UNITED NATIONS – The UN General Assembly has passed the first treaty regulating the conventional arms trade in an attempt to bring transparency and protection of human rights to the often murky industry.
The first major arms accord since the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty covers the estimated US$80-billion-a-year trade in tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, as well as small arms.
The treaty has no automatic enforcement, but seeks to push the weapons industry to take human rights into account.
Countries abiding by the treaty would establish national controls on arms exports, and would have to ensure that weapons being exported would not be used in genocide, war crimes, or by terrorists or organised crime.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called the treaty an "historic diplomatic achievement – the culmination of long-held dreams and many years of effort."
"It will be a powerful new tool in our efforts to prevent grave human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law... And it will provide much-needed momentum for other global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts," he said in a statement.
Brian Wood, Amnesty International's head of arms control and human rights, followed suit, saying "the world has been waiting a long time for this historic treaty."
The UN assembly voted by an overwhelming 154-3 margin for the resolution.
Individual nations can start ratifying the accord as of June, and once the 50th approves – a process that could take one to two years – the treaty will take effect.
The United States welcomed the vote, saying the UN treaty would help stem weapons shipments fueling war crimes. Secretary of State John Kerry called the measure "strong, effective and implementable".
British Prime Minister David Cameron called it a "landmark agreement that will save lives and ease the immense human suffering caused by armed conflict around the world."
However, Chinese ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing "is not in favour of pushing a multilateral treaty through the General Assembly... It is a negative precedent. We should negotiate by consensus." AFP