UN adopts landmark treaty to regulate multibillion-dollar global arms trade

by The Washington Post  |  published on April 3, 2013

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The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the first international treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade Tuesday, capping a more than decade-long campaign to keep weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, insurgents, organized crime figures and human rights violators.

The resolution was approved by a vote of 154 to 3 with 23 abstentions. As the numbers appeared on the electronic board, loud cheers filled the assembly chamber.

“This is an historic day and a major achievement for the United Nations,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, whose country helped spearhead the campaign. “The world wanted this treaty and would not be thwarted by the few who sought to prevent the introduction of robust, effective and legally binding controls on the international trade in weapons.”

What impact it will have in curbing the estimated $60 billion global arms trade remains to be seen. The landmark U.N. treaty will take effect after 50 countries ratify it, and a lot will depend on which ones ratify and which ones don’t, and how stringently it is implemented.

Enforcement is left up to the nations that ratify the treaty. The treaty requires these countries to cooperate on its implementation and to assist each other in investigating and prosecuting violations.

Britain and a small group of other treaty supporters sought a vote in the 193-member world body after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked its adoption by consensus last week. The three countries voted “no” on Tuesday, while Russia and China, both major arms exporters, abstained. The United States, the world’s largest arms exporter, voted in favor.

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