On July 15, the U.N. wrapped up its third and final Preparatory Committee meeting on its Arms Trade Treaty. After a last gathering devoted to procedural matters in early 2012, the U.N. will call a concluding conference in 2012 to adopt the treaty and open it for national ratification. Unfortunately, while the most recent committee improved the treaty, it could not remedy the treaty’s fundamental flaws.
This week, the Senate took notice of this fact. A letter drafted by Senator Jerry Moran (R–KS), and signed by 44 other Senators, alerts the Administration to the signatories’ “grave concern” about the dangers posed by the treaty negotiations. Since two-thirds of Senators present must vote to ratify any treaty, the signatories of the letter can by themselves block the treaty if this or a future Administration signs it.
The letter lays out five concerns, ranging from the U.N.’s hostility to private firearms ownership to the nature of the consensus-based negotiating procedure to the underlying philosophy of the treaty, which, as the signatories note “places the burden of controlling crime and terrorism on law-abiding Americans, instead of where it belongs: on the culpable member states of the United Nations who have failed to take the necessary steps to block trafficking that is already illegal under existing laws and agreements.”
But the letter’s most important point may be that the treaty is intended to cover everything from bullets to battleships. Thus, as the Senators write, the treaty has a “wide-ranging and unrealistic scope,” and as a result the Senate “will eventually be called upon to consider a treaty that is so broad it cannot effectively be subject to our advice and consent.” In short, the treaty tries to do so much that it is unverifiable and so not does not deserve to receive the advice and consent of the Senate.
Senator Moran and his co-signatories have made an important and serious contribution to the debate over the Arms Trade Treaty. As the treaty moves forward in 2012, the Administration and the other nations negotiating it will have to bear these concerns in mind.