Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the conference after a delay amid reports of disagreement over the role of the Palestinian delegation. Ban said that while the world has made progress on regulating weapons of mass destruction, work on conventional arms has lagged.
"Our common goal is clear: a robust and legally binding Arms Trade Treaty that will have a real impact on the lives of those millions of people suffering from the consequences of armed conflict, repression and armed violence," Ban said. "It is ambitious, but it is achievable."
Led by the United Kingdom, nations have worked to create a treaty that would promote transparency and accountability in the arms trade and prevent international transfers of arms that contribute to serious human-rights violations, armed conflict, U.N. sanctions violations, organized crime, and terrorist acts. It would not ban the sale of any kinds of guns.
As the escalating conflict in Syria loomed over the conference, questions remained on whether a final treaty would contain strong human rights provisions or cover ammunition as well.
The foreign ministers of the U.K., France, Germany and Sweden wrote in a Monday editorial in the Guardian newspaper that the treaty "should cover all types of conventional weapons, notably including small arms and light weapons, all types of munitions, and related technologies. It is also of great importance that the treaty includes strong provisions on human rights, international humanitarian law and sustainable development."