In December 2009 the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 64/48, convening a four-week diplomatic conference to conclude a legally-binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The aim of the Treaty is to determine the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms. The Treaty shall contribute to combat and respectively limit the negative consequences of illicit and irresponsible arms trade on stability, security and human rights. The Treaty shall thus foster sustainable economic and development policies.
Together with its EU partners, Austria has strongly supported the ATT process within the framework of the United Nations. By supporting the ATT process, Austria pursues its traditional commitment to disarmament, arms control as well as to the strengthening of international humanitarian law. Austria advocates a strong ATT, notably with regard to best possible standards, within the context of the United Nations and at European and bilateral level. These standards shall include in particular binding licensing criteria reflecting human rights norms, a universal scope of the Treaty as well as efficient implementation mechanisms.
On 2 April 2013 the UN General Assembly adopted the ATT-text (154 Yes-, 3 No-votes and 23 abstentions). The text was drawn up at a Conference of States Parties which was mandated by the UN General Assembly and held in New York from 18-28 March 2013 presided by the Australian Ambassador for Disarmament, Woolcott. The negotiations were based on a draft text which was presented by the Chairman of the Conference of States Parties in July 2012, Amb. Moritan. The adoption of the ATT-text by the Conference of States Parties by consensus on 28 March 2013 was prevented by Iran, North-Korea and Syria. In the vote in the UN General Assembly China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Egypt and the majority of the Arab States abstained. The Treaty opened for signature on 3 June 2013 in New York and will enter into force with the 50th instrument of ratification deposited with the UN Secretary General. The entry into force is foreseen for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. On the first anniversary of the adoption of the text of the Treaty, on 2 April 2014, 118 States have signed and 31 have ratified the Treaty. For an update on signatures/ratification please refer to the UNODA website.
The adoption of the ATT constitutes a historic success. For the first time international rules for the transfer of conventional arms are being set. Arms exports will be prohibited in cases where there are grave violations of International Humanitarian Law and human rights. For decisions on export applications, parameters such as peace and security, the risk of diversion (including exchange of information on corrupt practices) and gender based violence have to be taken into account. The Treaty contains provisions on transparency; it can be amended by qualified majority.
In line with EU partners and other supporters of the ATT, Austria will interpret the provisions of the Treaty in a spirit of high standards. According to the Austrian view, munitions, parts and components, as well as gifts and loans are covered by the Treaty. Serious violations of human rights will not be weighed against other parameters. The requirement to report will be interpreted in the sense that aggregate data has to be made publicly available. The higher standards followed by Austria and EU partners will not be negatively affected by the ATT.
The First ATT Conference of States Parties (CSP 1) took place from 24 – 27 August 2015 in Cancun/Mexico. 120 States as well as a broad spectrum of international and regional organisations and representatives of civil society and industry participated in the Conference. The CSP 1 followed preceding informal (Berlin, Vienna) and formal (Port of Spain, Geneva) preparatory meetings. 69 States which had deposited their instruments of ratification or accession with the UN Secretary General 90 days before the beginning of the Conference were entitled to participate in decision making.
At the CSP 1 all decisions were taken by consensus. They allow for a smooth functioning of the ATT and include the following:
- Rules of Procedure: The basic principle of consensus can be abandoned in case unanimity cannot be achieved, for matters of substance a 2/3 majority is required. Broad participation by representatives of civil society and industry is ensured.
- Seat of the ATT-Secretariat: Geneva
- Head of the ATT-Secretariat: Mr. Dla Dla (South Africa) for the time being until the Second Conference of States Parties (Mid-2016).
- Financial Rules: Mandatory contributions for Secretariat and the Conferences of States Parties are based on the UN scale of assessments adjusted to the ATT. A maximum threshold (22%) and a minimum threshold (approx. US $ 100) for contributions were adopted.
- Next Conference of States Parties: The Second Conference of States Parties will take place under Nigerian Chairmanship in Geneva (Mid-2016).