UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that by the signings the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the world  has decided to put an end to the ‘free-for-all’ and poorly regulated nature of international arms transfers.

 “The ATT is substantive and robust, but its effectiveness will depend on the willingness of States to ensure its full implementation,” he told a special event marking the Treaty’s opening for signature on Monday. By the end of the day 65 countries had signed the treaty.

The treaty is the first international treaty regulating the global arms trade. It was overwhelmingly approved two months ago in the UN General Assembly by a vote of 154 to three – North Korea, Iran and Syria – with 23 abstentions. The vote was the culmination of a decades-long push to halt illegal shipments of weapons such as missiles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

India, China, Russia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia and Sudan were among the abstaining states.

Pakistan, which had voted for the treaty, was not among the signatories on the opening day. Pakistani diplomats said the matter was in process. Also, it is understood, the incoming government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may like to have a look at the text of the treaty before making a decision to sign it.

The secretary-general said the treaty would be an effective deterrent to illegal arms flow to conflict prone regions and would make it harder for weapons to be diverted into the illicit market to reach “warlords, pirates, terrorists and criminals” or be used to commit human rights abuses.

“From now on, weapons and ammunition should only cross borders after the exporter confirms that the transfer complies with internationally agreed standards” he said.

The landmark pact prohibits ratifying states from transferring conventional weapons to countries where they know they will be used to commit or facilitate, war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. It requires ratifying countries to regulate the transfer of conventional arms, parts and weapons and to conduct full risk assessments on arms transfers before they take place.

When the campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty was first launched by the Control Arms campaign more than a decade ago, only three countries – Mali, Costa Rica and Cambodia – supported it.

While voting for the treaty on April 2, Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan said his country had done so to demonstrate “solidarity” with the people and states that are negatively impacted by unregulated commerce in conventional weapons.

“We believe that credible steps need to be taken to ensure that conventional weapons and munitions - small or heavy - will not be used for terrorism, for transnational crime,   or in violation of human rights and humanitarian law; and that they will not be illegally diverted,” Masood Khan said.

Despite Pakistan’s vote in favour of the Treaty, he said there were omission in the first-ever Treaty to control global conventional arms trade of important definitions, which not only departed from established practice, but could be used by arms exporting countries to circumvent its provisions.

The Treaty failed to achieve unanimous support in a diplomatic conference last week but garnered the support of a majority of member states in the General Assembly.

“We regret that the the ATT could not be adopted by consensus,” the Pakistani envoy said, noting that a little more flexibility by all sides could have addressed that problem. “Universality would have ensured wider validity and more predictable implementation.”

During the special event, Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the day opens “a new chapter in which States will sign up to an international contract bringing responsibility and transparency to the global arms trade.” While the treaty is “not perfect,” she said it is certainly “robust.”