Arms Trade Treaty
Since the early 1990s, an active civil society campaign has been promoting the negotiation of a robust, comprehensive, legally-binding treaty to establish standards and restrictions on the international trade in conventional arms. After a seven year process at the United Nations, the treaty text was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013.
UN process to negotiate an ATT:
- First PrepCom, 12–23 July 2010
- Second PrepCom, 28 February–4 March 2011
- Third PrepCom, 11–15 July 2011
- Fourth PrepCom, 13–17 February 2012
- Negotiating Conference I, 2–27 July 2012
- Negotiating Conference II, 18–29 March 2013
- Signing Ceremony, 3 June 3013
On 24 July 2006, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom presented a draft resolution, entitled "Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." The General Assembly adopted the resolution, which established a group of governmental experts (GGE) in 2008 to examine the feasibility of an ATT and requested member states to (see official documents for the compilations of state views). UNIDIR provided an analysis of these views. The United States was the only government to vote against the resolution.
In September 2007, the UN Secretary-General appointed the GGE, which included experts from 28 countries. The GGE met in three sessions between February and August 2008 and adopted a final report by consensus. The GGE included nearly all major arms exporters, including many of whom had expressed doubts about feasibility of the ATT. Its major recommendation was for further consideration of the issue within the UN in an open and transparent manner on the basis of consensus-meaning through a process including the entire UN membership.
At the 2008 General Assembly, the seven original sponsors of the ATT resolution tabled a new draft text that included a decision to establish an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG). The working group was to be open to all states, to meet in six one-week sessions between 2009 and 2011 to consider where consensus can be found on a prospective treaty. The resolution was adopted as 63/240. Once again, only the United States voted against. Nineteen states abstained, including a number of Arab states, China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. The OEWG adopted its final report in July 2009. For a good analysis and overview of the OEWG process, see Michael Spies, "Towards a negotiating mandate for an arms trade treaty," Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 91, Summer 2009.
In 2009, the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/48, which included a decision to convene a United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, "to sit for four consecutive weeks in 2012 to elaborate a legally-binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms." It established four preparatory committees in 2010 and 2011 to make recommendations to the negotiating conference on the elements necessary for an effective treaty. 153 states voted in favour, 19 abstained, and only Zimbabwe voted against the resolution. The US changed its position under the Obama administration, voting in favour of the negotiating process.
Reaching Critical Will materials and publications
- Arms Trade Treaty Monitor: a daily PDF digest that provides reporting and analysis on the ATT preparatory committees by civil society activists and NGO representatives (subscribe)
- Arms Trade Treaty Monitor: The Blog
- WILPF position paper on the arms trade treaty (pdf)
- Action toolkit on the ATT (pdf)
- WILPF campaign to include gender-based violence in the ATT
- Joint policy paper on gender-based violence (pdf)
- Countries supporting gender-based violence in the ATT by 27 July 2012
- Arms Treaty - a participatory database for Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, by Control Arms and Reaching Critical Will
Control Arms Campaign position papers
- Implementation (June 2011)
- Global Principles (July 2009)
- Scope: Type of Transfers (July 2009)
- Scope: Type of Weapons (July 2009)
- Our Right to Know: Transparent Reporting Under an Arms Trade Treaty (Amnesty International, June 2011)
- Small, but lethal: small arms ammunition and the arms trade treaty (Peace Research Institute Oslo, 2011)
- National Implementation of the Proposed Arms Trade Treaty (Oxfam International, Saferworld, University of Georgia, 2010)
- Applying Sustainable Development to Arms Transfer Decisions (Oxfam International, April 2009)
- Applying Human Rights Standards to Arms Transfer Decisions (Amnesty International, 2008)
- Applying International Humanitarian Law Criteria (International Committee of the Red Cross, May 2007)
Other NGO websites
2011: The arms trade treaty [Report] [Add.1] [Add.2]
2007: Member state views on an ATT [Part I] [Part II] [Add.1] [Add.2] [Add.3] [Add.4] [UNIDIR analysis of the 2007 compilation of views]
First PrepCom papers (July 2010):
Faciliator's Summary on Scope
Faciliator's Summary on Parameters
Faciliator's Summary on Implementation and Application
Chair's Draft Paper on elements, principles, and objectives and goals
Report of the Preparatory Committee, February 2012
Papers from July 2012 negotiating conference:
Chair's paper, 14 July 2011
Chair's paper, 3 July 2012
Main Committee papers from the negotiating conference, July 2012
Draft ATT, 24 July 2012
Draft ATT, 26 July 2012
Report of the Negotiating Conference, 2012
Papers from March 2013 negotiating conference:
President's Non-Paper, 20 March 2013
President's Non-Paper, 22 March 2013
President's Non-Paper, 27 March 2013
Draft decision submitted by the President of the Final Conference, containtaing the final text of the Arms Trade Treaty
General Assembly draft resolution
General Assmebly voting results record
Translations of many of these documents into the official UN languages are available on the UNODA website.
Reaching Critical Will/WILPF, and other organizations are preparing now for how to monitor and support the effective implementation of and compliance with the ATT once the treaty enters into force. In the meantime, the Control Arms Coalition has prepared a set of easy actions to take over the next few months:
- If your government is one of the 79 signers, then send them a letter congratulating them and asking them to ratify as soon as possible. Offer to meet to discuss the ratification process, and any help that can be offered from Control Arms and ATT Legal.
- If your government has not yet signed but voted yes to adopt the treaty write to them requesting that they sign at the High Level Treaty event in September 2013 in New York.
- If your country abstained or did not vote, they can still sign the treaty. Try to arrange a meeting with them to discuss this, and contact the Control Arms Secretariat for lobby points for abstaining governments.
- If your government tells you when they will be signing, please let the Control Arms Secretariat know as soon as possible by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.