The Arms Trade Treaty and its effects on the ground

Sabina Puig and Léonie van Tongeren
International Catalan Institute for Peace

The recent adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)[1], the first treaty on the global trade in conventional arms, has been hailed as an historic moment. After years of discussions and lobbying, on 2 April the 193-nation UN General Assembly approved the treaty with 154 votes in favour, three against (Iran, Syria and North Korea), and 23 abstentions (including China, Russia, and India).[2]

Sabina Puig and Léonie van Tongeren

With the treaty being opened for signature on 3 June, we like to take a moment to critically examine its provisions and to reflect on the likelihood of this treaty, which seeks to regulate the $70 billion business in conventional arms, really keeping weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers. Is the adopted text strong enough to send out a clear message to arms dealers that their time is up or will they simply see the new treaty as a "paper tiger"? To what extent will the treaty's effectiveness be limited if major arms exporters refuse to sign or ratify it? These and many more questions arise.

This edition of Per la Pau / Peace in Progress, following up on a previous edition on Negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty, therefore shifts the attention to the actual effects that the ATT, once entered into force, will have on the ground. We have asked Nicholas Marsh, research fellow at PRIO, to comment on the strengths of the ATT and Barnaby Pace, researcher specialising in corruption and the arms trade, to highlight some of its shortcomings. Sharing her experiences as an arms trafficking investigator, Kathi Lynn Austin, founder and executive director of the Conflict Awareness Project, provides us with "Seven Golden Rules" to ensure the ATT's life-saving potential. Next, Sarah Parker, senior researcher at Small Arms Survey, explores the relationship between the ATT and the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Furthermore, with efforts now going towards securing the 50 ratifications necessary to bring the ATT into force worldwide, Roy Isbister and Kloé Tricot O'Farrell of Saferworld set out which lessons learned from the way in which NGOs contributed to the ATT success should be taken into account in the context of the ongoing campaign for signature, ratification and implementation, as well as other international campaigns.

As always, this edition of Per la Pau / Peace in Progress also includes a list of useful sources to learn more about on the ATT, an Interview, with Jordi Armadans, director of FundiPau as well as the section Platform, with reflections by Richard Moyes (Article 36) on a new campaign focused on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Gerardo Ríos (Amnesty International, Spain) on human rights abuses by Shell in the Niger Delta, and Ricard González (journalist / political scientist) on the potential for a solution to the Palestinian conflict during Obama's second term. 

ICIP would like to thank all authors for their contributions to this edition of Per la Pau / Peace in Progress.

[1] UN doc. A/RES/67/234 B. The full text of the treaty can be found at:

[2] Due to a confusion regarding the vote by Angola (it was recorded as having abstained, though it had attempted to vote yes) other sources say the actual vote was 155-3-22.