Tobias Vestner Presents Study on Arms Trade Treaty Implementation

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Tobias Vestner Presents Study on Arms Trade Treaty Implementation

Four years after the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), how do states parties implement its core provisions regarding the authorization of arms transfers?

13 May 2019

Tobias Vestner Presents Study on Arms Trade Treaty Implementation

Four years after the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), how do states parties implement its core provisions regarding the authorization of arms transfers?

On 2 April 2019, Tobias Vestner, Head of Security and Law Programme, was invited by the ATT Working Group on Effective Treaty Implementation (WGETI) to present the findings of the study “Prohibitions and Export Assessment: Tracking Implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty” published under the Geneva Paper Research Series in March 2019. Rather than looking at what transfer decisions states are taking, the study examines how states implement Articles 6 and 7 of the ATT regarding prohibitions and export assessments by national legislation, policies and practice.

Tobias Vestner notes that ATT states parties generally implement the ATT’s prohibitions set forth in Article 6 through national laws and policies. In addition, exporting states implement the ATT’s obligations regarding export assessment contained in Article 7 ATT in many ways. While the spectrum of how exporting states parties consider an arms exports’ potential effect on peace and security is very broad, their national frameworks contain similar or nearly identical export criteria on assessing the risk of arms being used for serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Few states parties have national export criteria regarding terrorism, transnational organized crime and gender-based violence. He adds that states also consider national criteria other than those specified in Article 7 before authorizing arms exports, including positive consequences of arms exports. Finally, he concludes that states parties’ national frameworks mostly do not define clear thresholds for denying arms exports.

Given this divergence in states party implementation, in addition to a remaining lack of clarity on how states apply the ATT provisions in practice, Tobias Vestner recommends reinforcing dialogue on ATT implementation. This could lead to better understanding and implementation guidance that strengthens the emergence of common standards and improves the quality of national export assessments.