Commodities In Need Of Regulation:
Towards an Arms Trade Treaty

TEHRAN, 3 March 2013 (UNIC) — The United Nations General Assembly is convening a Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), from 18-28 March in New York, “to negotiate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.”

In all parts of the world, the ready availability of weapons and ammunition has led to human suffering, political repression, crime and terror among civilian populations. Irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons can destabilise security in a region, enable the violation of arms embargoes and contribute to human rights abuses. Investment is discouraged and development disrupted in countries experiencing conflict and high levels of violence. Countries affected by conflict or pervasive crime have the most difficulty attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

No global norms

Virtually all areas of world trade are covered by regulations that bind countries into agreed conduct. But there is no global set of rules governing the trade in conventional weapons. Governments are expected to show responsibility in their decisions regarding arms transfers. This means that before approving any international transfer of weapons, they should assess the risk of the transfer exacerbating conflict or facilitating violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Countries have discussed the matter within the UN since 2006 and are discussing to conclude negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty in 2013.

Unregulated arms trade – the consequences

  • Peacekeeping operations can be particularly daunting where parties continue to have access to supplies of arms and ammunition. Groups who seek to spoil the work of peacekeeping operations through violence have the greatest incentive to withdraw from peace accords when they are able to continue to buy weapons.

  • Maritime piracy costs the international community up to $12 billion per year.

  • In conflict situations, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas can have indiscriminate and devastating impact on civilians, including children who are particularly vulnerable to being killed and maimed by such weapons.

  • Between 2000 and 2010, more than 780 humanitarian workers were killed in armed attacks and a further 689 were injured. Attacks appear to have intensified in recent years.

  • United Nations personnel have been targets of armed conflicts, banditry, abductions, hostage-taking, terrorism, intimidation and harassment.

  • Crime and armed violence – perpetrated with illegal weapons – contribute to divert public resources away from key services and capital investment. Developing countries may spend up to 15% of their GDP on law enforcement, as compared to 5 per cent in more affluent states.

  • The vast majority of victims of armed violence live in countries with weak import, export and transfer controls over small arms and light weapons and high levels of illicit proliferation of those arms.

  • In 2011, 52 armed forces and groups in 13 country situations continued to recruit or use children, kill or maim children and commit sexual violence against children.