Posts Tagged ‘Programme of Action’

Taking Stock of the UN Arms Trade Treaty

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

The Arms Trade Treaty As Gateway Framework For National Small Arms Control And Disarmament

By Jeff Moran | Geneva

(c) Jeff Moran

Image: (c) Jeff Moran

On 20 June Ambassador Roberto Moritán (Argentina), the former President of the 2012 UN ATT Conference and Chairman of the pre-negotiations process, spoke as part of a public briefing on the ATT at the United Nations in Geneva titled “The Arms Trade Treaty: Past, Present, Future.”

Amb. Moritán explained the ATT should not be seen as a static treaty, like others within the traditional arms control and disarmament field.  Instead, he explained that the ATT is best understood as an ongoing process and a framework…dynamic and expandable with amendments and additional protocols perhaps.  Additional protocols were understood to mean distinct treaties negotiated in addition to the ATT.  An example of a disarmament treaty with additional protocols of would be the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Expanding on this theme, Amb. Moritán stated the current “scope,” “parameters,” and “criteria” within the existing treaty “need additional negotiation.”  In particular, he said the scope of the treaty should be expanded over time in light of technological developments, and cited scientific achievements in robotics as one reason for this.  He concluded by stating “the ATT has to lead to negotiations in conventional weapons.  Negotiations of conventional weapons cannot continue to be a taboo in the United, Nations.”

If the ATT is to become a broader framework for ongoing negotiations on conventional arms control and disarmament, it is only a matter of time before the volume of the UN small arms control discussion turns up.  This was hinted at during the follow-on presentation by Sarah Parker of the Small Arms Survey, the UN’s go-to resource for small arms control research and policy development.

Ms. Parker presented a PowerPoint version of a report she published earlier this month called: “The Arms Trade Treaty: A Step Forward in Small Arms Control?”.  She explained in her report that while “the ATT has contributed several missing pieces to the framework of controls governing the international transfer of small arms,” it nonetheless has “provisions that are, in many cases, weaker than existing commitments on small arms transfers agreed more than a decade ago.”  The key takeway: the ATT needs more work with respect to controlling and documenting international small arms transfers at the very least.

But normative developments within the ATT and broader small arms process framework will not likely be limited to controlling and documenting international small arms transfers.  Given the history of the ATT negotiations and the small arms process, restrictions on transfers of small arms to “non-state actors” or “private actors” (diplomatic homonyms that often mean rebel groups, private corporations, or individuals) will probably reappear on the UN agenda through implementation and expansion of the ATT framework.  So might global restrictions in the form of national controls on civilian access or even outright prohibitions on civilian possession of certain types of small arms.

In this direction, a coalition of UN agencies and contracted small arms control advocates have been quietly developing a series International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) since 2008.  Some ISACs were released last year, but the project coordinator reports remaining ones are going to be released this year.  Privately, diplomats and ISACS advocates confirm that these will be “of use” and that many states hope a critical mass of these standards become the basis for future negotiations to amend the ATT.  Amendments to the ATT can be voted on six years after the instrument enters into force, and during meetings of States Parties only every third year thereafter.  Decisions on amendments will not be made by consensus, but through a three-fourths majority vote of States Parties in the room.

Two ISACS are thought to be of particular interest to those seeking to amend the ATT.  The first is ISACS number 03.20, “National Controls Over The International Transfer Of Small Arms And Light Weapons.”  Among other things, 03.20 has a provision that prohibits international transfers to private actors without “end-user certification.”  The second is ISACS number 03.30,“National Controls Over the Access of Civilians to Small Arms and Light Weapons.”  Among other things, 03.30 requires national registration of firearms and owners, prohibitions on civilian  possession of certain weapons Americans can already legally and legitimately possess with additional licensing, and even has language advocating for national home inspections of private gun collections for “safety compliance.”  This second standard was written by Dr. Ed Laurance, who is a former strategic planner for IANSA.  IANSA stands for the International Action Network on Small Arms, which, according to page 3 of its foundation document, is committed to “reducing the availability of weapons to civilians in all societies.”  (More information on draft versions of ISACS 03.30 and 03.20 and other ISACS involving national controls can be found here.)

If the ATT negotiations to date and the 112 signatories to the 2006 Geneva Declaration are any indicator, most if not a three-quarters majority of UN member states would endorse “private actors,” “end-user certification,” and “civilian access” appearing on the UN’s small arms control and disarmament agenda with the ATT.  In fact, Ms. Parker, along with her colleague Markus Wilson, even suggest in their small arms process guide for diplomats that a prohibition on transfers to private or non-state actors and prohibitions on civilian possession would have already become established, if not binding, international norms by now were it not for the singular opposition of the United States during the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which resulted in the politically binding Program of Action (PoA).

Of course, the ATT can and should do much good to help establish badly needed  import/export controls with respect to conventional weapons in States currently lacking them.  The ATT should also and rightly compel appropriate humanitarian criteria into exporting State decision making where such criteria are missing or weak.  But can anybody deny at this point that the ATT is also a giant milestone towards global small arms control and disarmament, toward “reducing the availability of weapons to civilians in all societies?”  The truth is that a legally binding ATT, among other things, can and most likely will be revised and expanded to substantially achieve all that the politically-binding PoA was hoped to achieve but hasn’t, and then some.

At bottom, if the US is already the “gold standard” in terms of export controls and already applies humanitarian criteria in international weapons transfers, why again is it so imperative the US sign the ATT?   Some key diplomats suggest the US signature is necessary to create a symbolic demonstration of communitarian international engagement, and that this would help encourage other key states to do the same.  But if the American payment terms for signing and ratifying the ATT include a balloon payment 6 years from entry into force ultimately requiring a roll-back of American civil arms rights and privileges, perhaps the US ought not sign the treaty after all.  Instead, perhaps the US and other states should focus less on international trade controls and focus more on addressing root causes of armed violence in the developing or fragile states most affected by it, namely, lack of rule of law, weak if not incompetent local governance, and corruption.  Even Sarah Parker has apparently, finally, admitted in the conclusion of her aforementioned report:

“Small arms related problems have less to do with inadequate international transfer controls and more to do with controlling small arms already within their territories.” 

Ms. Parker’s remark is supported by prior research making the stronger point that, in fact, for most countries around the globe, particularly for most developing or fragile states, a combination of deficient domestic regulation of legal firearms possession with theft, and loss or corrupt sale from official inventories is a more serious problem than illicit trafficking across borders.[*]  Though the timing of Ms. Parker’s apparent admission (after the conclusion of the ATT negotiations) may raise certain ethical questions to some, her acknowledgement is nonetheless welcomed by this author in the spirit of it being better late than never.


[*] This author first called attention to the apparent overselling of the ATT’s benefits in this regard in 2012. See at notes 17, 18, and 19, which address research invalidating the overhyped claim by many ATT proponents, including the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, that there was ever and still is a large problem of international trafficking of small arms.  Real scholarship shows, contrary to ATT advocacy campaigning message, that the problem of international trafficking of small arms is actually quite small, and isolated to specific troubled states or sub-regions.  Key source:  Owen Greene and Nicholas Marsh, eds. Small Arms, Crime and Conflict: Global Governance and the Threat of Armed Violence. Routledge: 2012. P. 90-91.

