About the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

Full text of the Arms Trade Treaty

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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?

There are currently 94 States Parties and a further 41 are signatories.

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 step by step guide (UNODA – 03/06/2013)

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For more information please visit our Resources page.

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