Technology & Trade

The Arms Trade Treaty-Baseline Assessment Project: Initial Findings and Current State Practice

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In two months the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) — the first global treaty to establish legally binding standards regulating the international trade in conventional arms — will become international law. Governments are now preparing to implement it by ensuring they have the necessary infrastructure in place to meet the treaty’s obligations. For governments like the United States, this is a relatively simple process. But it may be more complicated for others who are now seeking guidance on what resources they may need to fulfill the treaty’s obligations.

The ATT-Baseline Assessment Project (ATT-BAP), launched by Stimson in July 2013, has been working with governments to enable them to identify this type of information and provide clear guidance on the treaty’s provisions. Today, the second ATT-BAP report was released and the interactive database was demonstrated at the United Nations in New York. The report draws on the initial 44 surveys received and highlights current state practice. The findings are particularly useful as thirty of the forty-four respondents are treaty ratifiers and will be expected to implement the treaty by the end of the year. Thus far, the ATT-BAP has catalogued the variety of approaches that states utilize to fulfill their ATT obligations. It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the ATT, but best practices are emerging that can assist governments as they develop their own national control systems.

The ATT prohibits arms transfers under three specific conditions: 1) if the transfer would violate U.N. arms embargoes; 2) if the transfer would violate relevant international agreements to which the country is a party; and 3) if the transfer would be used for the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected, as such, or war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a party.

The survey found that 33 states prohibit transfers under condition (1); 31 governments prohibit transfers under condition (2), and 30 governments prohibit transfers under condition (3). The ATT establishes specific criteria for governments to apply when making international arms export decisions. Nearly three-quarters of respondents to the ATT-BAP survey declared that they always conduct a risk assessment prior to authorizing an arms export.

Completed ATT-BAP surveys are available on the ATT-Baseline Assessment Project Portal ( country profiles. Users can search the portal for the profiles as well as an interactive searchable database to analyze current state practices, as well as examine gaps and needs for effective treaty implementation. The database supports ATT implementation projects, ATT monitoring, identification of capacities needed, and highlights best practices. In short, ATT-BAP assists states in identifying critical gaps and resources needed for effective treaty implementation. It enables the development of implementation assistance projects that are targeted and relevant to the needs of individual governments, and provides a tool for charting the progress of implementation and determining the efficacy of the treaty over time.

As entry into force and the first Conference of States Parties approaches, which will be held within the first year of the treaty’s entry into force, governments have begun thinking about the completion of their first implementation report as required under Article 13 of the treaty. Governments have discussed using the ATT-BAP survey as a model for their first implementation report at a variety of international meetings. ATT implementation reports will foster transparency in global arms regulations and facilitate better monitoring and evaluation of the long-term impacts of the ATT. Thus, ATT-BAP will consult with governments to further develop an initial reporting template, in order to facilitate accurate and consistent reporting on the ATT.

If it is effectively implemented, the ATT will increase global transparency and promote greater accountability for global arms transfers. The ATT provides a clear foundation for states to build their own national control systems. The ATT-BAP will continue to help states identify what they need to do in order to fulfill their obligations. In the future, the portal will include a platform to support targeted matching of needs with relevant and available resources and expertise for capacity-building, legal and legislative assistance, and other measures to effectively implement the treaty. In the months to come, ATT-BAP portal will enhance donor coordination to ensure that gaps and resources are efficiently matched and avoid duplication and waste.

Photo credit: edbrambley via flickr

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