While the ISN is examining the relationship between economics and war this week, UN delegations in New York are gathering for the last preparatory meeting on a treaty to regulate the global arms trade. After years of advocacy, preparation and dialogue, representatives from all UN member-states will meet in July for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). While expectations surrounding the treaty are very high in some quarters (as “one of the most important treaties the world has ever seen”, according to Kate Allen of Amnesty International UK), many remain skeptical.
What is the treaty about? The aim of the ATT is to regulate the import and export of conventional weapons (and related products and services) on a global scale. While for some states the goal is merely to curb illicit trade in arms (i.e., mainly smuggling), others are aiming higher. Advocates of a strong and comprehensive ATT want to prevent arms exports to states which don’t comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law.
In response to such high standards, some states accuse the West of wanting to stop the export of weapons to certain states altogether, which would deny them the right to self-defense, or so critics argue.