever global Arms Trade Treaty. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) aims to regulate the $70 billion business in conventional arms and keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers.
155 countries voted in support. Iran, Syria, and North Korea were the only countries to vote “no”. 22 other countries abstained.
Supporters included the United States, which voted “yes” despite the opposition of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA has pledged to fight against the treaty’s ratification by the U.S. Senate. As the world’s number one arms exporter, U.S. support for the treaty is particularly important.
Other major arms-exporting countries – Russia, China , Russia, and India (ranked 2nd, 5th, and 13th respectively in arms exports) were among the 22 abstaining countries. They could, however, be persuaded to eventually sign the treaty. It is reported that some delegates, understandably, expressed concern about the effectiveness of an arms trade treaty not subscribed to by the major arms exporters.
Importance for African, Caribbean & Other Vulnerable States
Countries in Africa and the Caribbean have robustly supported and lobbied for the ATT. The international trade in arms was estimated to be worth around 100 billion US dollars in 2012 and growing fast. The unregulated trade in arms disproportionately affects the vulnerable in the small, open islands of the Caribbean and the fragile states in Africa.
The CBS News Magazine, “60 Minutes” has for the last twelve years followed the journey of the Lost Boys of Sudan, the collective name given to over 20,000 young boys displaced as a result of war and the death of their parents. Thousands of young boys and girls have been “recruited” at gunpoint to become child soldiers in countries like Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Illegal guns easily end up in the hands of Somalian pirates who take hostage ships and their crew. And everywhere, it is the women and girls who get raped, at gunpoint.
The ATT creates common standards and rules to improve the control by states of the flow of arms. It regulates all conventional arms within the following categories: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons. The treaty also contains a prohibition on the transfer of arms which would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and certain war crimes. It institutes an annual reporting system as well as regular meetings between heads of states to monitor implementation.
The treaty will enter into force 90 days after ratified by the 50th signatory.