Increasing transparency and oversight of the international arms trade are at the heart of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Under the ATT, States Parties have three reporting obligations. First, States Parties must provide a one-off report that outlines the measures it has undertaken to implement the Treaty; although this has to be updated if new measures are undertaken. Second, States Parties have to make available an annual report on their authorized or actual exports and imports of conventional arms, which could contain the same information as provided to the UN Register. Third, States Parties are encouraged to report on measures they have taken to address the diversion of arms.
The First Conference of States Parties (CSP1) took note of provisional reporting templates for the initial report on measures to implement the ATT and the annual report on arms exports and imports. However, The ATT does not require States Parties to utilize a standardized reporting form. The ATT requires States Parties to provide useful information on implementation of the ATT with regards to arms transfer control systems and responsible transfer decisions. States, international organizations, and civil society will utilize these reports to monitor ATT implementation and better understand how States Parties interpret and understand the treaty’s provisions and obligations. Reports also provide insights into how States have incorporated the ATT into their national systems. They can highlight best practices, lessons learned, and model legislation that other countries can utilize in the development or enhancement of their own national systems. Additionally, reports provide opportunities to match assistance requests with available resources. In these ways, reporting allows for accurate monitoring and assessment of ATT implementation by States and by civil society – and can provide a greater understanding of the global arms trade overall.
States Parties considered the production of reporting templates a useful endeavor to assist with the provision of information on implementation and transfers. Thirty-five States Parties to-date are known to have used the provisional reporting template for their initial report on measures to implement the ATT. A further six States Parties used their completed ATT-BAP Baseline Assessment Survey and France provided a narrative report.
For the annual report – the first of which is due on 31 May 2016 – States Parties may utilize the provisional reporting template or their submission to the UN Register of Conventional Arms (Register), including the separate form for additional information on transfers of small arms and light weapons. It will be important to encourage States Parties to provide information on authorizations and actual exports and imports for all categories required under the ATT, including the number of units transferred, a description of these items transferred and information on the end-user.
The annual report is crucial for getting a global picture of what types of weapons States are importing and exporting. The annual report will therefore go a long way in helping identify trends in the global arms trade, if the reports are made public and States are comprehensive in the provision of information.
In the very near future – potentially at the Second Conference of States Parties (CSP2) in August – States Parties will need to consider how to best ensure universal reporting. CSP2 will also be asked to decide if the adoption of reporting templates is the best approach for achieving this goal. States Parties also need to consider whether to develop a reporting template for the voluntary report on diversion, which could help to improve accountability and mitigate potentially harmful arms transfers. Comprehensive reporting will lead to increased transparency of the systems governing arms transfers and how the provisions of the Treaty are applied to international arms transfers. In the end, robust reporting has the opportunity to contribute to greater accountability in the global arms trade and encourage States to undertake more transparent and responsible arms transfers.