Publication: “Looking to the Future of the Arms Trade Treaty”

Katherine Prizeman
FES Perspective, April 2013

After more than one decade of preparations and negotiations, the UN General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in April 2013. The ATT sets important precedents for working towards the goals of prohibiting arms transfers to countries where there is serious risk of violations of human rights and humanitarian law and where arms could potentially thwart peace and security. In addition, the adopted treaty underlines the significance of greater transparency and accountability in global arms trade. However, this publication highlights various shortcomings and loopholes of the ATT. Despite the potential the treaty bears, it remains rather symbolic and normative in meaning. The treaty does not reflect what the majority of states had originally called for, but is, through a consensus-driven process, confined to agreements on the lowest common denominator. More importantly, the adoption of the treaty is not a victory in-and-of-itself, but merely the first step in a long process ranging from ratification, effective work of the Conference of States Parties, to robust implementation. The author emphasizes the importance of securing the rapid entry into force of the ATT and of safeguarding the participation of the largest arms-trading nations. Otherwise, the ATT will stay a rather imperfect treaty failing to counteract the severe consequences of illicit and unregulated arms trade.

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