The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty ended late Thursday night with a failure to adopt a treaty by consensus. The adoption of the text was opposed by three countries: Iran, Syria and North Korea.
The Arms Trade Treaty would create a framework that would regulate the international transfer of weapons.
The goal of the conference was to avoid a failure similar to the July conference when negotiations failed following the United States’ request to have more time to consider the treaty. On Wednesday, the goal seemed to be reachable with a final draft accepted by major weapons exporters like the United States, Russia, and China.
Contrary to the July draft, criticized for its weakness by many civil rights organizations, the new draft has received a number of important improvements.
“Human rights are at the heart of this text,” said Ambassador Joanne Adamson, chief delegate for the United Kingdom, who has been a vocal advocate for a strong treaty.
When the delegates met on Thursday to discuss the adoption of the text, anticipation was high as an historical treaty was within reach.
The over excitement of civil rights organizations, who have been asking for a treaty for more than a decade, led them to fill the room so much that the country delegations were not able to enter. The session was then delayed for an hour before the discussion could proceed in the calm.
However, soon Iran and Syria barred the adoption of the text by expressing their opposition to the draft . The treaty would most certainly endanger the transfer of weapons to Damas amid the Syrian civil war and its numerous civilian casualties. They were joined in their opposition by North Korea.
The principle of consensus chosen to regulate the adoption of the treaty allows one objection to be enough to prevent it. Despite an attempt to continue the discussion late into the night, the conference ended without a treaty being adopted.
It is worth noting that the rule of consensus, which was expressly required by the United States when they joined the negotiations table in 2008, now allowed three rogue states to prevent the adoption of a treaty favored by the United States.
A lack of consensus does not mean that the treaty is doomed.
“This is not failure. Today is success deferred, and deferred by not very long,” said very clearly the UK Ambassador.
After the opposition of Iran, Syria and North Korea, the request was made that the adoption of the treaty be submitted to the vote of the UN General Assembly as soon as possible. At the General Assembly, only two-thirds of the vote is required for the adoption of the treaty.
With most of the nations in the world in favor of the current draft and no opposition from major weapons exporters, next week could finally be the historical moment that many see as a necessary step to reduce human suffering around the world.