About The Author

Jeff Moran lives in Geneva, Switzerland and is a consultant specializing in the ethical and responsible development  of the international defense, security, and shooting sports industries at TSM Worldwide LLC.  Previously Mr. Moran was a strategic marketing leader for a multi-billion dollar business unit of a public defense & aerospace company and an American military diplomat.  He is currently studying weapons law within the Executive LL.M. Program of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.  Mr. Moran has an Executive Master in International Negotiations and Policymaking from the Graduate Institute of Geneva, an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and a BSFS from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

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UN’s “Outcome document” for the Programme of Action to Prevent Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Document can be seen at:  UN’s “Outcome document” for the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

Original Document Via:  United Nations Review Conference 2012 Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons


United Nations Launches First Small Arms Control “Standards”

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Original Story Via: TheDailyCaller

NEWTOWN, Conn. — In late August, an umbrella organization of 23 separate U.N. agencies known as the Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) adopted the first portion of International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS). The ISACS text is made up of 33 separate modules, some 800 pages in total. So far, eight modules have been adopted as the result of a process begun in the spring.

An Experts Reference Group (ERG), which included a small number of professionals with firearms experience, including Richard Patterson, managing director of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI), provided constructive criticisms on the first draft text of these modules. A second draft, however, revealed that numerous issues identified by the ERG had not been addressed, a fundamental violation of the legitimate standard-setting process.

In response, SAAMI prepared a detailed minority report that Patterson submitted to the ISACS project coordinator covering a range of these issues.

“Sadly, SAAMI is forced to conclude that ISACS has and will continue to fail in the creation of clear and effective guidance because of breaches in standards-setting protocols, and dogmatic adherence to unsubstantiated assumptions, agendas and biases,” Patterson said in a March statement before a U.N. committee working on the matter.

In another statement delivered at an Aug. 29 U.N. conference at the U.N., Patterson described ISACS as “. . . nothing more than a platform for adoption and pseudo-legitimization of the ‘wish lists’ of special interest groups.”

“Advocates of gun control make two fundamental assumptions: First, that more guns will equal more violence and, second, that more gun control will equal less violence. Both of these assumptions are confounded by history and by facts. They are simply not true. Countries with high rates of gun ownership have low rates of violence and countries in which civilian ownership of guns is banned have high rates of violence. Ignoring these facts can cause harm by removing the means by which people protect themselves, their families and their communities — and thereby protect their rights to self-determination.”

Founded in 1926 at the request of the U.S. Federal Government, SAAMI is an association of the nation’s leading manufacturers of sporting firearms, ammunition and components. It publishes voluntary industry standards, coordinates technical data and promotes safe and responsible firearm use. It handles both domestic and international technical and regulatory issues that affect safety and reliability of firearms, ammunition and components. For more information, visit

Canada’s NFA to UN: ‘Self-defense is a natural right’

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Original Story Via:

Canada’s National Firearms Association was the only Canadian pro-firearms group represented during the non-governmental organization presentations at the Second Review Conference of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.  (PoA)

According to NFA President Sheldon Clare, “It was important for the NFA to be present at this conference for four main reasons.  First, the PoA is alive and potentially dangerous – this was a well-attended conference and vigilance is critical.  Second, it was necessary for us to make sure that there was no attempt to make this the Arms Trade Treaty consolation round, or in any way broaden the scope of the PoA.  Third, we needed to make our concerns known about the aims of some to include firearms components and ammunition, and to make it clear that we are speaking out strongly in support of civilian rights of self-defense – the only Canadian organization to do so.   The fourth reason we were there was to use our strong voice to support our friends.”

According to Clare, “The government seems to be headed in the right direction.  I was pleased to hear the concise and clear presentation by Senior Policy Advisor Kim Joslin of the Canadian Delegation which was in strong support of firearms owners.  In particular, Canada supported the US position which opposes including any aspect of components or ammunition being included in the PoA.  Government representatives Habib Massoud and Steve Torino will be attending the second week of the conference.    It was clear to me in listening to the speeches from delegates that it will be difficult to achieve consensus on several aspects of the PoA‘s implementation plan in the two weeks allotted”.

The NFA and other World Forum (WFSA) members, presented to the UN Conference during the NGO session on Wednesday, August 29 and the text of the speech given by NFA President Sheldon Clare is reproduced below:


Madame President, I am Sheldon Clare, President of Canada’s National Firearms Association.

The NFA is Canada’s largest advocacy organization representing the rights of Canadian firearms owners.  Our members are concerned that UN attempts to regulate small arms and light weapons are misdirected and will have an unjustifiably harmful effect upon the ability of free people to have access to firearms and ammunition for perfectly legitimate purposes. The NFA rejects as false that civilian access to small arms is the problem.

Canada’s National Firearms Association (NFA) recommends that controls on small arms and light weapons be limited solely to major crew-served weapon systems possessed or sold by nation states – not individually operated firearms owned or desired to be owned by civilians, also called non-state actors. The rights and property of Canadians, and our firearms businesses engaged in the lawful trade in firearms and ammunition, including surplus firearms and ammunition, must not be subject to UN edict or control.  Quite simply, firearms ownership and use are matters of national sovereignty, civil freedoms, property rights, and are related to national culture.  Also, control of ammunition, including marking beyond caliber, date, and manufacturer would be excessive; it is unreasonable, unnecessary, and fiscally impossible to uniquely mark ammunition.

Small arms in civilian hands allow people to defend themselves from aggression. Self-defense is a natural right of all individuals. This is especially important in the event of unrest and disorder, or in case of state-mandated crimes against humanity. Civilian ownership of arms is an important factor in preventing and limiting the effect of government-encouraged murders such as what occurred in Srebrenica and Rwanda. Disarmed in Srebrenica by UN peacekeepers and in Rwanda by their own government, these people were helpless in the face of organized aggression, especially when in both cases the UN was powerless to provide protection. While governments need to act against terrorism, disarming civilians violates fundamental democratic principles.  Perhaps Governments should deal with unrest by addressing the economic situations, political differences, and human rights issues that contribute to people agitating for change rather than engaging in one size fits all solutions affecting the rights of free people to own and use firearms.
Thank you for your consideration Madame President.”

Clare concluded: “Other matters to be watchful of are the UN International Small Arms Control Standards, (see and what happens with the Arms Trade Treaty talks (ATT) which broke up without consensus in July.  There will need to be a vote at the General Assembly if it is to come back next year, which may not be possible due to the UN’s two year budgetary cycle.  Simply put, there may not be much support to reopen the ATT so soon in the face of no consensus. Nonetheless, strange things happen at the UN and the NFA has been present to protect the civil and property rights of Canadian Firearms Owners.”

UN hits and misses between the illegal arms trade and the right to bear arms

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Original Story Via:  Russian Legal Information Agency

MOSCOW, August 30 – RAPSI, Ingrid Burke. The United Nations is currently hosting its second conference in as many months aimed at regulating illicit arms trafficking. July’s conference strived, albeit unsuccessfully, to reach consensus on a binding international treaty that would regulate the global arms trade as a whole. The conference currently underway aims only to review the progress made by UN member nations individually and the international community as a whole in terms of the implementation of an action plan adopted by consensus in 2001 in order to combat the illegal trade of small arms and light weapons.

