The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty today, with 154 Member States voting in favor.
Although the treaty text suffers from certain weaknesses, Handicap International is pleased to see an overwhelming majority of Member States take measures to prevent weapons-related injuries and death, human tragedies that the charity witnesses every day.
The treaty came to a vote in the General Assembly after a ten-day convention failed to reach consensus, due to opposition from Iran, North Korea and Syria. Major arms exporters, such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom, voted in favor. This is the world's first treaty regulating the global trade of arms.
"This is historic,” said Marion Libertucci, arms advocacy manager for Handicap International. “A majority of States have shown their intention to take responsibility for a subject as sensitive as the transfer of weapons, including those which have never joined the other conventions on disarmament: China, Russia, the U.S. and Israel.
“This text is a good basis for regulating the arms trade. Thousands of lives could be saved each year. In principle, each country must evaluate, before any transaction, whether weapons may be used to circumvent an international embargo, commit genocide or other serious violations of human rights, or whether they can fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals.”
Each State Party will have to implement a national structure for controlling arms transfers. They will only be allowed to transfer weapons if they can show that the weapons won't be used for attacks against civilians or their property.
States Parties will not be able to send weapons to countries that do not respect the rules of international humanitarian law. Handicap International will not hesitate to point out cases of illicit transfer of arms.
"One of the challenges to the success of this treaty is in its enforcement, as we have shown with the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Oslo Treaty on cluster munitions," said Libertucci.
“We applaud U.S. support of the Arms Trade Treaty,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director of Handicap International U.S. “We look forward to the U.S. adding its signature to it, and to a swift ratification in the U.S. Senate.”
The treaty will be opened for signatures and ratification on June 3, 2013, at the General Assembly and will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 States.
Handicap International works in more than 60 countries. Its work to support victims of armed violence is especially strong in Syria, Libya, Jordan, and Iraq. In December, the charity published a report on the impact of armed violence, showing that 80% of victims interviewed developed a severe disability that requires lifelong care.