The date was set today, after a spate of treaty actions during this whirlwind week of activities at the United Nations’ New York headquarters. Earlier this morning, the Arms Trade Treaty status page in the U.N. Treaty Collection database indicated that 45 states had joined the treaty, 5 short of the 50 needed. That same page now shows 52 states parties, each of which will become bound to the treaty’s terms when it enters into force on Christmas Eve.
Today’s joinders by Argentina, Bahamas, Portugal, the Czech Republic, St. Lucia, Senegal, and Uruguay made the difference. They join as states parties 2 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Britain and France, along with Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Romania, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Fully half of the 20 arms-exporting countries have joined (specifically, Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, South Korea, South Africa, Belgium); 4 have signed (the United States, Ukraine, Netherlands, and Switzerland); and 6 remain fully outside the treaty regime (Russia, China, Israel, Canada, Uzbekhistan, and Belarus).
As previously posted, the treaty – adopted on April 2, 2013, by the U.N. General Assembly – aims to curb trafficking in “conventional arms.” The term covers not only heavy weaponry and ammunition, but also small arms and light weapons; these latter constitute a leading cause of attacks that civilians endure in today’s armed conflicts. (credit for UN photo of burning of AK-47s handed over in 2009 South Sudan disarmament process) As stated in Article 2(3) of the treaty (full text text available here), each state party has obligated itself not to
‘transfer of conventional arms …, if it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.’
Here’s hoping these newly assumed treaty obligations advance that worthy goal.