The UN general assembly has overwhelmingly approved the first treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar international arms trade, a goal sought for more than a decade to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organised crime.
The resolution was approved by a vote of 154 to three with 23 abstentions. As the numbers appeared on the electronic board, loud cheers filled the assembly chamber.
A group of treaty supporters sought a vote in the 193-member world body after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked its adoption by consensus at a negotiating conference on Thursday. The three countries voted "no" at Tuesday’s resolution.
Many countries, including the US, control arms exports. But there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60bn global arms trade. The treaty will not control the domestic use of weapons in any country, but it will require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms, parts and components and to regulate arms brokers.
It covers battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.
For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to regulating the arms trade.
Hopes of reaching agreement at a UN negotiating conference were dashed in July when the US said it needed more time to consider the proposed accord, a move quickly backed by Russia and China.
In December, the assembly decided to hold a final negotiating conference to agree on a treaty and set last Thursday as the deadline.
After two weeks of negotiations, there was growing optimism as the deadline approached that all 193 member states would approve the final draft treaty by consensus, a requirement set by the US. This time, America was prepared to support the final draft treaty. But Iran, North Korea and Syria objected.
Iran said the treaty had many "loopholes", was "hugely susceptible to politicisation and discrimination" and ignored the "legitimate demand" to prohibit the transfer of arms to those who commit aggression. Syria cited seven objections, including the treaty’s failure to include an embargo on delivering weapons "to terrorist armed groups and to non-state actors". North Korea said the treaty favoured arms exporters who could restrict arms to importers that have a right to legitimate self-defence and the arms trade.
Iran and North Korea are under UN arms embargoes over their nuclear programmes, while Syria is in the third year of a conflict that has escalated to civil war and is under US and EU sanctions.
Amnesty International said all three countries "have abysmal human rights records, having even used arms against their own citizens".
Ted Bromund of the Heritage Foundation explained on TheBlaze contributors page:
But it’s not a bad idea because it’s a gun grab. It’s a bad idea because it will restrain the democracies, not the dictatorships. It’s a bad idea because it cannot work.
Above all, it’s a bad idea because, when it fails, its supporters are going to do what comes naturally to them: blame the United States and demand a new treaty that imposes even tighter, supranational controls.