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Inside Story

Controlling global arms trade

As the arms trade treaty conference fails to reach consensus, what is next for the UN's efforts to police the planet?

Last Modified: 30 Mar 2013 12:39
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It was hailed as an historic step towards regulating the global arms trade. A landmark UN treaty aimed at preventing weapons from ending up in the wrong hands. 

"Campaign Against Arms Trade is only interested in a treaty which is going to stop or meaningfully limit the international trade in arms, and this is not going to do it. In fact in some ways it's going to legitimise the trade in arms, because it seems to think there is responsible legitimate trade in arms, and other arms trade which is irresponsible and illegitimate, it's drawing a line between them. And there isn't really a line there as far as we are concerned."

- Kaye Stearman, spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade

But after years of negotiations, Iran, Syria and North Korea stopped the treaty in its tracks. 

"It's been blocked by three deeply cynical countries. The Democratic Republic of Korea, Syria and Iran. And those governments with their records in terms of Human Rights in their own countries, are just poorly," Kate Allen, the director at Amnesty International UK said. 

The treaty was the first of its kind, and it was the result of nearly 10 years of debate. 

Its goal was quite simply, it consisted in monitoring the flow of arms across international borders, and stop them from being used to commit atrocities.

UN members countries would be forced to take responsibility for incoming weapons- making sure they didn't fall into the wrong hands.

All five permanent members of the Security Council are major exporters - and critics say the agreement was carefully crafted to protect their interests.

But in the end, it only took three "no" votes to stop the treaty from being adopted. 

So, what is next for the UN and its effort to police the planet? Is a global arms trade treaty possible ? And even if it was possible, would it actually make a difference?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Paul Holtom, the director of the Arms Transfer programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute; Shashank Joshi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute; and Kaye Stearman, a spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

"The trade in arms is legitimate already. I think what it's doing is just drawing a clear line between those transfers would be unacceptable, and which the UN states, 190 of them, could agree that this was a baseline that could be accepted by them .... The treaty contains three very clear prohibitions, one it should not violate UN arms embargoes; secondly, you should be taking measures to avoid illicit trafficking; and thirdly that it should not be authorising transfers if you have reasonable, good knowledge, that these could be used for violations of international humanitarian law. There are also further previsions in that, where you have to undertake a risk assessment to ensure that you are not going to be supplying arms for serious violations of human rights, gender based violence .... These are things that we don't have in the global level currently." 

- Paul Holtom, the director of the Arms Transfer programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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