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19.8.2017 : 9:37 : +0200

Global Focus

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the first international treaty regulating the global arms trade, came into effect on 24 December 2014, 90 days after being ratified by 50 UN member states. The Treaty is a significant addition to the existing arsenal of international and regional efforts to address the problems associated with irresponsible arms transfers and small arms proliferation, 

The United Nations General Assembly voted to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on  Tuesday 2 April 2013, with 154 UN members voting in favour, 3 voting against, and 23 abstaining. The full record of the original vote in the UN General Assembly is available for download (pdf). It was opened for formal signature on 3 June 2013, and it was ratified by the requisite 50 member states by 25 Semptember 2014.

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 on and analysis of international transfer controls governing the export, import, transit, and trans-shipment of small arms, light weapons, and their ammunition from, to, and across national territories. Some recent examples follow:

The publication Arms Trade Treaty: Model Law, co-published with the New Zealand Government, presents model legislative provisions to assist in identifying and translating ATT commitments into national legislation. The model law offers a solid framework to guide Pacific states, and small states in other regions, in implementing the ATT.

A Research Note—'The Arms Trade Treaty: A Step Forward in Small Arms Control?'—explores the relationship between the ATT and other instrumental instruments that regulate small arms, light weapons, and their ammunition. It examines the ATT’s relevance to and potential impact on the existing commitments and emerging norms in the area of small arms control and, specifically, international transfers.

Published in 2012 as a contribution to the ATT discussions, the Small Arms Survey Review (2007–2010): Small Arms Transfers Controls Measures and the Arms Trade Treaty collates chapters that explore international transfer controls and diversion issues, taken from several volumes of the annual Small Arms Survey.  This compilation was circulated to those involved in order to inform the ATT discussions by illustrating some of the strengths and weaknesses in the current export control regime, as well as highlighting 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.

Another Research Note entitled ‘An Arms Trade Treaty: Will it Support or Supplant the PoA?’ examines the relationship between the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons (PoA) and the  ATT and discusses how the two processes relate to and complement each other. It looks at where they overlap;  where synergies and links exist; and where they potentially compete with or contradict one another. 

The Diplomat’s Guide to the UN Small Arms Process was released as a handbook for policy-makers who are new to the small arms disarmament agenda. While it is not meant to serve as a policy tool or as an exhaustive review of the small arms process, this concise manual includes definitions and terminology, a brief history of the small arms process, summaries of key issues, instruments, and measures; and an overview of the roles of various institutions. It includes some discussion of the ATT  (still in progress at the time of publication), and a new updated edition, reflecting recent developments, will be released soon.



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