Handicap International, which witnesses the devastating impact of armed violence on civilians on a daily basis, welcomes the fact that an overwhelming majority of United Nations member states have taken steps to prevent the more human tragedies by signing the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
The treaty, which regulates the global trade in weapons, was signed today at the U.N. General Assembly in New York by more than 60 member states. The U.S. did not sign the treaty, but Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S.— the world's largest arms dealer—will sign as soon as the official U.N. translations of the document are completed. Iran, Syria, and North Korea all voted against the treaty.
The Arms Trade Treaty prohibits the export of arms that could be used in attacks on civilians or civilian buildings, although each State Party to the treaty has to establish its own national regulations to control the transfer of arms. In considering whether to authorize the export of arms, each country must assess whether the weapons violate international embargoes or if they promote acts of genocide or other “serious violations” of human rights laws or risk being used by terrorists or criminal organizations.
“Monitoring the application of this treaty by civil society will be one of the keys to its success as the other weapons-related treaties, including the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention, and the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions, have shown,” says Marion Libertucci, Handicap International’s weapons advocacy manager. “Although the treaty contains several flaws—for example, on the list of regulated weapons—it provides a good working basis for regulating the trade in arms.”