Historic UN arms trade treaty

On 2 April the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of controlling the movement of weapons across borders in the first ever treaty on the international trade of arms. 154 of 193 UN member states supported the treaty which regulates trade of conventional weapons including battle tanks and armed vehicles, combat aircraft, missiles, small arms and light weapons. North Korea, Syria and Iran opposed the treaty and 23 countries including China and Russia abstained from the vote. Opposition from a small number of states had held back previous efforts at the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in March 2013 to reach unanimous agreement on the text of the treaty, which was why at the conclusion of the conference it was referred to the UN General Assembly.

50 countries must now ratify the treaty in order for the treaty to take effect. States that commit to the treaty once it is in force are required to establish mechanisms for controlling movement of arms and must not export arms to countries where they know they will be used to commit genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity. Weapons are one of the leading causes of death of children and adolescents in many countries according to UNICEF.  The treaty is a groundbreaking step with enormous symbolic and actual potential to promote human rights and reduce the human cost of war and crime.