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Taking action in a world awash with arms

Leaving aside the cost of arms being sold around the world - let alone the "waste" of money in manufacturing them in the first place when the money, and resource, could be directed to better use - one has to wonder why so many arms are needed anyway. And whty do so many countries need all those armaments? The New York Times in an editorial details the whole issue and steps being taken to limit all those armaments.
"The world is awash in conventional weapons, like tanks, firearms and aircraft, with the market valued at $40 billion to $60 billion a year. Far too many of these arms are fueling conflicts and atrocities in Syria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond. They have been used to kill countless innocent civilians, and they will be used against countless more if the international community does not find a way to keep them out of the hands of unscrupulous regimes, militants and criminals.
The United Nations is trying to do just that. Last Monday, after a decade of lobbying by human rights groups, United Nations members began negotiating a global treaty to regulate international trade in conventional arms. Agreeing on a strong treaty will not be easy. The pact is supposed to be adopted by consensus at the end of the month, and a single country could block any deal.
The talks bogged down on the first day on an unrelated issue involving the Palestinians. It was eventually resolved, but time was wasted. That was a warning to the countries and the coalition of arms control and human rights groups supporting the treaty that success will require vigorous efforts to keep the negotiations on track.
To be effective, any treaty should be legally binding and cover a broad range of weapons, including ammunition. Governments should be required to regulate the international sale and transfer of these weapons, perform risk assessments before authorizing a sale, and track the use of the arms. The treaty should bar governments from selling arms to any states under a United Nations arms embargo and when there are human rights concerns.
Not surprisingly, Russia, China, Iran, Cuba and Pakistan are balking at the human rights criteria. They are also resisting the ammunition provision, as is the United States, which says it is impractical because ammunition is difficult to track.


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