UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly late Monday to hold a conference in March to try to reach agreement on a U.N. treaty to regulate the multibillion-dollar global arms trade.
A resolution approved by a vote of 133-0 with 17 abstentions will bring the 193 U.N. member states back to the negotiating table following their failure to reach agreement on a treaty in July.
Hopes of reaching a treaty in July were dashed when the United States said it needed more time to consider the proposed treaty — and Russia and China then also asked for a delay.
The draft treaty under consideration does not control the domestic use of weapons in any country, but it would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and to regulate arms brokers. It would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they would violate arms embargoes or if they would promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
In considering whether to authorize the export of arms, the draft says a country must evaluate whether the weapon would be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian laws or be used by terrorists, organized crime or for corrupt practices.
Many countries, including the United States, control arms exports but there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.
The National Rifle Association, the powerful gun-rights lobbying group in the U.S., has portrayed the treaty as a threat to gun ownership rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The politically controversial issue of gun regulations has re-emerged since a gunman opened fire on Dec. 14 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six educators.
In July, the NRA's CEO Wayne LaPierre told the U.N. that "the NRA wants no part of any treaty that infringes on the precious right of lawful Americans to keep and bear arms." He added that "any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition."
The co-sponsors of Monday's resolution — Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and Britain — welcomed adoption of the resolution and urged all countries "to work in a constructive spirit" to make the March 18-28 conference at U.N. headquarters a success.
In a statement, they said the adoption with over 100 cosponsors "was a clear sign that the vast majority of U.N. member states support a strong, balanced and effective treaty, which would set the highest possible common global standard for the international transfer of conventional arms."
The seven countries expressed support to Australian ambassador Peter Woolcott, the president-designate of the upcoming conference, and said: "We will continue to work hard to ensure that an effective Arms Trade Treaty will be concluded and adopted by consensus at the end of March."