A Global Arms Trade Treaty

Negotiations for an international Arms Trade Treaty will be taking place in New York this July at a United Nations conference. These negotiations are a product of six years of lobbying by governments, arms companies, and aid agencies. One can only hope that this conference will result in a finalized treaty to regulate and control the trade of all types of weapons and ammunition worldwide.

I have mentioned the necessity for an arms trade treaty in previous posts. An arms trade treaty would ban all weapons sales to countries that could use them to abuse human rights or encourage corruption or armed violence (Guardian, May 2012). To me, a treaty of this nature does not seem unreasonable in any way. As Alan Duncan, the British minister for international development, stated, the arms trade “has become the greatest threat to development, beyond disease and disaster.” (Guardian, May 2012)

Controlling the trade of arms and ammunition is completely necessary in a world where access to these items allows human rights abuses and corruption to run rampant.

Though important areas of world trade are governed by rules that bind countries into specified conduct, the transfer of weapons and ammunition has no binding rules. It is true that embargos exist, yet several states break these embargos and continue to trade weapons to countries such as Burma, Iran, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

An important aspect of this treaty that should not be overlooked come July is the inclusion of the sale of ammunition. A recent Oxfam report stated, “an ATT that does not cover ammunition will fail to achieve what it set out to do… to prevent human suffering, armed conflict, and serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights” (Guardian, May 2012). An average of 4 billion pounds is spent on ammunition every year and there are no safeguards to regulate where the ammunition ends up. The importance of including ammunition trade in the arms trade treaty is paramount as ammunition is what allows weapons to be fatal instruments.

Is there a price that outweighs the opportunity to prevent human rights abuses?

It makes no sense to me why governments wouldn’t support an arms trade treaty unless they are a) in a state of discourse or corruption and seek to commit human rights abuses or b) they want money. The global weapons market is currently estimated to be worth $55 billion (Guardian, May 2012). With this kind of money floating around, I can see where greed would become a powerful motivator, particularly for arms companies. However, this amount of money would not simply dwindle to measly portion simply because weapons and ammunition cannot be transferred to countries that would use them to abuse human rights.

To keep up to date on Arms Trade Treaty news, please visit http://www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/ATTPrepCom/.

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