Finding consensus on how to limit the global trade in conventional weapons has long eluded the nations of the world. After World War I, arms reduction was incorporated into the League of Nations charter, but like the league itself, the goal of limiting weapons was trampled in the march toward World War II. Over the years, there have been other limited agreements, including arms embargoes sponsored by the United Nations, but they have been largely ineffectual.
Now comes the Arms Trade Treaty, which proponents see as the best hope yet of stanching the worldwide proliferation of military weapons. When conflicts pop up in various parts of the world, the weapons used by combatants generally come from another country-like China, Russia or the United States, which is estimated to be the world’s largest weapons exporter but is also recognized for having one of the most stringent regulatory schemes of any nation.
Rachel Stohl, a senior associate with the Managing Across Boundaries initiative at the Stimson Center, a D.C. think tank that studies global security issues, also views the treaty as a positive step. “There is a lot of idealism in the ATT,” she says. “But I think it is tempered with the realism about how the international arms trade works.”
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