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The World has an Arms Trade Treaty

The results of the UN General Assembly's vote.

The results of the UN General Assembly’s vote. / Graphic: AOAV

Today, April 2nd, the UN General Assembly adopted by an overwhelming majority vote a resolution which will bring to life the world’s first Arms Trade Treaty.

154 countries voted ‘yes’ in support of the treaty.

This treaty could reduce armed violence if it is properly implemented and developed by governments in the future.

At it stands, it’s a treaty that includes strong prohibitions on arms transfer. It establishes common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorised.

It requires states to assess the potential that transfers could be used to carry out human rights violations, terrorism, organised crime or gender-based violence.

This is all in all “a good thing”.

It’s also good the treaty forces signatory states to take into consideration the risk a trade in arms might have on serious human rights violations before allowing such transfers to happen.

The treaty calls on states to recognise the needs of victims of armed conflict and assist in their recovery. It would have been better and more consistent with existing precedents of law if this had been made a legal obligation for states, instead of being reduced to the treaty’s ‘Preamble’ where the context and background of the treaty is mapped out. But by including this important issue in the treaty, states will not be allowed to turn their backs on the people most affected by armed violence.

The treaty also requires that all states establish effective, regulations on the export of ammunition and weapons parts and components. It requires regular, annual reporting on all arms transfers, which would help improve transparency and public accountability for states’ actions.

Again, all good things.

While it is the hard truth that the treaty falls short on a number of important issues, it’s a start. And, over time, the treaty could lead towards a world where armed violence is less commonplace, a safer world.