UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to create the first treaty regulating the international arms trade, a landmark decision that imposes new constraints on the sale of conventional arms to governments and armed groups that commit war crimes, genocide and other mass atrocities.
The vote was hailed by arms-control advocates and scores of governments, including the United States, as a major step in the global effort to put in place basic controls on the $70 billion international arms trade. But the treaty was denounced by Iran, North Korea and Syria, which maintain that it imposes restrictions that prevent smaller states from buying and selling weapons to ensure their self-defense.
–Colum Lynch, “U.N. approves global arms treaty,” The Washington Post Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 (3:15 PM)
Lynch reports that the vote in the U.N. General Assembly was 154-3 with 23 abstentions.
The United Nations’ 193-member assembly voted 154 to 3 to adopt the treaty. There were 23 abstentions, including from major arms traders such as China, India and Russia, as well as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are supplying weapons to opposition groups in Syria. The treaty will not go into force until 90 days after it is ratified by at least 50 member states.
The vote came four days after Iran, Syria and North Korea — governments that are likely to be targeted by the new measures — blocked an attempt to adopt the treaty by consensus. They said the treaty is unfair to them and is riddled with deficiencies. Iran and North Korea are under arms embargoes.
The treaty is highly significant, as it will immediately become legally binding on parties that ratify it once it enters into force (after 50 ratifications). While it is disappointing that Russia and China, two major arms suppliers, abstained from voting in favor of adoption of the treaty, their positions could eventually change over time. As an increasing number of countries accede to the treaty, it could even eventually generate legally binding obligations on states that have not ratified it as its norms become “crystalized” into norms of customary international law. While this process may take considerable time, its potential impact is great.
The treaty covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber weapons, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms and light weapons. Ammunition exports are subject to the same criteria as the other war matériel. Imports are not covered
–Neil MacFarquhar, “U.N. Treaty Is First Aimed at Regulating Global Arms Sales,” April 2, 2013
Official U.N. Summary of the General Assembly Vote, including summary of statements by Representatives
A summary of the proceedings, including statements by delegations in general and in defense of their vote, can be found in U.N. Press Release, Overwhelming Majority of States in General Assembly Say ‘Yes’ to Arms Trade Treaty to Stave off Irresponsible Transfers that Perpetuate Conflict, Human Suffering Adopted by Vote of 154 in Favour to 3 Against; ‘Robust and Actionable’ Text Requires Arms Exporters to Assess Possible Misuse,” U.N. Doc. GA/11354 (April 2, 2013), found here.
The Full Text of the Arms Trade Teaty
The full text of the treaty is found in U.N. General Assembly, “Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty,
New York, 18-28 March 2013, (U.N. Doc. A/CONF.217/2013/L.3)
A link to the text is also found on the web site of the German Mission to the United Nations, here.
The Vote Tally
Voting in Favor:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Zambia.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria.
Angola, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Oman, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Yemen.
Absent: Armenia, Cape Verde, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.
The Trenchant Observer