Both conferences centered on documents- the first a working document that never earned its wings and the second a binding agreement. Both documents are rooted in concern over the illicit arms trade, but one reached consensus and has entered into force on national, regional, and global levels, and one provoked a heated public controversy that endured beyond the deadline for approval by consensus.

To get into the spirit of things, RAPSI has decided to compare and contrast the documents underlying and the controversies surrounding the two initiatives in an effort to better understand what caused the former to sink and the latter to swim.

The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty

Between 2-27 July, representatives of all 193 member nations gathered at the UN headquarters in New York with the common goal of establishing: “a robust and legally binding arms trade treaty that will have a real impact on the lives of those millions of people suffering from the consequences of armed conflict, repression and armed violence,” in the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Negotiations deteriorated in the last few days of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) conference as competing national interests gave way to stubborn resistance.

A draft of the treaty released shortly before the conference deadline was harshly criticized both by right-to-bear-arms activists and by their human rights/disarmament counterparts. The former took issue with what they perceived to be an overly broad range of arms and activities sought to be regulated. The latter took issue with what they perceived to be an insufficiently comprehensive document that left numerous gaping loopholes.

The document included among the list of arms sought to be regulated: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons. This range of weapons has received criticism from both sides of the advocacy spectrum, for being both too broadly and too narrowly tailored.

The inclusion of small arms and light weapons came under fire by advocacy groups that support the right to bear arms. Speaking to this point, International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR) Executive Director Philip Watson explained to RAPSI during the conference, “We are appalled they deemed it appropriate to place civilian firearms used for self-defense in a treaty with tanks, bombs, and attack helicopters. It is dangerous to include civilian self-defense weapons in such an international treaty that could curtail legitimate use or trade of small civilian weapons.  Personal security and the defense of one’s home and family are values shared across international borders, regardless of an individual’s background or nationality.”

The opposite side of the spectrum was comprised of disarmament and human rights advocacy groups who argued that the list of arms and activities covered was too narrow. Toward this end, Amnesty International [AI] noted in a press release toward the end of the conference that, “Major loopholes in the draft text include ammunition not being subject to tight decision-making controls, an array of weapons, munitions and related equipment not being covered, as well as the treaty only applying to the international trade of conventional arms instead of all international transfers including gifts and aid.”

A similarly concerned Oxfam released a statement by head of its arms control unit Anna Macdonald around the same time urging that “[t]here are more holes in this draft treaty than in a leaky bucket and these must be urgently closed if we are going to stop weapons from flowing into the world`s worst conflict zones.”

As it became clear toward the end of the conference that hope was lost, some viewed the stalemate as the fault of the US. In a widely publicized move, 51 US senators pledged to vote against ratification of the treaty if it failed to protect the constitutional right of US citizens to bear arms. As US ratification of an international treaty requires the approval of two-thirds of the senate, these numbers were sufficient to ensure against US ratification of the bill.

The pledge came in the form of a letter addressed to the Obama administration. A press release issued shortly thereafter by Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi quoted a portion of the letter that urged the Obama administration to break the conference’s required consensus if doing so was necessary to protect the right of US citizens to bear arms. The relevant passage stated:  “As the treaty process continues, we strongly encourage your administration not only to uphold our country’s constitutional protections of civilian firearms ownership, but to ensure – if necessary, by breaking consensus at the July conference – that the treaty will explicitly recognize the legitimacy of lawful activities associated with firearms, including but not limited to the right of self-defense. As members of the United States Senate, we will oppose the ratification of any Arms Trade Treaty that falls short of this standard.”

Later that day, the US State Department (USDOS) issued a statement acknowledging both the failure of the conference to produce tangible results and the refusal of the US to move to accept the treaty in its ultimate form. USDOS spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated, “we do not support a vote in the UNGA on the current text. The illicit trafficking of conventional arms is an important national security concern for the United States. While we sought to conclude this month’s negotiations with a Treaty, more time is a reasonable request for such a complex and critical issue. The current text reflects considerable positive progress, but it needs further review and refinement.”

Some US-based right-to-bear-arms advocacy groups attributed the stalemate to their own grassroots efforts. The most well-known such group, the National Rifle Association (NRA) took personal credit for the failure of the conference to produce results, stating on its website Friday: “The Conference on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has broken down and will not report a draft treaty to the member nations… This is a big victory for American gun owners, and the NRA is being widely credited for killing the [conference.]”

The conference’s launch was drenched with optimism. Prior to the start of negotiations, many lauded the potential of the conference to make the world a safer place through the regulation of the international arms trade. Ban expressed optimism in the face of the daunting task that lay ahead, noting, “It is ambitious, but I believe it is achievable.” During his opening statement, Ban urged the necessity of the conference’s success: “Every day, we at the United Nations see the human toll of an absence of regulations or lax controls on the arms trade.  We see it in the suffering of civilian populations trapped by armed conflict or pervasive crime.  We see it in the killing and wounding of civilians — including children, the most vulnerable of all.  We see it in the massive displacement of people within and across borders.  We see it through grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.”

As negotiations fizzled, he lamented, “The Conference’s inability to conclude its work on this much-awaited ATT, despite years of effort of Member States and civil society from many countries, is a setback.”
The Second UN Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

The conference currently underway has been scheduled to run from 27 August to 7 September. A list of member nations in attendance has not yet been released, but a UN official speaking to RAPSI Thursday confirmed that at least 75-80% of UN states are represented.

The document at issue is the politically binding “Programme of action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects,” (POA) which was adopted by consensus in 2001.

From the start, the UN has made clear its intention to refrain during the course of the conference from restricting firearm ownership rights. A UN press statement explained, “The Review Conference only reviews progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action which was adopted in 2001 to combat the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons… It is not about banning firearms or any other type of small arms or prohibiting people from owning legal weapons.”

The release emphasized the conference’s disinterest in imposing lofty regulations, stating: “Each sovereign State determines its own laws and regulations for the manufacture, sale and possession of firearms by its citizens. The United Nations has no jurisdiction over such matters.”

After denying rumors that the conference would essentially serve as a component part of a broader UN conspiracy—in connection with the Arms Trade Treaty—to prohibit civilian gun ownership, the release reiterated the recent failure of the ATT to come into existence: “The Arms Trade Treaty does not yet exist. It was discussed throughout July 2012 and focused on setting common standards for how States could regulate the international trade of all types of conventional arms. No consensus was achieved on a draft Treaty text. “

This conspiracy theory denial points to a critical difference between the conferences and the documents at their core. The ATT sought to regulate the international trade of all types of conventional arms. The POA sought to eliminate the illicit trade of small arms. The goals of the former were extraordinarily lofty; those of the latter, quite narrow.

The POA was born the successful outcome of a conference similar to that which failed to produce the ATT. UN members came together with the goal of combatting, preventing, and eradicating the small arms trade in July 2001, and reached a consensus on how to do so: by targeted, limited means.

