When It Comes to Global Arms Control, US May Not Get Customary Veto Power

Different kinds of arms are seen on display at the 'Top Secret' Spy Museum in Oberhausen, July 10, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

When It Comes to Global Arms Control, US May Not Get Customary Veto Power

Conference on the global regulation of conventional weapons announces decisions to be made by majority vote

A conference on the global regulation of conventional weapons just reached an agreement to make decisions according to majority vote, not consensus, in what advocates of disarmament and oversight hope will prevent a United Nations Security Council-type scenario, where powerful countries like the United States repeatedly wield veto power.

The Mexican government, which is currently hosting the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) convention in Cancun August 24 through 27, announced the decision Wednesday, according toReuters.

The first Conference of State Parties to the treaty, the summit brings together representatives of over 100 countries to discuss the ill-regulated global trade in arms. In particular, the gathering is aimed laying "solid foundations for the ATT regime, by notably adopting its rules of procedure and financial rules, agreeing [to] common reporting arrangements and establishing the ATT Secretariat," according to a statement from the European Union.

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The treaty was established in December 2014 after years of international organizing demanding greater controls on weapons trade, and is aimed at boosting transparency while regulating the transfer of arms that fuel genocide and other crimes against humanity. The accord has been ratified by only 72 countries. The United States, the biggest arms exporter and producer in the world, is one of 59 nations that has signed but not ratified.

Human rights organizations have pressed for the ATT process to meaningfully involve global civil societies; require transparent and comprehensive reporting on sales; implement independent monitoring; and enforce its provisions equally. In a position paper released ahead of the meeting in Mexico, the organization Control Arms urged that majority-based decision making for all substantive and procedural issues is key to "effective rules of procedure," urging there should be no power of veto or deferral mechanisms.

It is not immediately clear, however, whether the conference has agreed on standards beyond majority decision-making, particularly regarding the rules governing transparency over arms sales. The gathering did, however, decide that Geneva will be the home to the permanent ATT secretariat.

Meanwhile, rights campaigners warn that the global arms trade is escalating war, atrocities, and militarization on an immense and international scale.

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