UN fails to agree arms-trade treaty

Sat, Jul 28, 2012, 01:00

Member states failed to reach agreement on a new UN treaty to regulate the multibillion dollar global arms trade as some diplomats blamed the United States for triggering the unravelling of the month-long negotiating conference.

Hopes had been raised that agreement could be reached on a revised treaty text that closed some major loopholes by yesterday’s deadline for action.

But the United States announced yesterday morning that it needed more time to consider the proposed treaty - and Russia and China then also asked for more time.

“This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough.”

A Western diplomat also blamed the United States, saying “they derailed the process”, adding nothing will happen to revive negotiations until after the US presidential election in November.

Chief US negotiator Thomas Countryman refused to talk to several dozen reporters when the meeting broke up.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “One person dies every minute because of armed violence, but President Obama says he needs more time. Just how much more time does he want?”

“These negotiations were an acid test for world leaders. A powerful few failed and opted for political self-interest. This minority may have held back the tide of world opinion today, but they cannot for much longer.”

The draft treaty 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 authorise 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, organised 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 (€48.6 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 organised crime.

The UN General Assembly voted in December 2006 to work toward a treaty regulating the growing arms trade, with the United States casting a No vote.

In October 2009, the Obama administration reversed the Bush administration’s position and supported an assembly resolution to hold four preparatory meetings and a four-week UN conference in 2012 to draft an arms trade treaty.

The United States insisted that a treaty had to be approved by the consensus of all 193 UN member states.