Arms Trade Treaty
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2013)|
Map showing which states have signed or ratified the Treaty. Signed Ratified
|Signed||Open for signature from 3 June 2013|
|Location||New York City, USA|
|Sealed||2 April 2013|
|Effective||24 December 2014|
|Condition||Ratification by 50 states|
|Languages||Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish|
|Arms Trade Treaty at Wikisource|
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a multilateral treaty which has not entered into force that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons. International weapons commerce has been estimated to reach US$70 billion a year.
The treaty was negotiated at a global conference under the auspices of the United Nations from July 2–27, 2012, in New York. As it was not possible to reach an agreement on a final text at that time, a new meeting for the conference was scheduled for March 18–28, 2013. On 2 April 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted the ATT. The treaty has been signed by 121 states and has been ratified by 54. It will enter into force on 24 December 2014, having been ratified or acceded to by the requisite 50 states.
The roots of what is known today as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) can be traced back to the late 1990s, when civil society actors and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates voiced their concerns about the unregulated nature of the global arms trade and its impact on human security.
The ATT is part of a larger global effort begun in 1997 by Costa Rican President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Óscar Arias. In that year, Arias led a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in a meeting in New York to offer the world a code of conduct for the trade in arms. This group included Elie Wiesel, Betty Williams, the Dalai Lama, José Ramos-Horta, representatives of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Amnesty International, and the American Friends Service Committee. The original idea was to establish ethical standards for the arms trade that would eventually be adopted by the international community. Over the following 16 years, the Arias Foundation for Peace & Human Progress has played an instrumental role in achieving approval of the treaty.
In 2001, the process continued with the adoption of a non-legally binding program of action at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects in 2001. This program was formally called the “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” (PoA).
Later put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates, the ATT was first addressed in the UN in December 2006 when the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”.
The arms trade treaty, like the PoA, is predicated upon a hypothesis that the illicit trade in small arms is a large and serious problem requiring global action through the UN. According to a well regarded 2012 Routledge Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution publication, "the relative importance of diversion or misuse of officially authorised transfers, compared to international entirely illegal black market trafficking has been thoroughly confirmed." The authors go on to elaborate that "For most developing or fragile states, a combination of weak domestic regulation of authorised firearms possession with theft, loss or corrupt sale from official holdings tends to be a bigger source of weapons concern than illicit trafficking across borders."
Development of the treaty
Resolution 61/89 requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, and to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session. 94 States submitted their views, which are contained in the 2007 report A/62/278.
UN Resolution 61/89
On 18 December 2006, UK Ambassador John Duncan formally introduced a resolution requesting the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, speaking on behalf of the co-authors (Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Japan and Kenya). On behalf of the European Union, Finland highlighted the support for the effort when it said, “everyday, everywhere, people are affected by the side effects of irresponsible arms transfers... As there is currently no comprehensive internationally binding instrument available to provide an agreed regulator framework for this activity, the EU welcomes the growing support, in all parts of the world, for an ATT.”
In December 2006, 153 Member States voted in favor of the resolution, numbered 61/89. Twenty-four countries abstained: Bahrain, Belarus, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, UAE, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. The United States voted against the resolution.
Responding to procedural concerns that were not resolved before the final draft of the resolution, the UK said the aim of the initiative was to start a discussion on the feasibility and draft parameters of an Arms Trade Treaty and that "agnostic" states would have a clear opportunity to engage in the process. After the vote, Algeria indicated that the effort must receive broad-based support from states and be based on the principles of the UN Charter.
Group of Governmental Experts
Resolution 61/89 also requested the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts, on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for such a legal instrument, and to transmit the report of the group of experts to the Assembly for consideration at its sixty-third session. On 28 September 2007, the Secretary General appointed a Group of Governmental Experts from the following 28 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States. The group met three times in 2008 and published a final report on the issue
Preparatory Committee and Conference
In 2009, Oscar Arias, then in his second term as President of Costa Rica, introduced the Treaty at the United Nations, saying:
"I return today, as a Rip Van Winkle of the modern era, to see that everything has changed except this. Peace continues to be a step further away. Nuclear and conventional weapons still exist despite the promises. It is up to us to ensure that in twenty years we do not awaken to the same terrors we suffer today. I am not ignorant of the fact that the biggest arms dealers in the world are represented here. But today I do not speak to the arms manufacturers, but rather to the leaders of humanity, who have the responsibility to put principles before profits, and enable the promise of a future in which, finally, we can sleep peacefully."
