Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

UN unable to take arms under control

The UN and international community it represents are trying to establish control over the international arms market yet again. A conference that started a few days ago in the New York headquarters (in the country that is the most ardent opponent of signing of the treaty on the arms trade) must finally determine the viability of the idea.

On March 18th, at the UN headquarters in New York a conference attended by representatives of 193 countries opened. The main task of the members of the United Nations is to develop and sign an agreement aimed at regulating the export and import of arms in the world.

The opening speech by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon contained reasoned arguments in favor of the importance of signing a multilateral agreement on arms sales worldwide, especially as similar contracts have long been signed and are actively used in all other areas of global trade. He also emphasized that sales of conventional weapons was an important and complex sector, affecting the financial interests of the countries, their national security and foreign policy on the one hand, and directly relating to humanitarian and legal aspects of international law on the other.

Since 1995, the idea of ​​creation and implementation of a multilateral international agreement to replace formal unilateral acts in the form of recommendations has been actively discussed in the UN. Later, in 2006 and 2012, attempts were made to develop and adopt a compromise international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Seven years ago, a draft agreement was supported by 154 countries. The agreement was opposed by Russia, the official Washington, Jerusalem, Beijing and Pyongyang, most of which are among the top ten arms exporters. Among the abstentions in 2006 were countries identified as the world's leading importers of weapons (India, Libya, Pakistan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and others.) Today, recognizing the need for regulatory document of this nature, not all countries agree with its content.

Russia insists on the inclusion of a stipulation in the agreement prohibiting sales of arms to non-State actors. This requirement stems from a desire to protect the existing legitimate government authorities from attempts of a military mutiny in order to overthrow them, which has already taken place in Libya and Syria. In addition, Russia considered it sufficient to mention in the document only small arms and light weapons, and suggested fully abandoning the practice of involvement of private intermediaries in sales transactions. Overall, Russia's position suggests tightening control over the illegal supply of arms to the regions engulfed in military conflicts, and not tracking the performance of the existing international contracts.

The United States cannot agree with ATT because it contradicts the second amendment to the Constitution passed in 1791 stating the indisputable right of every citizen to keep and bear arms. Despite the above-named official interpretation, most analysts are unanimous in the opinion that the United States considers unacceptable the requirement of the agreement about an annual report on export volumes and consumers of American weapons. This is a consequence of the widespread desire for "planting" American democracy and the policy of double standards manifested in support, including military, of the opposition forces in the areas of the American geopolitical interests. It was the rejection of the United States to participate in the agreement in 2012 that has forced several countries to follow their example. These countries considered it unwise to sign the agreement whose terms would not be applicable to the largest producer and seller of weapons on the planet. At the same time, the Egyptian delegation demanded full participation of representatives of the Palestinian Authority in the discussion and ratification of the Convention, with which Israel adamantly disagreed.

In the past year, a number of UN member countries draw the attention of other members to their desire to make small edits to the main text of the agreement. The U.S., Syria, Egypt and China insisted on addressing the purchase and sale of ammunition in a separate agreement, and China also refused to mention small caliber arms units in the agreement. Member countries of the world organization came to the New York Conference with understanding of the need for rework of ATT. Many of them are concerned with the legitimate question of viability of this document given that some parties have a principled position.

The modern society has to be interested in dealing with such an urgent problem for the simple reason that the use of conventional weapons in armed conflicts in different parts of the world annually causes deaths of over five hundred thousand people. NGOs play a significant role in the initiative to tighten control over the sale, purchase and exchange of weapons. Human rights activists from Amnesty International have sponsored a large-scale campaign "Control Arms," designed to promote the adoption of strict rules of its turnover in the world.

Oxfam social activists called unacceptable the situation where every year two bullets are produced for each of over seven billion people on Earth, and the sales are not monitored. Before the conference, the media published a text of an open letter written to the UN Secretary General by world celebrities who once again demanded special attention to the scale of the production and sales of arms, as well as its goals.

The modern international arms market today has two sectors, formal and informal. The "black market" was formed by gangs, large businesses and government agencies that have a particular foreign policy mission. Arms are delivered through the territories poorly controlled by state agencies and diplomatic and ethnic channel, as well legally, under the guise of equipment or spare parts. In large part thanks to the implementation of gray schemes insurgent and criminal communities in many parts of the world are being supplied with weapons.

Thousands of lives have been destroyed through the use of such weapons. The legitimate global arms market in 2012 came close to a total of seventy billion dollars, where a little less than a third of its total volume belongs to the United States, over a quarter - to Russia , and 7, 6 and 5 percent to Germany, France, and China, respectively. Major vendors also include Britain, Spain, Italy and Sweden. Leaders on the list of importers are India with 12 percent, China with 6 percent, Pakistan and South Korea with 5 percent, and Singapore with 4 percent of total imports.
Total quantity and monetary turnover of legal and illegal sectors of the global arms market is enormous. For many nations the income received in the area of arms exports plays an important role in shaping the state budget. It is the financial and political interests that lead to violations of the existing international norms on arms trafficking.

Signing and enforcing of the ATT is designed to make the export market and import of arms in the world transparent. The UN member countries that signed the document in the future will be obliged to provide annual information on the type and number of units of weapons sold and their customers. The breach of the agreement by the parties entails application of international sanctions.

To ensure the use of the document in practice, it must be decided who would monitor compliance with the terms of the agreement. Other issues include type of sources of information about violations, and appropriate mechanism of their investigation. The biggest difficulty the UN would face in case of ratification of the agreement is the attempts of some countries to turn the ATT in another damaging mechanism of political influence on the unwanted members.

Sergei Vasilenkov


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