The United Nations General Assembly has approved the first global arms trade treaty, which attempts to regulate cross-border weapons transfers and prevent the sale of weapons to human rights abusers.

The Arms Trade Treaty, which was overwhelmingly passed by the UN General Assembly on April 2, will establish standards for cross-border conventional weapons transfers and require states to ensure that cross-border arms sales will not provide weapons for human rights abuses, terrorism, or organized crime, reported Reuters.

Iran, Syria, and North Korea were the only to vote against. China and Russia, both major arms producers, abstained, along with 21 other states, including the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) countries of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Insulza, has called on member states to ratify the treaty.

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The treaty will not enter into effect until 90 days after at least 50 signatory states have ratified it, a process which could take two or three years.

The treaty has a long history of support from many countries in Latin America, most notably Costa Rica, who proposed the treaty to the General Assembly. Brazil and Mexico, the two biggest arms exporters in Latin America, have also strongly supported the agreement.

Unfortunately for Latin America, although the United States, a major arms exporter, signed the treaty, it is unlikely to be ratified by Congress. As the New York Times reported, the US gun lobby has lobbied vigorously against the treaty, and its prospects in the Senate are grim.

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