After years of negotiations and an intense lobbying effort by weapons manufacturers and their allies, the United Nations approved the world’s most sweeping global arms trade treaty. By a the 154 to 3 vote the General Assembly approved the Arms Trade Treaty, with 23 abstentions from countries with problematic human rights records including Bahrain, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Activists see it as a human rights victory that will prevent future violence and genocides:
Although implementation is years away and there is no specific enforcement mechanism, proponents say the treaty would for the first time force sellers to consider how their customers will use the weapons and to make that information public. The goal is to curb the sale of weapons that kill tens of thousands of people every year — by, for example, making it harder for Russia to argue that its arms deals with Syria are legal under international law.
The treaty, which took seven years to negotiate, reflects growing international sentiment that the multibillion-dollar weapons trade needs to be held to a moral standard. The hope is that even nations reluctant to ratify the treaty will feel public pressure to abide by its provisions. The treaty calls for sales to be evaluated on whether the weapons will be used to break humanitarian law, foment genocide or war crimes, abet terrorism or organized crime or slaughter women and children.