Regardless of where one stands on the right to bear arms, it is worth noting the different reactions elicited from the two texts with similar goals but diametrically opposed scopes.

It should be noted that the POA has been criticized by its own implementation support system for lacking key mechanisms to ensure its implementation. It is possible that the inclusion of such mechanisms would have created obstacles to its approval similar to those faced by the ATT.


Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Original Story Via:

The Second Amendment Foundation today reminded the United Nations that “if women have the right to be protected against violence, then they have the right to protect themselves against violence.”

So spoke SAF’s Director of Operations Julianne Versnel, whose remarks to the U.N. Programme of Action conference were unlike anything many delegates had ever heard before.

The conference is seen as the first step toward rekindling discussions about an on-going process to continue development of a small arms and light weapons treaty, which earlier this summer collapsed when several nations opposed it.

Noting that she had reviewed what has already been written and said about the violence against women as it relates to the Programme of Action, Versnel emphasized that, “I am struck by what is not said.”

“If there is a basic sanctity of a woman’s person,” she observed, “if there is a right to not be a victim of sexual or personal violence, then that right involves the right to defend one’s self.”

Alan Gottlieb, Laura McDonald, Otis McDonald and Julianne Versnel at the 2011 Gun Rights Policy Conference in Chicago, Illinois.

Versnel stressed that any new global gun control initiatives must “do nothing to disarm women who legitimately and rightfully want to defend themselves.”

While international gun prohibitionists have been pushing a civilian disarmament agenda, Versnel’s warnings may open up a new and politically uncomfortable arena. It is impossible to dismiss female victims of violence as “male American gun nuts.”

“The drive for human rights is a force throughout the world,” Versnel stated, “and especially here at the U.N. A woman’s right to be free from violence is a fundamental human right. That fundamental right is to defend one’s self. The report of this conference should state that without reservation.”

The Second Amendment Foundation ( is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control. In addition to the landmark McDonald v. Chicago Supreme Court Case, SAF has previously funded successful firearms-related suits against the cities of Los Angeles; New Haven, CT; New Orleans; Chicago and San Francisco on behalf of American gun owners, a lawsuit against the cities suing gun makers and numerous amicus briefs holding the Second Amendment as an individual right.

UN Arms Trade Treaty: A threat to the 2nd amendment?

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Original Story Via:

Negotiations at a United Nations conference over a proposed Arms Trade Treaty, which would regulate conventional arms sales across borders, ended in July without a report. The talks will likely resume, however, and many are concerned about the treaty’s implications for the Second Amendment. The concern is justified, given the treaty’s goal is weapons control. Its terms are vague and could be used to launch efforts to attack the constitutional right to bear arms.

Foreign treaties are signed by the president and ratification is approved or rejected by the U.S. Senate, thereby bypassing the House of Representatives. The current administration has stated on more than one occasion it believes Congress is an impediment to its policies; thus, attempting gun control by foreign treaty may be considered the path of least resistance, particularly if the treaty specifics do not come to light prior to approval. Once passed, vague treaty terms could be more restrictively defined.

How did we get here? The United Nations process started in 2001. In 2006, the U.N. General Assembly requested opinions on an arms treaty, and the results were published in a 2007 report by the Secretary-General. This was followed by a 2008 report and the establishment of an open-ended working group. In 2009 the General Assembly resolved to convene a conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2012 “to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.”

The initial U.N. conference on the treaty was held July 2-27, 2012. A Review Conference will be held Aug. 27 to Sept. 7, 2012. The supporting resolutions and documents for these conferences reference a “Programme of Action,” but not the points of action themselves. Thus, the original document is critical, and by referencing only the “Programme of Action” the full implications of the treaty language have not been central to the public debate.

The initial goals of the “Programme of Action” were set out in 2001, and subsequent meetings have been held to propose measures to be taken to trace, monitor and control small arms (see page 7 of the hyperlinked document, which is also page 13 of 29 in the pdf file). Among other things, the Programme of Action resolves to “prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” by “strengthening or developing agreed norms and measures at the global, national and regional levels … placing particular emphasis on the regions of the world where conflicts come to an end and where serious problems with the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons have to be dealt with urgently.”

Potential concerns about the process and the language might include:

  1. References to “regions of the world … [with] serious problems with the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of small arms” and the focus on “porous borders” in more recent U.N. documents, lead many to the conclusion the U.S.-Mexico border is a focus of the treaty. Mexico is part of the leadership of the treaty conference.
  2. The treaty resolution is to control the “illicit” trade. That leaves “illicit” open for interpretation, and it is not clear what party or parties will set the interpretation. If the U.N. passed a resolution that the manufacture or ownership of any type of gun (or ammunition) was illegal, then all small weapons could be “illicit.”
  3. If gun (or ammunition) ownership is illicit, the treaty could conceivably justify an international effort to put in place “adequate laws” in the United States as deemed acceptable to the U.N.
  4. If gun ownership was illicit, the treaty would require criminal penalties.
  5. Similar issues arise with the interpretation of “stockpiling.” Could the term be defined as a single weapon? More than three bullets?
  6. The treaty encourages moratoria on weapons.
  7. Treaty implementation encourages the use of regulations and administrative procedures to accomplish the goal, again bypassing the full Congress.

Experience has taught that an idea or policy can be approved or passed, only to have the idea and concept redefined to implement an entirely different outcome that never would have passed the vote in the first place. This U.N. treaty raises the concern that the U.S. may sign away its sovereignty on the gun ownership issue.

One might wonder what this Arms Trade Treaty would look like when implemented. The answer hinges on the interpretation of specific terms mentioned above, such as “illicit” and “stockpiling,” as well as “adequate laws, regulations and procedures,” “legal” and  “destabilizing accumulation.” For one possible outcome, one needs to look no farther than Venezuela. On June 1, 2012, a new Venezuelan gun control law promoted by the administration of President Hugo Chavez went into effect that makes the sale and manufacture of weapons and ammunition illegal and requires all weapons to be registered. Only the military, police and security personnel are permitted to purchase a firearm or ammunition. It is interesting to note that Venezuela’s close ally, Iran, is on the leadership committee for the Arms Trade Treaty.

With mistrust surrounding the recent Fast and Furious scandal, the federal government’s efforts to provide U.S. citizen gun information to foreign governments through eTrace, and a belief Obama administration officials would like to see greater gun control, it is no wonder there is serious concern about the U.N. Arms Control Treaty. The treaty appears to be yet another tactic “under the radar” aimed at the Second Amendment.

As early as last summer, 13 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the president reflecting this concern. On July 26, 2012, a bipartisan group of 51 U. S. Senators sent another letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatening to oppose the treaty if it did not protect America’s constitutional right to bear arms. When the Arms Trade Treaty conference group announced on July 27, 2012, that it had failed to come to an agreement, it cited the changing U.S. position the day before as issue. One could therefore assume the Arms Trade Treaty was a U.S.-led effort that could neither stand without the current administration’s participation, nor without language that might infringe on the American right to bear arms.

