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21.6.2018 : 19:45 : +0200

Small Arms Transfer Control Measures and the Arms Trade Treaty

In July 2012, UN member states will meet to negotiate a legally binding international instrument governing the transfer of conventional arms: the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT initiative represents an important and timely step in the global struggle against illicit arms transfers and signifies that the issue of arms transfer controls has risen to the top of the UN agenda.

The Small Arms Survey has conducted extensive research and analysis of international transfer controls governing the export, import, transit, and transshipment of small arms, light weapons, and their ammunition from, to, or across national territory. As a contribution to the ATT discussions, a new volume compiles several chapters from the Small Arms Survey’s flagship publication—the annual Small Arms Survey—that explore international transfer controls and diversion issues.

This compilation, Small Arms Transfer Control Measures and the Arms Trade Treaty: A Small Arms Survey Review (2007–10), will help inform the ATT discussions by illustrating some of the strengths and weaknesses in the current export control regime, as well as highlighting some options for improvement.

In brief, the Survey’s findings are that small arms control is often weakest where the jurisdiction of one state ends and that of another begins. Weapons shipments can be diverted to unauthorized recipients while en route to a declared destination, or even after they reach the intended end user. Diversion is one problem, irresponsible export practices another. Transparency, which can help bolster confidence in national transfer policies, remains patchy worldwide despite some improvements.

Measures serving to prevent and detect the diversion of small arms shipments include end-user certification and verification as well as post-shipment controls designed to assess compliance with export licence conditions. Other elements of effective and responsible transfer control systems include transparent licensing criteria reflecting the state’s international obligations and commitments, the sharing of licensing decisions across government agencies, cooperation among the countries of export, import, and transit, and effective national mechanisms for the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of transfer control violations.

The ATT presents an opportunity to establish clearer guidance on arms export licensing and post-shipment follow-up as well as to improve transparency with respect to export licensing decisions. It is hoped that this volume will serve to help inform the deliberations on this complex issue.


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