In that same year, an Open-ended Working Group—open to all States—held two meetings on an arms trade treaty. A total of six sessions of this Group were planned. However, at the end of 2009 the General Assembly of the United Nations decided by resolution A/RES/64/48 to convene a Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2012 "to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms". The decision was influenced by the change in position of the United States (the largest arms producer and only country voting against resolution 61/89), which took place upon a change in leadership from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, on the condition they were "under the rule of consensus decision-making needed to ensure that all countries can be held to standards that will actually improve the global situation."
Adoption of the Treaty
The UN General Assembly of 2 April 2013 (71st Plenary Meeting) adopted the Arms Trade Treaty as a resolution by a 154-to-3 vote with 23 abstentions. North Korea, Iran, and Syria voted in opposition. China and Russia, among the world's leaders in weapon exports, were among the 23 nations that abstained. Cuba, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan also abstained. Armenia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Vietnam did not vote. It was opened for formal signature on 3 June 2013.
The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs claimed the treaty would not: interfere with domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms in its member states; ban the export of any type of weapon; harm the legitimate right to self-defence; or undermine national arms regulation standards already in place.
"The Arms Trade Treaty obligates member states to monitor arms exports and ensure that weapons don't cross existing arms embargoes or end up being used for human-rights abuses, including terrorism. Member states, with the assistance of the U.N., will put into place enforceable, standardized arms import and export regulations (much like those that already exist in the U.S.) and be expected to track the destination of exports to ensure they don't end up in the wrong hands. Ideally, that means limiting the inflow of deadly weapons into places like Syria."
Advocates of the treaty say that it only pertains to international arms trade, and would have no effect on current domestic laws. These advocates point to the UN General Assembly resolution starting the process on the Arms Trade Treaty. The resolution explicitly states that it is “the exclusive right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through constitutional protections on private ownership.”
Opposition to the ATT can be broken down into state opposition and civil society opposition. Over thirty states have objected to various parts of the ATT during negotiations, the majority of which held strong concerns about the implications for national sovereignty. According to armstreaty.org, countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran have objected to many more aspects of the ATT than has the United States.
From a civil society point of view, groups concerned about national sovereignty or individual rights to armed defense have been negative of the ATT. While not fundamentally opposed to an ATT, these groups are keenly sensitive to ensuring an ATT does not undermine national constitutional protections and individual rights. The most vocal and organized civil society groups opposing objectionable aspects to the ATT originated from the United States. These groups include the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and The Heritage Foundation. The NRA and the Gun Owners of America say that the treaty is an attempt to circumvent the Second Amendment and similar guarantees in state constitutions in order to impose domestic gun regulations.
One of the largest sources of civil opposition to the ATT has come from the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which is the lobbying arm of the NRA. In July 2012 ILA stated that:
"Anti-gun treaty proponents continue to mislead the public, claiming the treaty would have no impact on American gun owners. That's a bald-faced lie. For example, the most recent draft treaty includes export/import controls that would require officials in an importing country to collect information on the 'end user' of a firearm, keep the information for 20 years, and provide the information to the country from which the gun was exported. In other words, if you bought a Beretta shotgun, you would be an 'end user' and the U.S. government would have to keep a record of you and notify the Italian government about your purchase. That is gun registration. If the U.S. refuses to implement this data collection on law-abiding American gun owners, other nations might be required to ban the export of firearms to the U.S."
On 12 July 2012, the United States issued a statement condemning the selection of Iran to serve as vice president of the conference. The statement called the move "outrageous" and noted that Iran is under Security Council sanctions for weapons proliferation.
International non-government and human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Oxfam, the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, Saferworld and the International Action Network on Small Arms (who lead the Control Arms Campaign) have developed analysis on what an effective Arms Trade Treaty would look like.
