The world has been held hostage by three nations said Oxfam's UN representative after negotiations for a United Nations Arms Trade Treaty failed to reach a consensus by the negative votes of Iran, North Korea and Syria. The Treaty, which would regulate international trade in conventional weapons, has been under negotiation for seven years and there was optimism at the UN this past week that it would at last be approved. Still, only three objections among the 193 UN members was an achievement of a kind and the Treaty as it stands will now go to the General Assembly for two-thirds approval and subsequent ratification by 50 UN members. It will require countries exporting arms to observe criteria avoiding their use for human rights abuse, terrorism, organised crime and oppression of women and children.
Despite the general support for the Treaty there were many reservations on points of national concern. Perhaps the most bizarre of these was the opposition of America's National Rifle Association which has consistently opposed the Treaty because it would interfere with the American citizen's constitutional right to bear arms. On this occasion President Obama had no hesitation in saying that the US would support the Treaty. Obviously, it will take several years before a Treaty of this complexity shows its value but if it is activated in good faith it will be a positive step forward.