Technology & Trade
Commentary

Ideas into action: An innovative project for effective Arms Trade Treaty implementation

in Program

The international trade in conventional weapons is a multi-billion dollar industry that is subject to a patchwork of national controls and regional agreements. The uncontrolled flow of weapons across borders not only contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries worldwide, but fuels armed conflict, contributes to human suffering, perpetuates human rights abuses, hinders economic development, and undermines the legitimate arms trade. In an effort to mitigate these challenges, the UN General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on April 2, 2013 to promote common standards for the global arms trade in order to reduce the perilous impacts that the irresponsible and unregulated arms trade has societies around the world.

As the first global legally binding treaty to regulate the cross-border trade in conventional weapons, the ATT establishes  normative criteria for all States Parties to apply when making international arms export decisions. The treaty opened for signature in June 2013 and has experienced tremendous support in the year since. Currently, the treaty has 41 of the required 50  ratifications needed for entry into force, which is expected to happen before the end of 2014. States are therefore now preparing for effective treaty implementation.

Since the adoption of the ATT, States, the United Nations, regional organizations, and various civil society organizations have actively undertaken activities to support early signature and ratification, and are now putting in place measures to ensure that the treaty will address the negative impacts of the irresponsible and unregulated arms trade.  The Arms Trade Treaty-Baseline Assessment Project (ATT-BAP) seeks to help States understand the obligations of the ATT and ensure effective implementation of the treaty over the long-term.

The ATT-BAP was developed on the premise that to successfully implement the ATT, each State must first conduct a ‘self-assessment’ of its current arms transfer control system to ensure that it is capable of fulfilling ATT obligations. To support this process, the ATT-BAP developed a Ratification Checklist (available in English) and a Baseline Assessment Survey (available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish). The checklist and survey provide clear guidance on the obligations contained within the ATT, increase understanding of measures that can be taken to ensure that States are in a position to ratify the ATT, contribute towards targeted and coordinated international assistance by providing information to help avoid duplication and ensure that scarce resources are utilized efficiently and effectively, and ultimately support  preparations for ratification and effective implementation of the treaty after entry into force.

The checklist is a self-assessment tool that helps States ensure that their national transfer control systems cover the 12 critical areas defined in the treaty. The survey, a detailed list of the treaty’s key obligations and suggested practices, when completed, will provide a baseline assessment of current national practices.  Completed surveys, which are submitted to ATT-BAP, show areas where States are already implementing the ATT, areas for States to consider for further development, and highlights best practices for regulating arms transfers and combating arms trafficking and diversion. The data acquired through the surveys will help individual Member States better understand the steps they can take to ensure that all treaty obligations are met and will also provide indicators for future assessment of impact of the Treaty on national transfer controls systems. Thirty-one States have already completed and returned their ATT-BAP Surveys.

ATT-BAP uses the answers provided in each survey to create a country profile, which is made publicly available via the ATT-BAP’s online portal (ATT-BAPP), accessible at www.armstrade.info. It is envisaged that this portal will enable States to review how their peers understand key ATT articles and provisions, and promote the sharing of effective practices and measures for regulating arms transfers and addressing diversion and the illicit trade. In addition, the portal provides States with different options for completing the baseline assessment survey, including an online version of the Survey, and allows users to view current implementation practices. The next phase of the portal will include a database function for quantitative analyses and cross-comparisons of national control systems and measures to address diversion. The portal will also 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. The ATT-BAP Portal will enhance donor coordination to ensure that gaps and resources are efficiently matched and avoid duplication and waste.

The Arms Trade Treaty represents a major stepping-stone for the international community in combating irresponsible arms transfers that facilitate armed violence and embolden human rights abuses and humanitarian challenges. The treaty is not an end in itself, but rather represents a foundation from which States can build their own national control systems. In order to achieve this goal, States must be in a position to effectively implement the treaty and integrate its provisions into their national laws and regulations. The ATT-BAP will help with this effort, and will promote effective, efficient and sustainable implementation of the Treaty.

Photo credit: expertinfantry via flickr

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