Successful Small Arms Conference May Boost Prospects of ‘Arms Trade Treaty’

Successful Small Arms Conference May Boost Prospects of ‘Arms Trade Treaty’

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.

In 2006, countries came together for a five-year review of the program of action, but failed to agree on improvements to the plan. At the outset of that gathering, U.S. representatives indicated that they would not accept any final agreement that mentioned ammunition, civilian possession of small arms or transfers to nonstate actors. Although not the only obstacle, the United States' positions were viewed as a major cause for the meeting's failure. Prior to this year's meeting, there were indications that the United States would not be attending the full meeting, raising the prospects for success as well as questions about the program's relevance.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.