Lack of arms trade regulation 'disgrace'

2012-07-04 09:03

New York - UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday it was a "disgrace" that there is no global arms trade regulation as he opened treaty talks held up by Palestinian demands for a place in the negotiations.

The 193 UN members have until 27 July to hammer out a deal for a treaty on dealing in conventional weapons, which experts estimate to be worth more than $70bn a year.

"Poorly regulated international arms transfers are fuelling civil conflicts, destabilising regions and empowering terrorists and criminal networks," Ban told the meeting, which started a day late because of the Palestinian dispute.

"We do not have a multilateral treaty of global scope dealing with conventional arms. This is a disgrace," he said.

"The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded," Ban added. He highlighted how military spending is now over $1 trillion a year and the past six decades of UN peacekeeping operations have cost less than six weeks of current global military spending.

Ban said there have to be standards for arms exports and strict national legislation, though he acknowledged that "the global arms trade touches on core national interests".

Comprehensive document

UN states have spent seven years preparing for the arms trade treaty talks.

All of the major producers have reasons to limit any treaty, though all say they want a comprehensive document.

The United States is by far the world's biggest arms trader, accounting for more than 40% of conventional weapons sales. Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia follow.

The United States - which produces six billion bullets a year - wants to exclude munitions, according to diplomats. China does not want the treaty to cover small arms, which it exports en masse to developing countries.

China, Russia and Arab countries say the accord's criteria are politically motivated.

European nations say they want a treaty that at least makes the arms trade more transparent.

Nationally enforced

 Ahead of the negotiations, the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany and Sweden's trade minister called for a treaty that covers all conventional weapons, including small and light weapons, all munitions and related technologies.

They said any treaty should be legally binding, but nationally enforced.

The talks should have started on Monday but were held up by a dispute over Palestinian representation at the conference. Formal negotiations were suspended for several hours after Ban's speech as diplomats sought a solution.

Palestinian envoy Ryad Mansour told reporters his delegation was demanding a place at the talks because the Palestinians are members of the UN's cultural body Unesco.

As the arms talks are an international conference of states, they should follow the tradition of being open to members of the specialised UN agencies, the Palestinian diplomat said.

Israel and the United States were opposing any solution that gave the Palestinians a statute higher than their position as observers at the United Nations, UN diplomats said.

Two days lost

The Vatican, which is also an observer at the UN, had demanded a similar status to the Palestinians, who have launched a campaign in the past year to seek greater international recognition.

"We are demonstrating a tremendous amount of flexibility to allow the conference to move forward," Mansour told reporters.

But in the end the Palestinians and the Vatican agreed to sit among the delegations, but as observers, without pressing to be recognised as participating member states.

"There is no time to waste on procedural issues... we have lost two days, it is regrettable because the world should focus its attention on developing this treaty," said Brian Wood, who works on arms issues with Amnesty International.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-04 09:44

    How is it that the five members of the UNSC responsible for global 'security' are the world's biggest arms dealers by a very, very long way. The military industrial complex (MIC) has to find continual wars to fight. It requires a flow of money from the taxpayer to private arms companies in order to exist.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-04 10:38

      It happens because they are the originaters of new weapons , its self evident that they would sit at the council as they have the most amount of military and economic power . This arms trade continues because other nations want the newer weapons to improve their arsnels while at the same time unable to afford the research and development . The purchase from weapons producing nations who use that money to develop and produce more.(eg: SA sells Rooivalks to the US , they put targeting systems on and then sell it to Morrocco). The only arms ristrictions comes from internal/domestic authority , this is where it is critical to set UN standards for arms regulation .

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-04 10:57

      Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

      badballie - 2012-07-04 14:41

      The arms trade and financing wars are extremely lucrative business's generating millions of dollars each year. It has been standard practice (even though denied) to not only trade in weapons but also in a vast majority of instances to supply both sides in a conflict with arms, ammunition and even finance.

  • sisie.indola - 2012-07-04 10:56

    It's called free enterprise. Starts at the top and continues down the line - All about power(which someone wants) and money (which someone else has). In the sandpit it is "mine is bigger than yours". It generates taxes and called job creation.

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