The global arms treaty is now in force

Since the news tends to take a break over Christmas, it was easy to miss the fact that the first global arms treaty came into effect on Christmas Eve. Even if it hadn’t fallen at Christmas, it may have been overlooked. For some reason the only people who seem to care about the treaty are gun nuts, but it’s a real breakthrough. Campaigners have been arguing for a global agreement on arms trading for decades. It was finally agreed in 2013, and is now in force for those who have ratified it.

Under the terms of the treaty, countries must monitor exports of weapons much more closely. It is now illegal to export arms to countries where they are likely to be used in genocide or human rights abuses – and it’s remarkable that it’s taken us decades to agree on that.

Of course, the treaty will need to be upheld. As I’ve discovered when trying to establish why Britain licensed arms sales to Madagascar while they had an illegitimate government, the rules are pretty open to interpretation. Those making a lot of money from arms sales, like Britain, will be looking for loopholes.

Nevertheless, we end 2014 with a pretty major victory for peace campaigners – and of course, peace on earth is what Christmas is about, isn’t it?

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