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UN Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations Fail

  • Courtney Brooks

Activists erected a mock graveyard across from the United Nations to highlight the need for an arms treaty.

Activists erected a mock graveyard across from the United Nations to highlight the need for an arms treaty.

Month-long UN negotiations to establish the first international treaty to regulate the multibillion-dollar global arms trade have ended without a deal.

"I will avoid saying more to avoid being diplomatically incorrect. I merely assume full responsibility and I apologize for not having the diplomatic skill to have led you to a better finale," said Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan, the chairman of the talks, when announcing the failure to make a deal on July 27.

A statement signed by 90 countries, including some in the European Union and many African nations, was circulated as Moritan made the announcement on July 27.

The statement said the countries were "disappointed" but "not discouraged" by the collapse of negotiations, and called for the text to be taken to the General Assembly (GA) for adoption.

The treaty, which would be the first-ever binding agreement regulating the $60 billion global arms trade, would only need to be approved by a two-thirds majority to be adopted by the GA, rather than a unanimous consensus as these negotiations demanded.

Many delegations spoke after Moritan's announcement, commending his work and calling for the treaty to be brought to the GA for a vote. Some, including India and Russia, reiterated that while the draft was a strong base for negotiations they needed more time to consider it.

Surprise At Breakdown

The fizzle came as somewhat of a surprise to NGOs and delegations alike. The draft treaty, which was circulated on July 27, was met with positive responses from NGOs and participants in the conference.

While the Arms Control Secretariat, Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the Arms Control Association called for some loopholes to be closed, they expressed hope that a strong treaty could be passed by the deadline.

An NGO spokesperson speaking on condition of anonymity expressed shock at the result and told RFE/RL that the mood at the conference a day before the negotiations failed had been "enthusiastic."

One of the sticking points of the negotiations was whether the treaty would regulate ammunition -- the United States remained strongly opposed to the provision, although the country regulates ammunition itself.

NGOs continually called for U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to take a "leadership" role and allow ammunition into the treaty.

Anna MacDonald, head of arms control at Oxfam, said the talks breakdown was a "missed opportunity."

"World governments had the chance today to agree -- a historic agreement to bring the arms trade under control, and a small minority of governments unfortunately prevented that from happening," MacDonald said.

"But we're not over yet. It's clear that the vast majority of counties do want to see this treaty happen. Ninety of them made a very strong statement saying they're determined to make it a reality later this year in the General Assembly."

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