April 2, 2013 – Today’s adoption by the General Assembly of the Arms Trade Treaty text by a landslide vote is very much the beginning of the process for enacting a global binding accord on controlling weapons flows.
The treaty opens for signatories on June 3 and will come into force after 50 states have ratified it but will have limited impact unless ratified by the major arms producers and buyers.
The three most recent international treaties on arms control are not encouraging in this regard.
The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions has 80 states parties and 31 signatories but China, Russia and the United States – three of the world’s top five arms exporters – are neither states parties nor signatories, while on the buyer side none of the Gulf states are party to it, nor are India, Pakistan, Turkey, South Korea and Israel. Lebanon is the only Middle East country to have ratified the treaty.
Similarly, the Mine Ban Treaty, which opened for signatory in 1997, has been acceded to by 165 countries but China, Russia and the United States are not among them. Qatar and Kuwait are but Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are not. Egypt, India, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea and Israel have also not ratified the treaty.
The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has been ratified by 156 countries but cannot come into force unless 44 specific countries deemed “nuclear technology holders” have done so. Of those 44, eight – China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the U.S. – have not ratified the accord.