U.N. General Assembly approves treaty to regulate global arms trade

The U.N. General Assembly approved a global arms trade treaty on Tuesday by a count of 154 to three with 23 countries abstaining from the vote.

Syria, Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea voted against the treaty, which regulates international trade in conventional arms. The vote occurred after the Final U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty failed to reach an agreement among all 193 member states on a treaty test at the end of a two-week session last week.

The treaty will enter into force 90 days after it is ratified by the 50th signatory. The ATT regulates conventional arms within the following categories: light weapons, small arms, missiles, missile launchers, warships, attack helicopters, combat aircraft, large-caliber artillery systems, armored combat vehicles and battle tanks. The treaty does not interfere with the right to bear arms or domestic arms commerce, ban the export of any weapon type, undermine national arms regulation standards or get in the way of the states' right to self-defense.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the treaty as a new tool to prevent the abuses of human rights. He said it would give momentum for other efforts of non-proliferation and global disarmament.

"It is a historic diplomatic achievement - the culmination of long-held dreams and many years of effort," Ban said. "This is a victory for the world's people."

The U.N. Children's Fund said the adoption of the treaty was an important step toward protection children since it regulates the transfer of weapons between countries.

"The Arms Trade Treaty asks states to explicitly consider the risk that an arms transfer could facilitate serious acts of violence against women and children before allowing it to proceed," Susan Bissell, UNICEF's chief of child protection, said. "This is critical given that weapons are now one of the leading causes of death of children and adolescents in many countries, including many that are not experiencing war."

Adama Dieng, the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said he welcomed the inclusion in the treaty of a prohibition on the transfer of arms to be used in the commission of crimes against humanity, certain war crimes and genocide.

"Genocide depends in part on the availability of arms and ammunition," Dieng said. "Despite some shortcomings of this treaty, its adoption represents an important step forward in the struggle to prevent genocide and provides a new legal tool to protect those at risk of their lives, and groups threatened with destruction."