Yesterday (02 April), the United Nations General Assembly made history in New York by adopting the text of a long-awaited Arms Trade Treaty. Overall, 154 Member States voted in favour, 23 abstained and 3 – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria – voted against citing reasons of political hypocrisy.
The overall purpose of an Arms Trade Treaty is to create a uniform framework for the international trade in conventional arms that encourages accountability, openness and transparency. Overall, it is hoped such measures will make it harder for weapons to fall into the hands of human rights abusers, criminals and arms traffickers.
The journey taken to reach this point of agreement has been long, with the process originally beginning in the 1990s. By 2006, the UN General Assembly had requested that countries submit their views on a possible Arms Trade Treaty. A year later, these views were compiled into a report by the UN Secretary General and were examined by government experts in order to assess their feasibility. By 2012, a conference had been convened for the purpose of elaborating a legally binding instrument but the conference concluded without an agreed text. Over the past two weeks, a second final conference has been taking place which ended with an Arms Trade Treaty.
April 3, 2013 No Comments
As Member States gather from the 18-28 March to continue discussions on the subject of the Arms Trade Treaty, which commenced in July 2012, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) has marked the occasion with the publication of the report “The Impact of Poorly Regulated Arms Transfers on the Work of the United Nations.”
Currently, there are no global rules with regards to the trade in conventional weapons bar the case-by-case arms embargoes. It is stated that a lack of universal framework in this matter has led to a lack of transparency, comparability and accountability in the world arms trade. The most vulnerable are the most affected by a perpetuating situation of poverty, deprivation and extreme inequality – all too often amplified in conflict zones.
A poor regulation of arms transfers has an exacerbating influence on conflict and armed violence which, in turn, impacts poorly on human and economic development. For example, the presence of an ongoing armed conflict can:
- impede new investment and dissuade investors,
- create a burden on the health service through arms-related injury, trauma and death,
- lead to the destruction of infrastructure,
- weaken the rule of law, and
- fuel crime.
March 18, 2013 No Comments
With the ICAN civil society forum focusing on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons this past weekend, the Future Policy Award takes a brief and timely look at the shift in approach to disarmament from collective to common security.
In the system of the League of Nations, as well as the later model of the United Nations, disarmament has always formed a key part of collective security. In the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, disarmament was perceived to be the only way to create a safer world. Yet time has shown that a behavioural emphasis on individual state sovereignty and security over a collective dimension has led, if anything, to proliferation rather than disarmament.
A troublesome prerequisite to the concept of collective security for the prevention of war, the principle of deterrence, remained ingrained in State politics and supposed that peace can be reached by fear. The strong militarisation trend following World War II therefore made states captives of their own armaments under this philosophy.
Indeed, international law relies considerably on the concept of reciprocity and in 1980, with the background of the Cold War and associated nuclear arms race, the United Nations established the Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues headed by Olaf Palme, the former Prime Minister of Sweden. The Palme Commission was comprised of statesmen from both East and West and took advantage of a growing feeling towards nuclear weapons that was changing from the perception of a protective umbrella to that of a threat.
Overall, the Palme Commission met 12 times to consider a variety of arms control and security issues in the context of a failure of collective security and eventually issued a report which introduced the newer concept of common security. Whilst advocating the abandonment of the deterrence principle, this concept emphasises that we share a common world and that security cannot be gained at the expense of others.
March 4, 2013 No Comments