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Successful Small Arms Conference May Boost Prospects of 'Arms Trade Treaty'

Thursday, July 31, 2008

In mid July, the international community renewed its efforts to curb the spread of small arms and light weapons (SALW). After failing to even adopt a report at their last meeting in 2006, this year's delegates found a way through Iranian procedural objections to vote for modest next steps on a program of action to address the illicit trade of the deadly devices. Watchers of the small arms trade will now be looking to see if successful conclusion of the meeting adds momentum to a separate process examining the possibilities for a broader global arms trade treaty.

In 2001, U.N. member states adopted the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and in 2005 agreed to an International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons. Both these instruments are politically binding, as opposed to legally binding, meaning that while states agree to follow the documents' guidelines there are essentially no legal ramifications for failing to do so. Together, the instruments provide recommendations for national, regional and global cooperation to limit the illegal transfer of small arms, such as revolvers, pistols and some machine guns, and light weapons, such as heavy machine guns and other weapons that can generally be transported by a pack animal or light vehicle. Due to their ease of transport and general availability in many of the world's conflict areas, SALW have come under increasing scrutiny around the globe. ...

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