Have efforts for gun control slowed?  No. As a separate move toward gun regulation, a Senate amendment was submitted on July 25, 2012, the day before 51 Senators sent a letter to Obama regarding the Arms Trade Treaty. The amendment was submitted for attachment to the Cyber Security Act (S.B. 3414) and would make it illegal to transfer or possess large capacity feeding devices such as gun magazines, belts, feed stripes and drums of more than 10 rounds of ammunition with the exception of .22 caliber rim fire ammunition. As reported in the Congressional Record for July 25, 2012, the amendment has been tabled for the time being.

What will likely happen in current months? A variety of tactics may be at work. U.N. committee members are discussing efforts to bring the proposed report and treaty before the U.N. General Assembly in September.  Mexican representatives have been quoted as saying there will certainly be a treaty in 2012. Western diplomats believe the negotiations will be revived after the election. The State Department has stated the U.S. would support a second round of negotiations next year. Then there may also be continued efforts to attach amendments to legislation that otherwise is deemed vital to the nation.

Joan Neuhaus Schaan is the fellow in homeland security and terrorism at the Baker Institute, and the coordinator of the Texas Security Forum, and serves on the advisory board of the Transborder International Police Association. She has served as the executive director of the Houston-Harris County Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council and on the board of Crime Stoppers of Houston, Inc.

Global gun control treaty may return in the fall at UN

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Original Story Via:

by Dave Workman

Senior Editor

Following a stunning last-minute derailment of the United Nations’ highly-touted international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations, global gun control proponents are expected to bring the issue back again in the fall.

That was the forecast from Julianne Versnel with the Second Amendment Foundation and International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR). She was at the UN when the ATT meltdown occurred, as was Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Both were instrumental in creating IAPCAR, which now has member organizations all over the globe.

The treaty talks essentially imploded in the final 24 hours when ATT proponents did not produce a final draft of their proposed treaty until late in the afternoon of the day prior to a scheduled vote. Another problem was that the document was printed only in English, leaving many delegates from non-English speaking nations in the lurch because they had no document to study.

The US delegation and other delegations simply did not have enough time to study the proposal, and there were problems with it even if they had.

The final draft came barely 48 hours after an initial document was circulated that met with tepid reactions from several delegations including North Korea and Iran. In a press release, Gottlieb called the proposed treaty, “a blatant attempt to negate the recent Second Amendment court victories we’ve had in the United States, and to get around Second Amendment protections.” A coalition of global gun control organizations has been pushing for the most extreme language and tenets in the proposed treaty, and now they are apparently back at the drawing board trying to come up with language that will be acceptable. That group includes International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Oxfam International and Control Arms. The latter group was apparently responsible for a handout depicting their vision of the treaty provisions highlighted in Olympics-style rings, timed with the opening of the summer games in London.

Two of those items were “Arms and Bullets” and “Global Standards Over National Views.” The former alluded to privately owned firearms, and the latter was a veiled but direct threat to the Second Amendment, Gottlieb said.

Various gun rights organizations, including CCRKBA and the National Rifle Association, had been lobbying against this treaty for weeks. If the Obama administration signs it, the document must still be ratified by the US Senate, and after intense lobbying by the National Rifle Association, that doesn’t seem likely.

Now, with the national elections looming, President Barack Obama may be painting himself into an ever-tightening corner with American gun owners, if the treaty comes up again in October as anticipated.

BREAKING NEWS: UN Arms Trade Treaty – Full Proposed Document

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012


The States Parties to this Treaty.

  1. Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  2. Recalling that the charter of the UN promotes the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources;
  3. Reaffirming the obligation of all State Parties to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered, in accordance with the Charter of the UN;
  4. Underlining the need to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade of conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to illegal and unauthorized end use, such as terrorism and organized crime;
  5. Recognizing the legitimate political, security, economic and commercial rights and interests of States in the international trade of conventional arms;
  6. Reaffirming the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems;
  7. Recognizing that development, human rights and peace and security, which are three pillars of the United Nations, are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
  8. Recalling the United Nations Disarmament Commission guidelines on international arms transfers adopted by the General Assembly;
  9. Noting the contribution made by the 2001 UN Programme of Action to preventing combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, as well as the 2001 Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in Firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;
  10. Recognizing the security, social, economic and humanitarian consequences of the illicit trade in and unregulated trade of conventional arms;
  11. Recognizing the challenges faced by victims of armed conflict and their need for adequate care, rehabilitation and social and economic inclusion;
  12. Bearing in mind that the women and children are particularly affected in situations of conflict and armed violence;
  13. Emphasizing that nothing in this treaty prevents States from exercising their right to adopt additional more rigorous measures consistent with the purpose of this Treaty;
  14. Recognizing the legitimate international trade and lawful private ownership and use of conventional arms exclusively for, inter alia, recreational, cultural, historical and sporting activities for States where such ownership and use are permitted or protected by law;
  15. Recognizing the active role that non-governmental organizations and civil society can play in furthering the goals and objectives of this Treaty; and

16. Emphasizing that regulation of the international trade in conventional arms should not

hamper international cooperation and legitimate trade in material, equipment and technology

for peaceful purposes;

Have agreed as follows:


Guided by the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations, States Parties, In promoting the goals and objectives of this Treaty and implementing its provisions, shall act in accordance with the following principles:

  1. The inherent rights of all States to individual or collective self-defense;

2. Settlement of individual disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered;

3. The rights and obligations of States under applicable international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law;

4. The responsibility of all States, in accordance with their respective international obligations, to effectively regulate and control international transfer of conventional arms as well as the primary responsibility of all States to in establishing and implementing their respective national export control systems; and

5. The necessity to implement this Treaty consistently and effectively and in a universal, objective and non-discriminatory manner.


Article 1

Goals and Objectives

Cognizant of the need to prevent and combat the diversion of conventional arms into the illicit market r to unauthorized end users through the improvement of regulation on the international trade in conventional arms,

The goals and objectives of this Treaty are:

–          For States Parties to establish the highest possible common standards for regulating or improving regulation of the international trade in conventional arms;

–          To prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and their diversion to illegal and unauthorized end use;

In order to:

–          Contribute to international and regional peace, security and stability;

–          Avoid that the international trade in conventional arms contributes to human suffering;

–           Promote cooperation, transparency and responsibility of States Parties in the trade in conventional arms, thus building confidence among States Parties,


Article 2

–          A. Covered Items

–          1. This Treaty shall apply to all conventional arms within the following categories:

–          a. Battle Tanks

–          b. Armored combat vehicles

–          c. Large-caliber Artillery systems

–          d. Combat aircraft

–          e. Attack helicopters

–          f. Warships

–          g. Missiles and missile launchers

–          h. Small Arms and Light Weapons

–          2. Each State Party Shall establish and Maintain a national control system to regulate the export of munitions to the extent necessary to ensure that national controls on the export of the conventional arms covered by Paragraph a1 (a)-(h) are not circumvented by the export of munitions for those conventional arms.

–          3. Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of parts and components to the extent necessary to ensure that national controls on the export of the conventional arms covered by Paragraph A1 are not circumvented by the export of parts and components of those items.

