Background on the ATT

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) process started on 24 July 2006, when Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom presented the draft resolution, entitled “Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.”

This resolution established a group of governmental experts (GGE) that were to investigate the possibility and support of an ATT. After the GGE, an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) was established, in 2008, through a new resolution sponsored by the original 7 countries. The OEWG was to meet in six one-week sessions between 2009 and 2011 to consider where consensus can be found on a prospective treaty.

In 2009, the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/48, which included the decision to convene a United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. (153 yes, 19 abstained, 1 (Zimbabwe) No. The US changed its position under the Obama administration, voting in favour of the negotiating process).

In the lead up to the first ATT negotiations conference in July 2012, four preparatory committees were held were procedural issues were decided upon. One of these procedural rules agreed upon was that the ATT negotiations would adopt decisions and the text by consensus.

During the first negotiation conference no consensus was reach and a report was submitted to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in order for it to decide on how to move forward with the ATT. During the General Assembly’s First Committee in October 2012, a resolution was adopted to set up a second conference.

On 18–29 March 2013, UN member states gather for the second time in New York to negotiate an ATT. The draft treaty text from the first conference served as a base for these negotiations.

The March conference ended with a more refined and stronger final treaty text, but also failed to reach consensus amongst all the UN members’ states. Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Syria objected to the adoption of the text, citing among other things the text’s “imbalance” between weapons importers and exporters.

The text was therefore once again taken to the UNGA, were the text was adopted with a vote of 154 in favor, 3 against, and 23 abstentions.  text of the first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the United Nations in New York. The first ever ATT, prohibits the sale of arms if there is a risk that the weapons could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law.

Reaching Critical Will’s website on the arms trade treaty has all the background information, papers, and primary documents that you need, as well as detailed reporting and analysis from the negotiations.

The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs has an official ATT website with lots of documentation and information about the UN process to negotiate a treaty.

The Control Arms Campaign has information on past and present campaigns to achieve an ATT.

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