It would ensure that no transfer is permitted if there is substantial risk that it is likely to:
- be used in serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, or acts of genocide or crimes against humanity;
- facilitate terrorist attacks, a pattern of gender-based violence, violent crime or organized crime;
- violate United Nations Charter obligations, including UN arms embargoes;
- be diverted from its stated recipient;
- adversely affect regional security; or
- seriously impair poverty reduction or socioeconomic development.
Loopholes would be minimized. It would include:
- all weapons—including all military, security and police arms, related equipment and ammunition, components, expertise, and production equipment;
- all types of transfer—including import, export, re-export, temporary transfer and transshipment, in the state sanctioned and commercial trade, plus transfers of technology, loans, gifts and aid; and
- all transactions—including those by dealers and brokers, and those providing technical assistance, training, transport, storage, finance and security.
The Amnesty International website "loopholes" include shotguns marketed for deer hunting that are virtually the same as military/police shotguns and rifles marketed for long range target shooting that are virtually the same as military/police sniper rifles. AI advocates that the civilian guns must be included in any workable arms trade controls; otherwise, governments could authorize export/import of sporting guns virtually the same as military/police weapons in function.
It must be workable and enforceable. It must:
- provide guidelines for the treaty's full, clear implementation;
- ensure transparency—including full annual reports of national arms transfers;
- have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance;
- ensure accountability—with provisions for adjudication, dispute settlement and sanctions;
- include a comprehensive framework for international cooperation and assistance.
NGOs are also advocating that the Arms Trade Treaty must reinforce existing responsibilities to assist survivors of armed violence, as well as identify new avenues to address suffering and trauma.
The U.S. NGO Second Amendment Foundation has voiced concern that a multinational treaty limiting the firearms trade might infringe on the constitutional right of private firearm ownership for self-defense in the US and other countries.
Signatories and parties
As of October 2014, 121 states have signed the Treaty and 54 have ratified it. The Treaty will enter into force on 24 December 2014, 90 days after the date of the 50th ratification. Twenty-one states have decided to provisionally apply articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty, pending its entry into force.
|State||Signed||Ratified or acceded||Entry into force|
|Albania||3 June 2013||19 March 2014||24 December 2014|
|Angola||24 September 2013|
|Antigua and Barbuda||3 June 2013||12 August 2013||12 August 2013|
|Argentina||3 June 2013||25 September 2014||24 December 2014|
|Australia||3 June 2013||3 June 2014||24 December 2014|
|Austria||3 June 2013||3 June 2014||3 June 2014|
|Bahamas||3 June 2013||25 September 2014||25 September 2014|
|Bahrain||21 November 2013|
|Bangladesh||26 September 2013|
|Barbados||25 September 2013|
|Belgium||3 June 2013||3 June 2014||24 December 2014|
|Belize||3 June 2013|
|Benin||3 June 2013|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||25 September 2013||25 September 2014||24 December 2014|
|Brazil||3 June 2013|
|Bulgaria||2 July 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Burkina Faso||3 June 2013||3 June 2014||24 December 2014|
|Burundi||3 June 2013|
|Cambodia||18 October 2013|
|Cape Verde||25 September 2013|
|Chad||25 September 2013|
|Chile||3 June 2013|
|Colombia||24 September 2013|
|Comoros||26 September 2013|
|Republic of the Congo||25 September 2013|
|Costa Rica||3 June 2013||25 September 2013||25 September 2013|
|Côte d'Ivoire||3 June 2013|
|Croatia||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Cyprus||3 June 2013|
|Czech Republic||3 June 2013||25 September 2014||24 December 2014|
|Dominica||1 October 2013|
|Denmark||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Djibouti||3 June 2013|
|Dominican Republic||3 June 2013||11 August 2014||24 December 2014|
|El Salvador||5 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Estonia||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Finland||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|France||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Gabon||25 September 2013|
