About the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
Full text of the Arms Trade Treaty
The ground-breaking Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) adopted in April 2013, is the first global treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade. The Treaty creates a new global norm against which states’ practice will be measured, by other states and by international civil society.
How does the ATT regulate the conventional weapons trade?
At the heart of the ATT is the obligation on countries that have joined it to make an assessment of how the weapons they want to transfer will be used. They must determine if the arms would commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious human rights violations. Each state must assess if there is an overriding risk that a proposed arms export to another country will be used for or contribute to serious human rights abuses. If so, those arms must not be sent. This is the key element of the Treaty, found in Articles 6 and 7.
Other parts of the Treaty set out guidelines for states that are importing weapons, and requires importers and exporters to cooperate in sharing information necessary to make the above assessment. It also includes obligations for countries that have weapons transiting through their borders and for brokering activities.
Why is it ground-breaking?
The ATT is the first time that human rights and humanitarian concerns have been so deeply integrated into a global arms control agreement. It introduces a notion of responsibility into the global arms trade that was absent before. While certain regional and national export laws did include these considerations others did not. These gaps are what enabled weapons to fall into the wrong hands or be diverted onto black markets. The ATT has helped to level the playing field and close the loopholes used by arms dealers and unscrupulous governments.
What weapons does it include?
The Treaty covers conventional weapons (meaning not nuclear, chemical or biological). The arms specifically mentioned in the Treaty are battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light weapons. Ammunition, as well as the parts and components that make up weapons systems, also fall under its regulation.
What about illicit trade in weapons?
Bringing the licit trade under control is the first necessary step toward addressing a reduction in the illicit trade. This has always been one of the motivating factors behind the ATT.
When was it adopted and how long did it take?
The ATT is the outcome of over a decade of advocacy and diplomacy. After years of preparation, a UN diplomatic conference was formally convened in July 2012, but fell short of reaching consensus on a final text and another two week-long diplomatic conference was convened in March 2013 to complete work on the treaty. However, Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked consensus on the final treaty text, leading treaty supporters to move it to the UN General Assembly on for approval. On April 2, 2013, the UN General Assembly endorsed the ATT by a vote of 156-3, with 22 abstentions. The treaty opened for signature on June 3, 2013. The ATT requires 50 ratifications before it can enter into force.
Who has joined it?
More than 50% of the world has signed up so far.
97 States have now ratified the ATT, and 38 have signed it. But some regions of the world are underrepresented, and implementation is inconsistent.
We still have a lot of work to do.
Click here to see if your country has joined.
What is the Conference of States Parties?
The Conference of States Parties (CSP) is the annual meeting for states that have joined the Treaty. It is an important place to report on progress made in implementing the Treaty as well as address challenges or concerns.
Read about the previous CSPs here.
How to sign / ratify?
A History of the ATT
The idea of an arms trade treaty first came from Nobel Peace Laureates, supported by civil society organizations worldwide.
In 2003, the Control Arms campaign was launched and has since gathered support for the Arms Trade Treaty from over a million people worldwide.
In 2006, Control Arms handed over a global petition called “Million Faces” to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
In December 2006, 153 governments finally voted at the United Nations to start work on developing a global Arms Trade Treaty. Momentum for the treaty has been building ever since.
In 2009 the UN General Assembly launched a time frame for the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty. This included one preparatory meeting in 2010, two in 2011, and a negotiating conference.
In January 2010, the UN General Assembly decided to convene a Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2012. It also requested the assistance of the Secretary-General in compiling a report containing the views of Member States on the proposed treaty elements and other relevant issues relating to the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.
In July 2012 the Diplomatic Conference on the ATT was held acting as a month-long negotiation for all countries at the United Nations. The conference produced a draft treaty text, but failed to adopt a treaty by consensus after the United States, followed by Russia, and a few other states requested more time.
In November 2012, Member States voted and received a mandate to organize a final UN Conference on the ATT. The vote came on the last day of the UN’s First Committee and was passed with an unprecedented 157 votes in favour, 18 abstentions and 0 votes against.
On 18 – 28 March 2013, the Final Conference took place but it once again failed to produce a successful agreement on a Treaty. However, a large number of Member States moved to take the Treaty to the General Assembly in order to vote on it as quickly as possible.
On 2 April 2013, the Arms Trade Treaty was finally adopted by a vote of 154 in favour, 3 against, and 23 abstentions. It opened for signature on June 3rd, 2013!
On 3 June 2013, the ATT opened for signatures. Sixty-seven countries sign the treaty on the opening day.
On 24 September 2014, only a year and a half after it opened for signatures, the ATT reached the 50 required ratifications and triggered the treaty’s entry into force, thus becoming the fastest growing UN treaty.
On 24 – 27 August 2015 – The First Conference of States Parties was held in Cancun, Mexico On 24 December 2015 – The Arms Trade Treaty entered into force with 61 ratifications and 130 signatures.
On 22 – 26 August 2016 – The Second Conference of States Parties (CSP 2016) of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was held in Geneva, Switzerland.
On 11 – 15 September 2017 – The Third Conference of States Parties (CSP 2017) of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was held in Geneva, Switzerland.