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Confronting The Illegal International Arms Trade


Kalashnikov assault rifles and heavy machine guns are lined up against a wall at one of Mogadishu's four open-air markets.

The United States has signed a treaty aiming to stem uncontrolled international flows of conventional arms.

In the latest sign of its commitment to stopping the scourges of terrorism, genocide, and crimes against humanity, the United States has signed a treaty aiming to stem uncontrolled international flows of conventional arms.

Only Iran, North Korea, and Syria stood against the world when the United Nations General Assembly first approved the Arms Trade Treaty in April. Since then, already more than a hundred nations have joined the United States in signing this important new treaty.


The need for such controls is made obvious by the tragic conflicts and terrorist attacks that fill headlines around the world almost daily. All too often these dark moments are fueled by an illicit international arms trade in which machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and even tanks are available to anyone who can pay.

Under the treaty, states agree to create and enforce the kind of strict national export controls on conventional arms that the United States already has in place. At the same time, the treaty reaffirms the sovereign right of every nation to regulate arms solely within its own borders according to its own legal or constitutional system.

"This about reducing the risk of international transfers of conventional arms that will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes."

Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the treaty and the international effort behind it at a signing ceremony in New York on September 25: "This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors. This about reducing the risk of international transfers of conventional arms that will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes."

Secretary Kerry said that with the treaty and its international standards in place, the United States and the world community stand to be more peaceful and secure: "We believe this brings us closer to the possibilities of peace as well as security, a higher level of security, and the promotion and protection of human rights."

The task before nations now is to ensure that the treaty’s promise is fulfilled by having it universally adopted and fully implemented.
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