|Georgia||25 September 2014|
|Germany||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Ghana||24 September 2013|
|Greece||3 June 2013|
|Grenada||3 June 2013||21 October 2013||24 December 2014|
|Guatemala||24 June 2013|
|Guinea||29 July 2013||21 October 2014||24 December 2014|
|Guinea-Bissau||26 September 2013|
|Guyana||3 June 2013||4 July 2013||24 December 2014|
|Haiti||21 March 2014|
|Honduras||25 September 2013|
|Hungary||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Iceland||3 June 2013||2 July 2013||2 July 2013|
|Ireland||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Italy||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Jamaica||3 June 2013||3 June 2014||24 December 2014|
|Japan||3 June 2013||9 May 2014||24 December 2014|
|Kiribati||25 September 2013|
|Latvia||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Lesotho||25 September 2013|
|Liberia||4 June 2013|
|Libya||9 July 2013|
|Liechtenstein||3 June 2013|
|Lithuania||3 June 2013|
|Luxembourg||3 June 2013||3 June 2014||24 December 2014|
|Macedonia||25 September 2013||7 March 2014||24 December 2014|
|Malawi||9 January 2014|
|Malaysia||26 September 2013|
|Mali||3 June 2013||3 December 2013||3 December 2013|
|Malta||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Mauritania||3 June 2013|
|Mexico||3 June 2013||25 September 2013||25 September 2013|
|Moldova||10 September 2013|
|Mongolia||24 September 2013|
|Montenegro||3 June 2013||18 August 2014||24 December 2014|
|Mozambique||3 June 2013|
|Namibia||25 September 2014|
|Nauru||25 September 2013|
|Netherlands||3 June 2013|
|New Zealand||3 June 2013||3 September 2014||3 September 2014|
|Niger||24 March 2014|
|Nigeria||12 August 2013||12 August 2013||24 December 2014|
|Norway||3 June 2013||12 February 2014||12 February 2014|
|Palau||3 June 2013|
|Panama||3 June 2013||11 February 2014||24 December 2014|
|Paraguay||19 June 2013|
|Peru||25 September 2013|
|Philippines||24 September 2013|
|Poland||1 July 2013|
|Portugal||3 June 2013||25 September 2014||24 December 2014|
|South Korea||3 June 2013|
|Romania||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|Rwanda||5 June 2013|
|Samoa||25 September 2013||3 June 2014||24 December 2014|
|Senegal||3 June 2013||25 September 2014||24 December 2014|
|Serbia||12 August 2013||12 August 2013|
|Seychelles||3 June 2013|
|Sierra Leone||25 September 2013||12 August 2014||24 December 2014|
|Slovakia||10 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Slovenia||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||24 December 2014|
|South Africa||25 September 2013|
|Spain||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||5 June 2013|
|Saint Lucia||3 June 2013||25 September 2014||24 December 2014|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||3 June 2013||3 June 2014||3 June 2014|
|Suriname||3 June 2013|
|Swaziland||4 September 2013|
|Sweden||3 June 2013||16 June 2014||16 June 2014|
|Switzerland||3 June 2013|
|Togo||3 June 2013|
|Trinidad and Tobago||3 June 2013||25 September 2013||25 September 2013|
|Turkey||2 July 2013|
|Tuvalu||3 June 2013|
|Ukraine||23 September 2014|
|United Arab Emirates||9 July 2013|
|United Kingdom||3 June 2013||2 April 2014||2 April 2014|
|Tanzania||3 June 2013|
|United States||25 September 2013|
|Uruguay||3 June 2013||25 September 2014||24 December 2014|
|Vanuatu||26 July 2013|
|Zambia||25 September 2013|
- Arms industry
- Arms trafficking
- Mine action
- Preparatory Committee for an Arms Trade Treaty
- Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)
- Small arms trade
- United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms
- United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs
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- See http://www.controlarms.org/en
- Loopholes "Can you spot the difference?" demonstrating virtual identity between military/police weapons and sporting arms.
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- This state provisionally applied the treaty as of the date of its ratification or accession; the treaty will formally enter into force for the state on 24 December 2014.
- With an exclusion for the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
- Serbia provisionally applied the treaty as of the date of its signature. The treaty will not formally enter into force for Serbia until it ratifies the treaty.
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