Arms Trade Treaty: Putting an end to unregulated arms trading around the world

13.03.2015 - Article

The Arms Trade Treaty is intended to establish the first-ever internationally applicable standards for trade in conventional armaments. Germany deposited its instrument of ratification with the United Nations on 2 April 2014, one of the first countries to do so.

Up until then, there had been no internationally binding standards for the conventional arms trade. This has had serious consequences for many people around the world. Weapons of war and armaments including small arms and light weapons, have proliferated unchecked, fuelling armed conflict and human rights violations. The Arms Trade Treaty is intended to change all that significantly.

A sculpture entitles “non-violence” in front of the UN headquarters
A sculpture entitles “non-violence” in front of the UN headquarters© United Nations

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) came into force on 24 December 2014, following ratification by more than 50 countries by the end of that September. Germany had already deposited its instrument of ratification for the ATT with the United Nations in New York on 2 April, alongside 16 other EU member states and El Salvador.

All this was preceded by a negotiating process that began in 2006 and involved representatives not only of states but also of non-governmental organisations and industry. The UN General Assembly in New York voted by a large majority on 2 April 2013 to adopt the resolution accepting the text of the Arms Trade Treaty. A hundred and fifty-four countries, including Germany, voted in favour of common standards for the arms trade; only three countries (Iran, North Korea and Syria) voted against and 23 countries abstained. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki‑moon spoke of a “historic achievement” and a “victory for the world’s people”. The treaty was opened for signature on 3 June 2013; Germany was among those countries which signed that same day.

First ever binding rules for arms exports

This treaty is the first to lay down internationally binding rules for arms exports. It covers battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft and attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers as well as small arms and light weapons. When planning to authorise an export, the States Parties must check beforehand whether the weapons in question could be used to “commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights law”.

In signing the ATT so early, swiftly completing the ratification process and provisionally applying Articles 6 and 7, the German Government underscored how important the ATT is to the Federal Republic of Germany. It also helped ensure the treaty’s timely entry into force.

First Conference of State Parties in August 2015

The German Government will also be actively involved in the implementation of the ATT. One milestone in that process will be the first Conference of States Parties, which will be held in Mexico City in August 2015. Germany is moreover calling on other counties to accede to the ATT, with the Federal Government providing support to developing countries in particular as they work to implement it. Germany is backing a range of initiatives to that end – in 2014, for example, providing 1.2 million euros to UNSCAR (UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation) for projects running until 2016 and using its own funds to co-finance EU measures to assist the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Further information:

Current state of signatures and ratifications on the United Nations website

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