Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Former Costa Rican President Applauds U.N. Arms Treaty Vote

Ex-Costa Rican President Óscar Arias praised the U.N. General Assembly after it overwhelmingly approved a treaty aimed at controlling the global trade in conventional weapons.

“It’s the history of a dream behind wanting to regulate international arms trade,” said the Nobel laureate according to the website for Costa Rican daily El Financiero.

“I’m very moved by the vote because I never expected the U.S. to back the agreement while I was still alive,” added Arias who ha campaigned for comprehensive global arms treaty for the past sixteen years.

Arias also praised his country’s diplomatic team for their efforts over the past seven years to help formulate the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and obtain such a strong vote of confidence at the U.N.

“The treaty is the greatest contribution by Costa Rica to humankind in its entire history.  It’s a triumph of the moral authority held by this small country,” said Arias.

Several Latin American states including Argentina, Mexico and Colombia helped Costa Rica to push the pact that had stalled numerous times including as recently as last week.  (See embedded video above).

Syria, Iran and North Korea were the only countries to vote against the ATT in Tuesday’s vote while 154 member states including most Western Hemispheric nations approved the pact. 

Among the twenty-three countries that abstained from the vote were five countries belonging to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas bloc: Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Cuban representative Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez said his country would abstain since the final version of the ATT had “serous limitations…and multiple ambiguities and legal gaps.”  Nevertheless, Costa Rica's Eduardo Ulibarri said that the agreement was a fair compromise that demonstrates that the U.N. is “able to address the most serious and complex global challenges.”

According to the U.N., the ATT covers several areas of the multibillion dollar arms trade though it’s not designed to override some domestic weapons laws:
The treaty regulates all conventional arms within the following categories: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.
According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, the treaty will not do any of the following: interfere with domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms in Member States; ban the export of any type of weapon; harm States' legitimate right to self-defense; or undermine national arms regulation standards already in place.
The treaty will go into effect after it’s ratified by at least fifty countries though it’s unclear which states that voted for the pact will also ratify it.  Such is the case with the U.S., the world’s top arms supplier, where the National Rifle Association is campaigning strongly against ratification.

“The voices of reason triumphed over skeptics, treaty opponents and dealers in death to establish a revolutionary treaty that constitutes a major step toward keeping assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons out of the hands of despots and warlords who use them to kill and maim civilians, recruit child soldiers and commit other serious abuses,” according to Amnesty International’s U.S. office.

Video Source– YouTube via euronews

Online Sources – United Nations, The Guardian, El Financiero, Terra Chile

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