Arms Trade Treaty

Since the early 1990s, an active civil society campaign has been promoting the negotiation of a robust, comprehensive, legally-binding treaty to establish standards and restrictions on the international trade in conventional arms. After a seven year process at the United Nations, the treaty text was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013. It entered into force on 24 December 2014. States parties and signatories now meet regularly to assess implementation at Conferences of States Parties (CSPs). 

Negotiation process

Conferences of States Parties

Working groups

Brief history of the UN process to negotiate the ATT

On 24 July 2006, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom presented a draft resolution, entitled "Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." The General Assembly adopted the resolution, which established a group of governmental experts (GGE) in 2008 to examine the feasibility of an ATT and requested member states to submit their views on the treaty to the UN Secretary-General (see official documents for the compilations of state views). UNIDIR provided an analysis of these views. The United States was the only government to vote against the resolution.

In September 2007, the UN Secretary-General appointed the GGE, which included experts from 28 countries. The GGE met in three sessions between February and August 2008 and adopted a final report by consensus. The GGE included nearly all major arms exporters, including many of whom had expressed doubts about feasibility of the ATT. Its major recommendation was for further consideration of the issue within the UN in an open and transparent manner on the basis of consensus-meaning through a process including the entire UN membership.

At the 2008 General Assembly, the seven original sponsors of the ATT resolution tabled a new draft text that included a decision to establish an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG). The working group was to be open to all states, to meet in six one-week sessions between 2009 and 2011 to consider where consensus can be found on a prospective treaty. The resolution was adopted as 63/240. Once again, only the United States voted against. Nineteen states abstained, including a number of Arab states, China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. The OEWG adopted its final report in July 2009. For a good analysis and overview of the OEWG process, see Michael Spies, "Towards a negotiating mandate for an arms trade treaty," Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 91, Summer 2009.

In 2009, the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/48, which included a decision to convene a United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, "to sit for four consecutive weeks in 2012 to elaborate a legally-binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms." It established four preparatory committees in 2010 and 2011 to make recommendations to the negotiating conference on the elements necessary for an effective treaty. 153 states voted in favour, 19 abstained, and only Zimbabwe voted against the resolution. The US changed its position under the Obama administration, voting in favour of the negotiating process.

Official background documents

Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on an ATT, 2008

Report of the Open-Ended Working Group on an ATT, 2009

General Assembly resolutions:
2006: A/RES/61/89
2008: A/RES/63/240
2009: A/RES/64/48
2011: A/RES/66/518
2012: A/C.1/67/L.11

Secretary-General reports:
2011: The arms trade treaty [Report] [Add.1] [Add.2]
2007: Member state views on an ATT [Part I] [Part II] [Add.1] [Add.2] [Add.3] [Add.4] [UNIDIR analysis of the 2007 compilation of views]

First PrepCom papers (July 2010):
Faciliator's Summary on Scope

Faciliator's Summary on Parameters

Faciliator's Summary on Implementation and Application

Chair's Draft Paper on elements, principles, and objectives and goals

Report of the Preparatory Committee, February 2012

Compilation of views on the elements of an arms trade treaty, June 2012

Papers from July 2012  negotiating conference:
Chair's paper, 14 July 2011
Chair's paper
, 3 July 2012
Main Committee papers from the negotiating conference
, July 2012
Draft ATT
, 24 July 2012
Draft ATT, 26 July 2012
Report of the Negotiating Conference
, 2012

Papers from March 2013 negotiating conference:
President's Non-Paper, 20 March 2013

President's Non-Paper, 22 March 2013

President's Non-Paper, 27 March 2013

Draft decision submitted by the President of the Final Conference, containtaing the final text of the Arms Trade Treaty
General Assembly draft resolution
General Assmebly voting results record

Translations of many of these documents into the official UN languages are available on the UNODA website.