–          4. Each State Party shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list that shall include the items that fall within Paragraph 1 above, as defined on a national basis, based on relevant UN instruments at a minimum. Each State Party shall publish its control list to the extent permitted by national law.

–          B. Covered Activities

–          1. This Treaty shall apply to those activities of the international trade in conventional arms covered in paragraph a1 above, and set out in Articles 6-10, hereafter referred to as “transfer.”

–          2. This Treaty shall not apply to the international movement of conventional arms by a State Party or its agents for its armed forces or law enforcement authorities operating outside its national territories, provided they remain under the State Party’s ownership.


Article 3

Prohibited Transfers

  1. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms within the scope of this Treaty if the transfer would violate any obligation under any measure adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes.
  2. A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms within the scope of this Treaty if the transfer would violate its relevant international obligations, under international agreements, to which it is a Party, in particular those relating to the international transfer of, or illicit trafficking in, conventional arms.
  3. A State Party shall not authorize a transfer of conventional arms within the scope of this Treaty for the purpose of facilitating the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, or serious violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention of 1949.


Article 4

National Assessment

  1. Each State Party, in considering whether to authorize an export of conventional arms within the scope of this Treaty, shall, prior to authorization and through national control systems, make an assessment specific to the circumstances of the transfer based on the following criteria:
  2. Whether the proposed export of conventional arms would:
    1. Be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law;
    2. Be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law;
    3. Contribute to peace and security;
    4. Be used to commit or facilitate an act constituting an offense under international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism or transnational organized crime, to which the transferring State is a Party;
  3. In making the assessment, the transferring State Party shall apply the criteria set out in Paragraph 2 consistently and in an objective and non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with the principles set out in this Treaty, taking into account relevant factors, including information provided by the importing State.

4. In assessing the risk pursuant to Paragraph 2, the transferring State Party may also take into consideration the establishment of risk mitigation measures including confidence-building measures and jointly developed programs by the exporting and importing State.

5. If in the view of the authorizing State Party, this assessment, which would include any actions that may be taken in accordance with Paragraph 4, constitutes a substantial risk, the State Party shall not authorize the transfer.


Article 5

Additional Obligations

  1. Each State Party, when authorizing an export, shall consider taking feasible measures, including joint actions with other States involved in the transfer, to avoid the transferred arms:
  2. being diverted to the illicit market;
  3. be used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence or violence against children;
  4. become subject to corrupt practices; or
  5. adversely impact the development of the recipient State.


Article 6

General Implementation

  1. Each State Party shall implement this Treaty in a consistent, objective and non-discriminatory manner in accordance with the goals and objectives of this Treaty;
  2. The implementation of this Treaty shall not prejudice previous or future obligations undertaken with regards to international instruments, provided that those obligations are consistent with the goals and objectives of this Treaty. This Treaty shall not be cited as grounds for voiding contractual obligations under defense cooperation agreements concluded by States Parties to this Treaty.
  3. Each State Party shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures necessary to implement the provisions of this Treaty and designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective, transparent and predictable national control system regulating the transfer of conventional arms;
  4. Each State Party shall establish one or more national contact points to exchange information on matters related to the implementation of this Treaty. A State Party shall notify the Implementation Support Unit (See Article 13) of its national contact point(s) and keep the information updated.
  5. State Parties involved in a transfer of conventional arms shall, in a manner consistent with the principles of this Treaty, take appropriate measures to prevent diversion to the illicit market or to unauthorized end-users.  All State Parties shall cooperate, as appropriate, with the exporting State to that end.
  6. . If a diversion is detected the State or States Parties that made the decision shall verify the State or States Parties that could be affected by such diversion, in particulate those State Parties that are involved in the transfer, without delay.
  7.  Each State Party shall take the appropriate measures, within national laws and regulations, to regulate transfers of conventional arms within the scope of the Treaty.


Article 7


  1. Each State Party shall conduct risk assessments, as detailed in Articles 4 and 5, whether to grant authorizations for the transfer of conventional arms under the scope of this Treaty.  State Parties shall apply Articles 3-5 consistently, taking into account all relevant information, including the nature and potential use of the items to be transferred and the verified end-user in the country of final destination.
  2. Each State Party shall take measures to ensure all authorizations for the export of conventional arms under the scope of the Treaty are detailed and issued prior to the export.  Appropriate and relevant details of the authorization shall be made available to the importing, transit and transshipment State Parties, upon request.


Article 8


  1. Importing State Parties shall take measures to ensure that appropriate and relevant information is provided, upon request, to the exporting State Party to assist the exporting State in its criteria assessment and to assist in verifying end users.
  2. State Parties shall put in place adequate measures that will allow them, where necessary, to monitor and control imports of items covered by the scope of the Treaty.  State Parties shall also adopt appropriate measures to prevent the diversion of imported items to unauthorized end users or to the illicit market.
  3. Importing State Parties may request, where necessary, information from the exporting State Party concerning potential authorizations.


Article 9


  1. Each State Party shall take the appropriate measures, within national laws and regulations, to control brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms within the scope of this Treaty.


Article 10

Transit and Transshipment

  1. Each State Party shall adopt appropriate legislative, administrative or other measures to monitor and control, where necessary and feasible, conventional arms covered by this Treaty that transit or transship through territory under its jurisdiction, consistent with international law with due regard for innocent passage and transit passage;
  2. Importing and exporting States Parties shall cooperate and exchange information, where feasible and upon request, to transit and transshipment States Parties, in order to mitigate the risk of discretion;


Article 11

Reporting, Record Keeping and Transparency

  1. Each State Party shall maintain records in accordance with its national laws and regardless of the items referred to in Article 2, Paragraph A, with regards to conventional arms authorization or exports, and where feasible  of those items transferred to their territory as the final destination, or that are authorized to transit or transship their territory, respectively.
  2. Such records may contain: quantity, value, model/type, authorized arms transfers, arms actually transferred, details of exporting State(s), recipient State(s), and end users as appropriate. Records shall be kept for a minimum of ten years, or consistent with other international commitments applicable to the State Party.
  3. States Parties may report to the Implementation Support Unit on an annual basis any actions taken to address the diversion of conventional arms to the illicit market.
  4. Each State Party shall, within the first year after entry into force of this Treaty for that State Party, provide an initial report to States Parties of relevant activities undertaken in order to implement this Treaty; including inter alia, domestic laws, regulations and administrative measures. States Parties shall report any new activities undertaken in order to implement this Treaty, when appropriate. Reports shall be distributed and made public by the Implementation Support Unit.
  5. Each State Party shall submit annually to the Implementation Support Unit by 31 May a report for the preceding calendar year concerning the authorization or actual transfer of items included in Article 2, Paragraph A1. Reports shall be distributed and made public by the Implementation Support Unit. The report submitted to the Implementation Support Unit may contain the same type of information submitted by the State Party to other relevant UN bodies, including the UN Register of Conventional Arms. Reports will be consistent with national security sensitivities or be commercially sensitive.




  1. Each State Party shall adopt national legislation or other appropriate national measures regulations and policies as may be necessary to implement the obligations of this Treaty.




