The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)


The Arms Trade Treaty is a process that started some times in 2003 with the intension of establishing a convention binding the production, sales and used of arms in the world. The civil society including CAMYOSFOP also played leading roles mobilizing governments and populations, advocating governments and providing content on the nature of the ATT. In Cameroon, CAMYOSFOP led campaigns such as: the Million faces campaign and Parliamentary endorsements to the ATT. In April 2013, the ATT was finally adopted by the member states of the UN and in December 2014 54 member states had ratified the treaty. As such the process of implementation started in December 2014 leading to the first Conference of State Parties (CSP) held in Cancun, Mexico in August 2015. The second CSP has been programmed for Geneva in 2016. The Control Arms Coalition which CAMYOSFOP is a member has been the lead civil society coalition on issues of the ATT.


 What does the Arms Trade Treaty do? (Courtesy of


The ATT is the first international instrument to establish legally binding obligations on States to ensure responsible and effective controls on all types of international transfer of conventional arms, ammunition, parts and components.


The items explicitly named in the Treaty are:

(i) Battle tanks;

(ii) Armoured combat vehicles;

(iii) Large-calibre artillery systems;

(iv) Combat aircraft;

(v) Attack helicopters;

(vi) Warships;

(vii) Missiles and missile launchers;

(viii) Small arms and light weapons;

(ix) Ammunition; and

(x) Parts and Components


However the Treaty goes further, in that it encourages States parties to “apply the provisions of this Treaty to the broadest range of conventional arms”. This reflects widespread practice among arms exporting States of controlling a comprehensive range of military equipment for export. In practice this means that States should apply the Treaty’s provisions to items such as training and transport aircraft, non-combat armored vehicles, anti-tank landmines, hand-grenades, other weaponised explosives and drones, and include them in the national control systems and lists that are required by the ATT.


The ATT includes explicit prohibitions against States authorizing arms transfers under certain

Circumstances, including where there is knowledge that the arms would be used to perpetrate war crimes, genocide, attacks against civilians, and other grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.


Where the prohibitions do not apply, in considering whether or not to authorize an arms export

States must conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and consider possible risk mitigation measures. The assessment explicitly requires States to examine whether there is a risk: of serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law; of contravening conventions relating to terrorism and organized crime (which include corruption); or of facilitating gender-based violence or violence against children.


The Treaty also addresses the risk of diversion of arms, and outlines a number of possible actions that can be taken to address this problem, including denying export authorization. While the diversion controls in the Treaty do not explicitly refer to ammunition – a result of difficult compromises between negotiating parties – most States Parties are expected in practice to apply all the Treaty’s provisions to the full range of conventional arms, ammunition, parts and components in their national control systems.


Another positive element of this Treaty is the requirement that States Parties submit annual reports on international transfers and national implementation activities. The Treaty text also provides for reports to be made publicly available, thereby improving transparency in the global arms trade.


Fifty States must ratify the Treaty before it enters into force, which is widely expected to happen within two to three years. In addition, the Treaty’s amendment provisions increase the likelihood that it will remain relevant into the future. States Parties may introduce amendments six years after the Treaty enters into force and then every three years subsequently. These can be adopted by a three-quarters majority of States Parties. A Conference of States Parties will be established, with a mandate to review implementation by States Parties and define the work of the ATT Secretariat.

The establishment of a trust fund is also mandated to help countries with ratification and implementation responsibilities.


For details about the ATT and CSP, log on