Talks started this week on an arms trade treaty to control the £36bn global weapons market and prevent guns from pouring into conflict zones, fuelling wars and atrocities. More than 190 nations are taking part at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Armed violence kills one person every minute according to the international campaign group, Control Arms Campaign. Supporters of the treaty say it would save thousands of lives every year.
The aim of the talks which started yesterday is to set common rules for international arms sales − from guns to fighter planes − to replace overlapping national laws full of loopholes that make it easy to buy weapons for conflicts.
Anna MacDonald head of the Arms Control Campaign said the unregulated arms trade fuels human rights abuses and undermines efforts to cut poverty.If the pact is agreed, Ms MacDonald said, “It would mean any arms transfer that was coming from a country or passing through needs to be authorized by the government of that country against a set of criteria, which would include ensuring that there was no high risk that the arms were going to be used in human rights abuses or were going to unstable or a conflict area.”Key issues in the talks, set to last two weeks will include what criteria governments will have to fulfil to get a green light for arms sales and how to check if they are following the rules.
The Control Arms Campaign says the lack of regulations results in many people being killed or wounded every day. “We estimate that about 2,000 people die a day from armed violence around the world, Ms MacDonald told the Voice of America. “And many more are forced to flee their home, see their lives and livelihoods destroyed.” The corrupt trade has an economic cost too. “We estimated that Africa loses $19 billion (£13bn) a year as a result of armed violence and conflict. These are all situations that can be stopped, that governments do have the power to prevent.”
She said that while a global arms trade treaty wouldn’t solve all these problems alone, “it would go a long way to prevent the situation that we have at the moment …making bad situations a whole lot worse.”The United States, which controls two thirds of global arms sales, agreed to join the process to draw up the treaty only on condition that it is run on the basis of consensus effectively giving it, and all other countries, the deciding vote.