Technology & Trade
Commentary

Arms Trade Treaty Reaches Major Milestone

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The first global and legally binding treaty to regulate the cross-border trade in conventional weapons reached a major milestone today as 8 governments ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), activating the countdown to its entry into force. Argentina, Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Senegal, and Uruguay deposited their instruments of ratification at the United Nations in New York, bringing the number of ratifications to 53.  Article 22 of the treaty mandates the ATT enters into force 90 days after its 50th ratification. In addition, Georgia and Namibia signed the treaty this morning, bringing total number of signatories to 121 (Ukraine signed earlier this week) and further underscoring the global support for the treaty. Countries will be able to sign and ratify the treaty until the treaty enters into force – on December 24, 2014 – after which they will be required to accede to the treaty.

The ATT establishes specific criteria that governments will have to apply when making international arms export decisions. The treaty is intended to address the illegal and irresponsible arms trade, which exacerbates armed violence, human rights abuses, and humanitarian law violations. The treaty applies specific standards to the global arms trade and requires governments to incorporate these standards into their national laws and regulations to cover several aspects of the international arms trade – particularly imports, exports, transit/transshipment, and brokering. The treaty establishes these standards to prevent the diversion of arms from the legal to the illicit market and to help mitigate the devastating impacts that the spread of conventional arms has on populations around the world.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the treaty in April 2013 with a vote of 154-3-23. Only Iran, Syria, and North Korea opposed the ATT’s adoption, which was negotiated at the United Nations over seven years.

In the lead up to entry into force, states have begun planning for the development of the infrastructure necessary to manage the treaty. Within the first year following entry into force, states parties can organize the first Conference of States Parties. In this time, states parties will also prepare their first implementation and transfer reports — as required under the treaty — as well as set up the secretariat to support the treaty’s implementation.

The speed at which the ATT reached the milestone of 50 ratifications demonstrates the widespread support for global standards regulating the international arms trade. Today’s milestone is a reason to celebrate, but the work towards a meaningful ATT is really just beginning. Now that the “race to 50” has been concluded, states must continue the momentum to ensure that the treaty is effectively implemented and that its standards are universalized. 

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Photo credit: Ashitakka via flickr

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