  1. This Treaty hereby establishes an Implementation Support Unit to assist States Parties in its implementation.
  2. The ISU shall consist of adequate staff, with necessary expertise to ensure the mandate entrusted to it can be effectively undertaken, with the core costs funded by States Parties.
  3. The implementation Support Unit, within a minimized structure and responsible to States Parties, shall undertake the responsibilities assigned to it in this Treaty, inter alia:
    1. Receive distribute reports, on behalf of the Depository, and make them publicly available;
    2. Maintain and Distribute regularly to States Parties the up-to-date list of national contact points;
    3. Facilitate the matching of offers and requests of assistance for Treaty implementation and promote international cooperation as requested;
    4. Facilitate the work of the Conference of States Parties, including making arrangements and providing the necessary service es for meetings under this Treaty; and
    5. Perform other duties as mandated by the Conference of States Parties.




  1. States Parties shall designate national points of contact to act as a liaison on matters relating to the implementation of this Treaty.
  2. States Parties shall cooperate closely with one another, as appropriate, to enhance the implementation of this Treaty consistent with their respective security interests and legal and administrative systems.

States Parties are encouraged to facilitate international cooperation, including the exchange of information on matters of mutual interest regarding the implementation and application of this Treaty in accordance with their national legal system. Such voluntary exchange of information may include, inter alia, information on national implementation measures as well as information on specific exporters, importers and brokers and on any prosecutions brought domestically, consistent with commercial and proprietary protections and domestic laws, regulations and respective legal and administrative systems.

4.   Each State Party is encouraged to maintain consultations and to share information, as appropriate, to support the implementation of this Treaty, including through their national contact points.

5. States Parties shall cooperate to enforce the provisions of this Treaty and combat breaches of this Treaty, including sharing information regarding illicit activities and actors to assist national enforcement and to counter and prevent diversion. States Parties may also exchange information on lessons learned in relation to any aspect of this Treaty, to develop best practices to assist national implementation.

Article 15
International Assistance

  1. In fulfilling the obligation of this Treaty, States Parties may seek, inter alia, legal assistance, legislative assistance, technical assistance, institutional capacity building, material assistance or financial assistance. States, in a position to do so, shall provide such assistance. States Parties may contribute resources to a voluntary trust fund to assist requesting States Parties requiring such assistance to implement the Treaty.
  2. States Parties shall afford one another the widest measure of assistance, consistent with their respective legal and administrative systems, in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings in relation to the violations of the national measures implemented to comply with obligations under of the provisions of this Treaty.
  3. Each State Party may offer or receive assistance, inter alia, through the United Nations international, regional, subregional or national organizations, non-governmental organizations or on a bi-lateral basis. Such assistance may include technical, financial, material and other forms of assistance as needed, upon request.

Article 16
Signature, Ratification, Acceptance, Approval or Accession

  1. This Treaty shall be open for signature on [date] at the United Nations Headquarters in New York by all States and regional integration organizations.
  2. This Treaty is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval of the Signatories.
  3. This Treaty shall be open for accession by any state and regional integration organization that has not signed the Treaty.

4. The instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession shall be deposited with the Depositary.

5. The Depositary shall promptly inform all signatory and acceding States and regional integration organizations of the date of each signature, the date of deposit of each instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession and the date of the entry into force of this Treaty, and of the receipt of notices.

6. “Regional integration organization” shall mean an organization constituted by sovereign States of a given region, to which its Member States have transferred competence in respect of matters governed by this Treaty and which has been duly authorized, in accordance with its internal procedures, to sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to it.

7.  At the time of its ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, a regional integration organization shall declare the extent of its competence with respect to matters governed by this Treaty.  Such organizations shall also inform the Depositary of any relevant modifications in the extent of it competence.

8.  References to “State Parties” in the present Treaty shall apply to such organizations within the limits of their competence.


Article 17

Entry into Force

  1. This Treaty shall enter into force thirty days following the date of the deposit of the sixty-fifth instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval with the Depositary.
  2. For any State or regional integration organization that deposits its instruments of accession subsequent to the entry into force of the Treaty, the Treaty shall enter into force thirty days following the date of deposit of its instruments of accession.
  3. For the purpose of Paragraph 1 and 2 above, any instrument deposited by a regional integration organization shall not be counted as additional to those deposited by Member States of that organization.


Article 18

Withdrawal and Duration

  1. This Treaty shall be of unlimited duration.
  2. Each State Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Convention. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other States Parties from this Convention.  It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other States Parties and to the Depositary.  The instrument of withdrawal shall include a full explanation of the reasons motivating this withdrawal.
  3. A state shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this treaty while it was a party to the Treaty, including any financial obligations, which may have accrued.


Article 19

  1. Each State party, in exercising its national sovereignty, may formulate reservations unless the reservation is incompatible with the object and purpose of this Treaty.


Article 20

  1. At any time after the Treaty’s entry into force, a State Party may propose an amendment to this Treaty.
  2. Any proposed amendment shall be submitted in writing to the Depository, which will then circulate the proposal to all States Parties, not less than 180 days before next meeting of the Conference of States Parties. The amendment shall be considered at the next Conference of States Parties if a majority of States Parties notify the Implementation Support Unit that they support further consideration of the proposal no later than 180 days after its circulation by the Depositary.
  3. Any amendment to this Treaty shall be adopted by consensus, or if consensus is not achieved, by two-thirds of the States Parties present and voting at the Conference of States Parties. The Depositary shall communicate any amendment to all States Parties.
  4. A proposed amendment adopted in accordance with Paragraph 3 of this Article shall enter into force for all States Parties to the Treaty that have accepted it, upon deposit with the Depositary. Thereafter, it shall enter into force for any remaining State Party on the date of deposit of its instrument of accession.


Article 21
Conference of States Parties

  1. The Conference of States Parties shall be convened not later than once a year following the entry into force of this Treaty. The Conference of States Parties shall adopt rules of procedure and rules governing its activities, including the frequency of meetings and rules concerning payment of expenses incurred in carrying out those activities.

The Conference of States Parties shall:
a. Consider and adopt recommendations regarding the implementation of this Treaty, in particular the promotion of its universality; TR

b. Consider amendments to this Treaty;

c. Consider and decide the work and budget of the Implementation Support Unit;

d. Consider the establishment of any subsidiary bodies as may be necessary to improve the functioning of the Treaty;

e. Perform any other function consistent with this Treaty.

3. If circumstances merit, an exceptional meeting of the State Parties may be convened if required and resources allow.


Article 22
Dispute Settlement

  1. States Parties shall consult and cooperate with each other to settle any dispute that may arise with regard to the interpretation or application of this Treaty.
  2. States Parties shall settle any dispute between them concerning the interpretation or application of this Treat though negotiations or other peaceful means of the Parties mutual choice.
  3. States Parties may pursue, by mutual consent, third party arbitration to settle any dispute between them, regarding issues concerning the implementation of this Treaty.


Article 23
Relations with States not party to this Treaty

  1. States Parties shall apply Articles 3-5 to all transfers of conventional arms within the scope of this Treaty to those not party to this Treaty.


