Delegates from more than 150 countries are to meet next month (July 2-27) at the United Nations in New York to draft a global arms trade treaty.
The proposed legally-binding treaty would set international standards to regulate the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons - from aircraft carriers to machine guns and small arms. Major arms exporters, such as the United States, and major importers, such as India, will participate.
Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, said “there is more regulation today of agricultural items like bananas than we have for the sale of conventional weapons that kill people every day through armed violence in various parts of the world.”
Arms and ammo treaty
In addition to conventional weapons, experts such as Scott Stedjan, senior policy adviser with Oxfam America, said the treaty must also include ammunition.
"Every year, there are about 12 billion bullets produced throughout the world. And the value of that trade globally is around four billion dollars - in excess of $4 billion,” he said.
Stedjan said it is essential to have an international treaty regulating the arms and ammunition trade.
“The current international system on arms imports and exports is a patchwork system where there are some governments that have extensive controls on the arms trade. And there are some governments who have almost nothing - or there are some governments who have absolutely nothing," Stedjan said.
"Right now, less than half of the world’s governments have even basic controls on the export of small arms - only about 50 or so governments have any sort of controls on arms brokers within their borders," he added.
What the treaty should include
Analysts said the treaty must include a commonly-understood set of export licensing rules that all states must follow.
Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association said the U.N. pact must also address another issue. “What are the criteria that are listed in the treaty that states must consider before approving an arms transfer," he asked.
"There is wide support for criteria that require states to look at the impact of the transfer on humanitarian law, human rights law and also to make sure that the arms transfer doesn’t violate directly or indirectly any international arms embargo,” Kimball said.
Experts agreed that the conflict in Syria will be on the minds of many delegates as they discuss a global arms treaty.
The Russian dimension
Russia - a major international arms dealer and Syria’s main weapons provider - will have a delegation at the conference.
Kimball said Moscow continues to abide by the weapons sale contracts it signed with Damascus before the conflict began.
"This arms trade treaty, even an ideal arms trade treaty, will not necessarily prevent Russia from selling weapons to a government like the Assad regime," he said.
"But it will make it far more difficult for Russia to do this behind closed doors, in the dark. And it will make it more difficult for Russia to justify its actions, if it has signed up to a treaty whose intent is to force governments to consider human rights when authorizing arms transfers,” Kimball added.
Recently, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice said while “reprehensible,” Russia’s arms sales to Syria are legal. And Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have consistently said the weapons provided to Syria do not contribute to the armed violence in that country. But many western military analysts said the weapons provided by Russia to Syria could be used against civilians.