From the UN: Global Arms Trade Treaty
Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld
IHEU & National Ethical Service representative to the UN
Dr. Reba Goodman
Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County
"The world is over-armed and peace is under funded," according to the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban-Ki Moon. To be precise and succinct, the world is awash in weapons. The arms trade, valued at $85 billion in 2011, is a big business. The devastating consequences of the mostly unregulated global trade in conventional weapons are of great concern. There are approximately 900 million small arms in global circulation. However, only one-third of this number is in the hands of legally sanctioned police and military forces. Nearly one million firearms produced are lost or stolen from their legal owners. Every year, more than 300,000 people are killed with small arms. They are the weapons of choice in civil wars and for terrorism, organized crime, and gang warfare. They are cheap, light, and easy to handle, transport, and conceal.
Recent efforts by the UN to reach agreement on an Arms Trade Treaty failed at the last moment. Delegates from more than 170 countries spent a month in July 2012 trying to secure consensus on regulating the $60 billion a year trade in conventional weapons. Hopes were dashed when both the US and Russia claimed that there was not enough time to clarify and resolve a small number of issues.
The American Administration was under tremendous pressure by a misinformation campaign launched by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA). A letter to President Obama by 51 senators claimed, falsely, that the Arms Trade Treaty could impinge on the constitutional right of Americans to keep arms. During an election year Obama and his advisors did not want to take the risk of contesting this assertion.
The NRA claim is incorrect. The proposed treaty does not affect ownership or transfer of weapons within national borders. The main aim of the treaty is to bring some order into the international trade of conventional arms, making it more difficult for arms to reach the illicit market and fall into the wrong hands. Despite the NRA efforts, all hope is not lost. There is a chance that the draft treaty will be brought to the annual General Assembly meeting in October where it requires only a two-third majority for it to pass. The treaty would go into effect once it has been ratified by 65 countries.
Strong public support is required to push forward an arms treaty. An example of the strength of public support is the successful campaign to ban land mines which sparked a convention in 1997. The goal of reducing the illicit trade in small arms is vital for saving many lives. It is tragic that conventional weapons receive less attention than weapons of mass destruction; yet they are the most common type of armament globally and historically used in conflict with devastating results.
have campaigns for an effective arms trade treaty. Recently they drove an old tank around London to dramatize their demand. We should all support the efforts of such groups. Visit their websites to learn how you can help.