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United Nations votes in favour of Arms Trade Treaty

United Nations votes in favour of Arms Trade Treaty


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was among the overwhelming majority of states that voted in favour of the world’s first treaty to regulate the international arms trade.{{more}} The Arms Trade Treaty was subjected to a vote after the Conference of States negotiating the Treaty failed to come to unanimous consensus agreement on the precise language of the document. At the vote, 154 voted in favour, 23 abstained and 3 countries opposed the treaty. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was one of the 64 states that co-sponsored the resolution that adopted the Treaty.

The Arms Trade Treaty is designed to set standards for all international transfers of conventional weapons and small arms. It would also create binding requirements for countries to review all international arms contracts to ensure that arms will not be used in human rights abuses, terrorism or violations of humanitarian law.

However, the Treaty is far from perfect and reflects a number of compromises among the divergent views of countries. Many countries complained that the Treaty was biased in favour of countries that manufacture and export weapons, while slanted against arms importers. Other states noted that the Treaty did not include strengthened provisions against terrorist groups, as many countries had sought. Similarly, many states wondered how liberation movements or parties to a civil war would be treated under the Treaty, and questioned the inclusion of vague language on humanitarian criteria, which could be used selectively to deny arms transfers intended for legitimate government purposes. From a CARICOM perspective, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was disappointed by the lack of robust regulations governing ammunition and specific references to the trade in guns by drug-traffickers.

Nonetheless, the Treaty represents a strong step forward in the efforts to regulate the transfer of guns and weapons, since there was no legally-binding framework in place prior to the UN vote. All CARICOM states enthusiastically supported the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty, despite some misgivings regarding the scope, strength and specificity of the final document.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has been one of CARICOM’s leading voices in advocacy for the Arms Trade Treaty. Prime Minister Gonsalves raised the issue frequently at the UN, making it a recurring theme in his annual addresses to the United Nations General Assembly.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines hosted two major regional workshops for CARICOM negotiators seeking to forge a common regional position on the Treaty. The Third and Fourth Regional Workshops on Negotiations for the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty were held in Kingstown in May 2012 and March 2013, respectively. The March workshop was the final meeting of the region’s negotiators before the final push to negotiate a Treaty.