NEW YORK, USA — Grenada was among 154 countries making history at the United Nations on Tuesday when that body voted in favour of bringing about a treaty to regulate the $70 billion global trade in small arms, light weapons and some ammunition.
“This is not a perfect or final attempt to regulate a major threat to humanity, but it is a very helpful one and Grenada is surely playing its part in global management of yet another dangerous reality,” said veteran Grenada diplomat to the United Nations, Ambassador Dessima Williams.
“Like the entire United Nations, we wanted a more rigorous regime; but like the majority of negotiators, we believe this is the highest common denominator possible among 193 countries; it is a welcome and decent start,” she concluded.
Grenada’s chief negotiator, Marlon Glean, participated actively over the past year and emerged as one of the Caribbean region’s top negotiator for the CARICOM team of negotiators.
The General Assembly convened and adopted the resolution by recorded vote on Tuesday.
After seven years and led first by Argentina and then by Australia, the United Nations ushered in the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that is to prohibit the transfer of arms when they violate relevant international treaty obligations, including human rights, where they are to be used in the commission of genocide and crimes against humanity as well as in war crimes in all types of armed conflict.
This treaty also means that there will be less possibility of child soldiers and armed rapes of women as often weapons are illegally smuggled into second and third countries to commit these crimes.
Lead CARICOM negotiator, Ambassador Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking for all 14 CARICOM states voting for the resolution on Tuesday, said that the UN system “had adopted an instrument to prevent divergence, that is the movement of small arms to countries and parties to whom they were not intended, and used for illegal activities, including activities related to drug trafficking.”
Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia and Russian Federation were among the 23 countries abstaining; with most arguing the proposed treaty did not have adequate sanctions on importers while giving exporters too much latitude. Almost all of the Arab states, Africa, the United States and Mexico, playing a leading role, voted for the document. Iran, Syria and North Korea voted against the resolution, arguing the right of self-determination and prohibitions against trade that support terrorists were not strong enough.
Even those who voted for the draft treaty, such as Lebanon and Eritrea wished for more on the right of self-determination and self-defence. Some member states indicated that their governments would make very careful study of the document, which the Australian president of the group said is “a compromise text that will make a difference in a global order and will help to save lives.”
CARICOM played a critical role as it was often consulted as a consensus and bridge-building group, and the group succeeded in getting the regulation of ammunition included in the draft treaty. Establishing a national control system, reporting and a voluntary trust fund are also included in the draft treaty.
Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines also played lead negotiation roles alongside Trinidad and Tobago.
The draft treaty will be open for signature at the UN beginning under the authority of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on June 3, with hopes of ratification and entry into force within a year.