Technology & Trade

Diversion and the Arms Trade Treaty

Identifying Good Practice and Opportunities for Progress
A good practice compendium on methods to mitigate arms diversion.

The diversion of conventional arms is a key international security concern, asunregulated weapons can perpetuate and exacerbate conflict and armed violence, facilitate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law —including gender-based violence —and contribute to insecurity and instability. A large proportion of diversions are related to international transfers of such arms. Thus, the prevention of diversion is a significant element of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT establishes common international standards to ensure greater responsibility and transparency in the global arms trade and help prevent diversion posed by irresponsible or poorly regulated transfer decisions. Under Article 11, States Parties are required to take measures to prevent the diversion of conventional arms through specific measures including the mitigation of risks and, if a diversion is detected, to address such diversion.

Part of the Arms Trade Treaty Project


ATT States Parties, through the treaty regime processes, have undertaken several initiatives to address diversion, but much more needs to be done to ensure that effective prevention, risk mitigation, detection, and prosecution strategies are put into place. Because diversion can take a multitude of forms and can occur at any point throughout the arms transfer chain, understanding the evolving risks associated with, and impacts of, irresponsible or poorly regulated arms transfers is essential in developing effective laws, regulations, and administrative procedures to guide prevention and risk mitigation strategies.

Recognizing the importance of comprehensive arms transfer controls to minimize the risks in the conventional arms trade, including the risk of diversion, this paper offers a short good practice compendium on methods to mitigate diversion. This paper draws from extensive existing research on the types of diversion and associated risks throughout the transfer chain and is informed by interviews with government officials and analyses of public ATT reports as well as the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons for insights on States’ practices to prevent, detect, and address weapons diversion. In short, this paper will highlight the key issues related to diversion in the ATT, provide a status update on ATT initiatives, and offer recommendations for next steps on diversion within the ATT context.

This report was produced with the generous support of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland.

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