Report from the ATT working group and preparatory meetings

The world is awash in weapons. This observation is, sadly, not by any means a new one but does feel particularly prescient right now. As states and civil society met in Geneva last week for the most recent round of Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) meetings, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published its annual report on military spending. In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, military expenditure reached a record level high of US $2.1 trillion. Some of the main drivers of that growth are owing to military budget increases among states that were already big spenders such as Russia, China, and India, but also to some sizable increases from a small handful of states that had otherwise been quite consistent—Australia, Iran, Japan, and Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the military aid and arms transfers to Ukraine over the last several weeks are occurring at unprecedented levels and being approved by some states at an expedited pace. This is raising questions from some as to how diligently arms transfer risk assessments are being conducted. Others have noted that history has shown us how sending arms to a warring party can contribute to exacerbating and prolonging conflict, and those weapons may fall into illicit circulation during or after the conflict. War profiteering was a central message of activists participating in the #StopLockheedMartin global days of action that occurred from 21-28 April, as the ATT meetings were opening. The website of the organisers notes that “Lockheed Martin’s revenue from arms deals in 2020 was USD $65 billion. It’s an unbelievable amount of money based on an horrific amount of harm to our planet and her peoples.”

​​It was in this context that from 26-29 April the ATT’s three working groups and a preparatory committee (PrepCom) for the Treaty’s upcoming annual conference were convened in a hybrid format from Geneva. Our report provides more information on this and other topics.