The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs [official website] on Monday began negotiating a treaty to regulate the arms trade and prevent guns from entering conflict zones. The Arms Trade Treaty Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) [official website], established following a 2008 report [text] by the Group of Governmental Experts, has been examining the scope and draft parameters of a 2006 resolution [JURIST report] in order to make recommendations on an international, legally binding arms treaty. After fully considering the findings and recommendations of the PrepCom, the UN General Assembly [official website] plans to finalize the treaty [Reuters report] in 2012. The Control Arms Campaign, a network including Amnesty International (AI), Oxfam and Instituto Sou da Paz [advocacy websites], has called on the UN to draft an effective treaty regulating all weapons, ammunition and related equipment [press release]. In outlining the need for an effective treaty, the organizations explained:
Half of the world's poorest people live in states that are at risk of, or experiencing, violent conflict. Conventional arms, especially small arms, light weapons and associated ammunition, are used for the majority of grave human rights violations. Now is the time for an Arms Trade Treaty that really protects people, not just states.In addition to strong arms regulation, the Control Arms Campaign is advocating for the treaty to contain specific international human rights, humanitarian law and sustainable development criteria. While 151 of the 192 UN member states voted to begin formal negotiations in December 2009, 19 states, including Russia, China, India and Pakistan, have consistently abstained in the General Assembly votes on the Arms Trade Treaty, with Zimbabwe voting against.
In May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] urged Central African nations to adopt a legally binding instrument [JURIST report] to combat illicit arms trafficking. In March, UN officials warned that arms trafficking was interfering with development [UN News Centre report] in Central Africa's security and justice by increasing cross-border crime. Also in March, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] reported [text] that Africa suffers the most casualties as a result of the global illicit arms trade market. In April, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profiles] signed the New START treaty [JURIST report], pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by about 30 percent. The treaty agreement was reached [JURIST report] in February, and is the first nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations in nearly 20 years.