News / USA

UN Passes Landmark Arms Treaty

The U.N. General Assembly vote approving the first U.N. treaty regulating the international arms trade, April 2, 2013.
The U.N. General Assembly vote approving the first U.N. treaty regulating the international arms trade, April 2, 2013.
The United Nations has overwhelmingly approved a landmark treaty regulating trade in conventional arms.

The legally binding treaty sets international standards to regulate the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons - from battle tanks, warships and attack helicopters to small arms and light weapons. Major arms exporters, such as the United States and Russia, as well as major importers like China, India and Pakistan, took part in the negotiations.

The vote in the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday was 154-3, with 23 abstentions. The three nations voting against the treaty were Iran, Syria and North Korea. China and Russia were among the abstentions.

The Arms Treaty

  • Approved in U.N. General Assembly by a vote of 154 to 3, with 23 abstentions
  • North Korea, Iran and Syria voted against the treaty
  • Regulates trade in conventional arms
  • Does not ban or prohibit the export of any type of weapon
  • Does not impair states' right to self-defense
Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, an independent research firm, said the treaty is "historic in the sense that it is the first time that there will be international standards to guide how countries authorize weapons transfers - and the first time that there will be annual reporting on those transfers by all of the state signatories of the new arms trade treaty.”

Human Rights Part of Arms Treaty

Martin Butcher, arms policy adviser with the international humanitarian organization Oxfam, said the treaty also establishes key human rights criteria.

“It’s really important that this treaty puts human rights and humanitarian law in control of the arms trade," said Butcher. "The states will now have obligations not to transfer weapons to countries where human rights are being abused, where for example civilians are being killed by a government - that’s a strong obligation.”

Paul Holtom, arms transfer expert with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), said the treaty also regulates the transfer of ammunition.

Ammunition Regulated by Treaty

“The case has been made very strongly by states from Latin America and Africa that they feel it’s one thing to control the weapons, to control items," said Holtom, "but they feel that it’s the small munitions that are a key problem in terms of the fuel for many of the conflicts.”

Daryl Kimball agreed, saying "we have to remember that AK-47s last a long, long time - these are durable weapons. But they can’t function without a fresh supply of ammunition. So these requirements on the export of ammunition are very important."

No Enforcement Mechanisms

Some experts pointed out that the treaty does not have any enforcement mechanisms. But Oxfam’s Martin Butcher said other means can be used to make states accountable for their actions.

“There will be a lot of moral pressure on countries. They will come together on a regular basis and scrutinize what each other is doing," said Butcher. "And we shouldn’t underestimate the power of that moral pressure on countries to make them change their behavior.”

The United Nations approval of the treaty brings to a close seven years of negotiations. The pact will now be open for signature and will become part of international law once 50 countries ratify it.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Dominiq from: France
April 02, 2013 7:31 PM
yeah... that will work... hey UN, just stick to condemning the US and Israel... that is the only thing you were meant to do... well, that and having Syria as the International protector of "Human Right..."

by: Jose79845
April 02, 2013 7:12 PM
The UN has declared that there is no human right to self defense and are following through with the eventual ban of all small arms for civilian use.

by: R.U. Cerius from: Arkham, GC
April 02, 2013 5:46 PM
Oh, joy. Finally we have world peace. Nobody will ever violate a UN treaty, because we all know what violation of a UN treaty means....yes, that's right - absolutely nothing.

Oh, golly - if they're caught, it means some mean old sanctions, just like the ones which prevented Iran and North Korea from developing their nuclear programs.

Provided, of course, that the president of the UN isn't involved in profiting from the violation.

Another useless "victory" for he guys in the blue helmets.

by: ChasL from: Seattle
April 02, 2013 5:46 PM
The human rights provision says arms can go to countrys that are not killing civilians, so there will be arms to kill civilians?

Am I the only one noticed the irony of all this self-righteousness? I bet the human rights provision doesn't even apply to us and our weapon exports, which is 2nd biggest in the world.

by: Sask father of three
April 02, 2013 5:40 PM
Seems to me it is the first step that big Gov. will use to keep my grandchildren from hunting.

by: stroydex from: US
April 02, 2013 5:13 PM
China will sign then promptly ignore the treaty.

by: stroydex from: US
April 02, 2013 5:11 PM
China will sign then promptly ignore the treaty.

by: M from: UK
April 02, 2013 5:07 PM
God, go away UN and stop acting like you have any impact on anything. What are you going to do when someone breaks the agreement? Write angry letters to them? You have no power and therefore are useless. No one cares about you UN.

by: john237 from: USA
April 02, 2013 1:56 PM
So now the USA and the West will not supply arms, ammunition and smart bombs to rebels groups to over-throw the legitimate governments for achieving their goals of regime change? Also, such arms and bulldozers will not be sold for continuing human occupation, land grab or human rights violations? Or the resolution is only targeted towards few selected countries to whom the West has red eyes?
In Response

by: Anonymous
April 02, 2013 9:04 PM
The USA isn't providing weapons to rebels in Syria, they are providing non-lethal help. The Arab League however has passed days ago the right to provide weaponry to the Syrian people and the FSA. This is a great thing, helping the people protect themselves from a tyrant ex-dictator that thought he could kill all opposition.

I know this is what you were referring to and are wrong.

by: RelevantRyan from: Washington
April 02, 2013 1:54 PM
I guess since the United States is a signatory for this agreement that from this point on they will not be supplying weapons to FSA any longer.
In Response

by: Anonymous
April 02, 2013 9:07 PM
They haven't been suppolying them with weapons. Do you see american weapons there? no. That was just propaganda lies.

The Arab League however just ok'd the right to sell weapons to the FSA and Syrian people to protect themselves against the Tyrant Bashar al Assad because he has been killing thousands of innocent civilians.

Which overall is a great idea. The sooner Bashar is captured or killed the better the world will be.

Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs