The Arms Trade Treaty: A Step Forward in Small Arms Control? (Research Note 30)

Sarah Parker
Research Note

On 2 April 2013 the UN General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an international instrument designed to regulate the transfer of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons. The ATT opens for signature on 3 June 2013, and it will come into effect 90 days after being ratified by 50 UN member states.

The Small Arms Survey has prepared a Research Note, The Arms Trade Treaty: A Step Forward in Small Arms Control?, which explores the relationship between the ATT and other international instruments in this area, including synergies and inconsistencies. It also examines the ATT’s relevance to and potential impact on the existing commitments and emerging norms in the area of small arms control and, specifically, international transfers.

The preamble of the ATT notes the contribution made by three instruments:

  • the Firearms Protocol (the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition);
  • the UN PoA (the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects); and
  • the International Tracing Instrument, or ITI (the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light  Weapons).

The ATT overlaps with these existing instruments in several important ways: it covers some of the same types of arms and some of the same types of transactions and activities. Furthermore, there are overlaps in terms of implementation activities.

In many instances the ATT complements and bolsters existing small arms instruments, but it cannot and should not be viewed as replacing these instruments in their entirety.

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Keywords: ATT controls illicit trafficking