Article 24
Relationship with other instruments

  1. States Parties shall have the right to enter into agreements on the trade in conventional arms with regards to the international trade in conventional arms, provided that those agreements are compatible with their obligations under this Treaty and do not undermine the objects and purposes of this Treaty.


Article 25
Depositary and Authentic Texts

  1. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the Depositary of this Treaty.
  2. The original text of this Treaty, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic.



Arms Trade Treaty Risks Increasing the Threat of Armed Terrorism

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Report VIA:  The Heritage Foundation

June 5, 2012

The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will be negotiated at a conference held July 2–27 in New York. The ATT purports to seek, in part, to reduce the ability of terrorists to acquire conventional weapons. But as the U.N. has not defined terrorism, it is at best unclear how the ATT will achieve this aim. Moreover, if the U.N. negotiations follow precedent, the ATT will include a clause that legitimates the supply of arms to terrorists.

Terrorism Frequently Cited as a Reason to Negotiate an ATT

The ATT has never focused exclusively on terrorism, but the U.N. General Assembly and influential U.N. member states have frequently asserted that one reason to negotiate an ATT is to reduce terrorists’ ability to acquire conventional weapons. For example, the most recent substantive resolution in the U.N. General Assembly on the ATT, Resolution 64/48, adopted on January 12, 2010, states that “problems relating to the unregulated trade in conventional weapons…can fuel instability, transnational organized crime and terrorism.” In his April 16, 2012, statement of “Positions for the United States in the Upcoming Arms Trade Treaty Conference,” Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman said that an ATT would “help prevent the acquisition of arms by terrorists and criminals.”

The U.N. Has Never Defined Terrorism

It would, therefore, be logical to assume that the U.N. has a definition of terrorism that will apply in the context of the ATT. But the U.N. has never adopted a definition of terrorism.

In the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “called again for the creation of an international antiterror accord,” which “has been stymied by disagreements over what acts and which groups should be labeled as terroristic.” The Chairman of the U.N. Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force, Robert Orr, noted, “Legally, international law covers almost everything that you would want it to cover…. [but] if someone is accusing someone else of engaging in terrorist activities, there’s no clinical definition of whether they are or not.”[1] The ATT cannot prevent nations from arming terrorists if nations do not agree on who the terrorists are, or on what constitutes terrorism.

U.N. Security Council Has Already Addressed This Question

The U.N.’s inability to define terrorism has not prevented it from taking action in the past. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, passed unanimously on September 28, 2001, in the wake of 9/11, already requires all U.N. members to take wide-ranging actions against terrorism, including “eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists.” The council is supposedly responsible for maintaining international peace and security, and, under Chapter 5 of the U.N. Charter, has the power to back up its resolutions with armed force. The ATT, by contrast, will be based on national implementation and will not fall under Chapter 5. It will have less authority than Resolution 1373, and yet it is supposed to succeed where that resolution has palpably failed.

Relevant U.N. Declarations Regularly Legitimate Terrorism

At best, then, the ATT would have no effect on terrorism. But it could easily increase the risk of armed terrorism. U.N. declarations regularly contain a clause to the effect that the U.N. recognizes:

the right of self-determination of all peoples, taking into account the particular situation of peoples under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, and…the rights of peoples to take legitimate action in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations to realize their inalienable right of self-determination.

This quotation comes from the Chairman’s Draft Paper, the closest equivalent to a draft ATT currently available.[2] But it is also part of many other U.N. declarations. For example, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, produced by the U.N. World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, contains a nearly identical statement.[3] As it is also included in the ATT’s precursor, the 2001 U.N. “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects,” the precedent for its incorporation into the ATT has been clearly established.[4]

Those new to the U.N. system may not realize the meaning of this clause. It was originally intended by African nationalists to refer to the European colonial empires, and by Islamic nations to refer to the Palestinians (“peoples under…foreign occupation”). The African context has faded, but the coded reference to Israel—and to India, because of its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir—has endured. In recent years, the clause has also come to be understood as a reference to the U.S. and allied presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The entire clause, therefore, recognizes the supposed right of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and other terrorist organizations—in the name of pursuing the “inalienable right of self-determination”—to attack Israel, India, the U.S., and its allies.

ATT Risks Becoming a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card for Terrorism’s Backers

An ATT that contains this clause would give any nation that wishes to assist a terrorist organization a “get out of jail free” card. If confronted by the U.S. with the claim that their supply of weapons to terrorists constituted a violation of the ATT, they could simply reply that the ATT had recognized the right of all peoples to realize their self-determination, and that the terrorists in question represented peoples who were engaged in an armed struggle with a nation that did not respect this right. This is why the U.N. has never been able to define terrorism: Too many U.N. member states argue that what the U.S. describes as terrorism is a legitimate struggle for self-determination.

Efforts to define terrorism have been blocked by the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which contains 56 U.N. member states and has successfully prevented the development of any definition that would apply, for example, to the terrorist organizations that attack Israel. The OIC Charter, adopted in 2008, notes that it is dedicated to supporting “the struggle of the Palestinian people, who are presently under foreign occupation.”[5] This is the same phrase that appears regularly in U.N. declarations. Since the ATT is centrally concerned with the transfer of conventional arms, it is particularly important that it does not legitimate the supply of weapons to terrorists. This will be difficult to achieve: The ATT’s supporters want it to be a universal treaty, i.e., one signed and ratified by all U.N. member states, but is unlikely that the OIC members will agree to any ATT that does not include this clause.

What the U.S. Should Do

The U.S. should never sign, and the Senate should never ratify, a treaty containing a clause that legitimates terrorism. In the July negotiations, this should be a red line, and the U.S. should publicly state that it will break consensus on the adoption of the treaty text if any such clause—including one similar to the standard U.N. declaration—appears in it.

The U.S. should also state that an ATT that does not define terrorism cannot hope to have any effect on the ability of terrorists to acquire conventional weapons. It should announce that the only definition of terrorism it can accept is one that is fully compatible with U.S. law, which states that terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”[6] If those who claim to support the ATT in the name of its impact on terrorism cannot accept the need for it to define terrorism, or resist a definition that is compatible with U.S. law, the treaty is not worth negotiating.

Ted R. Bromund, PhD, is Senior Research Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

[1]“U.N. Chief Urges Creation of International Pact Against Terrorism,” Global Security Newswire, September 9, 2011, (accessed June 4, 2012).

[2]“Report of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty,” U.N. General Assembly, March 7, 2012, (accessed June 4, 2012).

[3]“Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,” U.N. General Assembly, July 12, 1993, (accessed June 4, 2012).

[4]“Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects,” United Nations, 2001, (accessed June 4, 2012). For more on the program, see Ted R. Bromund and David Kopel, “As the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty Process Begins, U.N.’s ‘Programme of Action’ on Small Arms Shows Its Dangers,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2969,

[5]Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, “OIC Charter,” March 14, 2008, (accessed June 4, 2012). See also the definition offered by the OIC in 2002, in “Report of the Ad Hoc Committee Established by General Assembly Resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996,” United Nations, 2002.

[6]“Terrorism Definitions,” National Counterterrorism Center, August 27, 2010, (accessed June 4, 2012).