General Assembly :: Arms treaty to take effect

Brazil watched from the sidelines, during the 69th UN General Assembly, the announcement that the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the first international treaty to regulate this market, will finally come into effect. The agreement required at least 50 ratifications to have legal validity. Until recently, there were only 45. But the number was reached with the accession, during the meeting in New York, of Argentina, Bahamas, Czech Republic, Portugal, Senegal and Uruguay. The treaty will now start to be effectively implemented in 90 days.

“Despite being one of the first to sign the document, Brazil has demonstrated a lack of commitment to the process of ratifying the ATT. The document has been circulating in the cabinets of the Executive branch for more than 15 months,” said Camila Asano, coordinator of Foreign Policy at Conectas. “This is an historic moment for the UN and for human rights. It is frustrating to watch this commemoration from the outside,” she added.

The disappointment is more than just symbolic: by not being part of the group of States Parties, Brazil has lost the chance of participating in fundamental decisions, such as defining the location of the treaty secretariat (today, the competition is between Trinidad and Tobago, Switzerland and Austria) and the working rules of the new instrument.

After completing the rounds in the Executive branch, the document will also have to approved by the Lower House of Congress and the Senate – a process that could take months.

Historic agreement

The ATT is the first legally binding international instrument to regulate global transfers of conventional weapons, a category that includes everything from light weapons (such as revolvers, pistols and rifles) to combat vehicles (tanks, attack helicopters and warships). The agreement was approved in April 2013, after defeating the resistance of countries like the United States, Iran, North Korea and Syria – which managed to delay the decision on at least two occasions.

Nearly 62% of the UN member countries have already signed the agreement. Only 27% have ratified it, among them Germany, United Kingdom, Italy and France – countries that are home to some of the world’s largest arms industries. The United States, Russia and Brazil, which also feature on the list of major producers of conventional weapons, have yet to join the group.

See map of signatures and ratifications of the ATT until 09.25.2014:

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