Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

The Arms Trade Treaty was developed to regulate the conventional arms industry. It addresses a lack of global regulations governing conventional arms, particularly for civilians who live in areas of conflict. According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, it will not “interfere with domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms in Member States; ban the export of any type of weapon; harm States’ legitimate right to self-defence; or undermine national arms regulation standards already in place” (UN News Centre, 2013). Once ratified, the treaty will regulate states’ actions concerning the sale and transfer of conventional weapons.[i]


The scope of the Arms Trade Treaty specifically covers conventional arms (see below). It does not regulate the transfer and/or trade in drones, robotic arms, or fully autonomous weapons/Lethal Autonomous Robotics (LARs). As these weapons also pose a severe threat to civilians, efforts are currently being made to regulate/stop their production as well.


The ATT opened for signatures on June 3, 2013. To date, 114 states have signed the treaty. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after 50 states have deposited their instrument of ratification. 50 states have ratified the ATT in 2014. Entry into force: 24 December 2014.[ii] [i]


Goal: The Arms Trade Treaty takes into account that civilians are most affected by the illegal trade in conventional arms. It attempts to regulate and monitor the transfer of conventional arms between states in the hopes of quelling and/or eradicating the illegal arms trade.



Relevent Clauses:[iii]


Article 1: Object and Purpose

§  establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms;

§  prevent and eradicate…illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion; …

§  Contribut[e] to international and regional peace, security and stability;

§  Reduc[e] human suffering;

§  Promot[e] cooperation, transparency and responsible action by States Parties… (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 2).


Article 2: Scope

(a) Battle tanks; (b) Armoured combat vehicles; (c) Large-calibre artillery systems; (d) Combat aircraft; (e) Attack helicopters; (f) Warships; (g) Missiles and missile launchers; and (h) Small arms and light weapons (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 4).

Article 3: Ammunitions/Munitions

Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition/munitions fired, launched or delivered… (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 4).

Article 4: Parts and Components

Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of parts and components where the export is in a form that provides the capability to assemble the conventional arms covered under Article 2… (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 4).

Article 6: Prohibition

States are prohibited from:

… transfer of conventional arms …if the transfer would violate…obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council … under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes.

… transfer of conventional arms …if the transfer would violate…relevant international obligations under international agreements to which it is a Party, in particular those relating to the transfer of, or illicit trafficking in, conventional arms.

…transfer of conventional arms…if it has knowledge…that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 5).

Article 7: Export and Export Assessment

1. …each exporting State Party… shall, in an objective and non-discriminatory manner…assess the potential that the conventional arms or items:

(a) would contribute to or undermine peace and security;

(b) could be used to:

(i) commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law;

(ii) commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights law;

(iii) commit or facilitate an act constituting an offence…relating to terrorism …;


(iv) commit or facilitate an act constituting an offence … relating to transnational          organized crime…

2. …consider whether there are measures that could be undertaken to mitigate risks

4. …take into account the risk of the conventional arms…being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, pp. 5-6).

Article 8: Import

2. …take measures that will allow it to regulate, where necessary, imports under its jurisdiction of conventional arms…

3. …may request information from the exporting State Party concerning any pending or actual export authorizations where the importing State Party is the country of final destination (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 6).

Article 9: Transit or Trans-shipment

…take appropriate measures to regulate… the transit or trans-shipment under its jurisdiction of conventional arms… (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 7).

Article 10: Brokering

…shall take measures…to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms…. Such measures may include requiring brokers to register or obtain written authorization… (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 7).

Article 11: Diversion

1. Each State Party involved in the transfer of conventional arms…shall take measures to prevent their diversion.

2. …shall seek to prevent the diversion of the transfer of conventional arms

4. If a State Party detects a diversion… [they] shall take appropriate measures… to address such diversion. Such measures may include alerting potentially affected States Parties, examining diverted shipments of such conventional arms, and taking follow-up measures through investigation and law enforcement (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 7).

Article 12: Record keeping

1. …shall maintain national records…of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports of the conventional arms…

2. …encouraged to maintain records of conventional arms…transferred to its territory as the final destination or…authorized to transit or trans-ship territory under its jurisdiction

4. Records shall be kept for a minimum of ten years (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 8).

Article 13: Reporting

1. …provide an initial report to the Secretariat of measures undertaken in order to implement this Treaty… (A/CONF.217/2013/L.3, 2013, p. 8).



[i] United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. (n.d.). THE ARMS TRADE TREATY. Retrieved from

[ii] United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. (n.d.).Signature and Ratification: Arms Trade Treaty, Robust Standards for Responsible Tranfers. Retrieved from

[iii] United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. (n.d.). The Arms Trade Treaty (English). Text of the Treaty (Certified True Copy) (pp. 20–38). Retrieved from