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IHS Analysis - The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade Treaty

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Following the international community's failure to reach an agreement on an international arms trade treaty earlier this year IHS examines the possible next steps for the United Nations as it attempts …

Following the international community's failure to reach an agreement on an international arms trade treaty earlier this year IHS examines the possible next steps for the United Nations as it attempts to negotiate a text that will satisfy all parties.

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  • 1. IHS Jane’sAnalysis: The uncertain future ofthe Arms Trade TreatyOctober 2012 ihs.comIntroduction KEY POINTSAmid ongoing concerns about the spread of weapons of The global trade in small arms is often overlooked in comparison tomass destruction, the issue of small-arms proliferation is more high-profile proliferation issues such as weapons of masssometimes overshadowed, despite the immediate and destruction.widespread security issues it creates. Momentum has grown behind the establishment of an internationalIn an effort to rectify this situation, a number of arms trade treaty, culminating in a summit in July 2012 aimed atgovernments, and an even greater number of non- negotiating such a deal.governmental organisations, met on 2-27 July 2012 with Conflicting views on what the treaty should achieve meant that nothe objective of negotiating a new Arms Trade Treaty. This formal agreement was reached, and uncertainty remains overtreaty was not to restrict or control particular types of exactly what form a future treaty could take and whether it canconventional weapons, but instead to set standards for overcome a number of challenges.when producers of conventional arms would sell orotherwise transfer such arms to other states, and for many work, the participating governments failed to reachparticipants, to restrict or prohibit the supply of consensus (as required by their terms of reference) on aconventional weapons to actors other than legitimate new treaty. However, they did produce a significant draftgovernments. text, albeit one with a number of flaws. Understanding the different views about what needed to be accomplished,At the end of an intensive four-week negotiating and why the July negotiations did not produce the requiredconference, preceded by several years of preparatory© 2012 IHS 1 ihs.com
  • 2. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade Treatyresult, illustrates the complexities of the process that led to Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods andnegotiations. Technologies – was to promote “transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms” to “preventSales restrictions destabilising accumulations” and to contribute to regionalEfforts to control the “export” or transfer of weapons to and international security and stability.outsiders (“foreigners”) are about as old as organised How much the Wassenaar Arrangement has succeeded insociety. So are efforts to profit by the transfer of such this is arguable, with perhaps its greatest significanceweapons to others. Throughout most of history, the being that a group of major arms exporters agreed onprinciples of such efforts have been relatively simple: to shared restrictions on their respective arms exports. Yet,keep weapons, or at least the best weapons, from even as the Wassenaar Arrangement was setting about itsadversaries; to use weapon transfers to build and work, the international arms trade was growing andstrengthen alliances; and to profit from the sale of evolving.weapons to foreigners when possible. Trading armsOver time, efforts to restrict the transfer of sophisticatedweapons extended to key technologies or even raw Although it tends to be conflated in the internationalmaterials, with the primary motive being to prevent media, or even among export control specialists, there isadversaries from gaining military advantage. In some not really a single international arms trade. Rather, therecases another motive was to maintain economic are several, which are analytically separable, despite theircompetitive advantage. However, the common element for inter-relationships.these historical efforts is “us versus them” – maintainingan advantage, whether military or economic. The predominant trade is undertaken by major arms manufacturers. A closely related but separate sector is theA gradual evolution from this “us versus them” paradigm manufacturers of military small-arms and light weaponsstarted in the late 20th century. Following the dissolution (SALW), primarily assault rifles and semi-automaticof the Soviet Union, a number of former adversaries – pistols, with some companies specialising in crew-servedcurrently comprising 41 states – sought to create a new weapons, such as heavy machine-guns, mortars, andmultilateral export control regime to deal with conventional small tactical missiles (anti-tank missiles or man-portableweapons and related dual-use items and technologies. air-defence systems). Then there is the used equipmentThe shared objective of the members of the new group – market, which consists of merchants and brokers whothe Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for© 2012 IHS 2 ihs.com
  • 3. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade Treatytrade in weapons that have been classed as “surplus” by France (USD1.7 billion), Italy (USD1.7 billion), Germanythe original military, seized during a conflict, or stolen. (USD1.6 billion), and China (USD1.3 billion). As would be expected, the arms trade among these major exporters isStatistics on the arms trade also require some deeper very small: the vast majority of their exports are to otherexplanation. The most frequently reported statistics are for countries.contracts signed during the previous year, primarilybetween a purchasing government and either a foreign Data on legitimate exports of SALW are less widelymanufacturer or a foreign government that is directly collected and recorded than data on major militaryinvolved in the transaction (that is, not just licensing the systems (such as combat aircraft and main battle tanks),transfer, but acting as an agent or intermediary). For and the major players in this sector include manypurchases of major weapons systems by national countries who have little involvement in the major systemsgovernments, these are the most useful statistics. They trade. Data published by the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-are also useful for a country’s armed forces’ purchases of based independent research project, indicate thatSALW. These statistics also reflect transfers of surplus countries exporting more than USD100 million annuallyequipment from a major power to a smaller ally. during the period 2001-2007 include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada,Data on the major suppliers of sophisticated and major Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the US.weapons systems are routinely published, but sometimes The Survey lists another 36 countries as exporting at leastin terms of arms deliveries and sometimes in terms of USD10 million annually during this period. While this listarms transfer agreements concluded. These different includes all the largest exporters of major weaponsmetrics produce similar (but not identical) pictures in terms systems, it is notable how many countries are substantialof rankings, but different pictures in terms of magnitude. exporters of SALW, and how relatively flat the exportAs arms agreements can sometimes be more aspirational market is.than realistic, it is more useful to look at deliveries data.According to a recently published report by the United Data on the import side of the market is less readilyStates Congressional Research Service (probably the available, and heavily skewed towards those countriesmost methodologically transparent data available), in 2011 that report this information, either as arms imports or inthe US was the largest exporter of arms, delivering their customs data. The largest importers (more thanUSD16.2 billion, or 36.5%, of the USD44.3 billion-worth of USD100 million per year) appear to be Canada, France,global arms deliveries. Following the US were Russia Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the US. Anecdotal data(USD8.7 billion), the United Kingdom (USD3.0 billion),© 2012 IHS 3 ihs.com
  • 4. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade Treatyindicates that a number of countries in the Middle East, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council toAfrica, and Latin America are also major importers. announce, in 1991, the Guidelines for Conventional Arms Transfers and the establishment of a UN Register ofAnother sector of the market involves private merchants Conventional Arms.who purchase surplus equipment – sometimes including(usually “de-militarised”) vehicles and weapons from one Voluntary reporting to the Register of arms transfers inmilitary and selling them to another buyer. Some of this seven weapons categories was a first, small step. Theactivity is entirely legal and properly licensed, but this reporting categories included all major weapons systems,sector can also blend into the grey and black arms but did not include SALW. The transparency of voluntarymarkets. The most high-profile example of such illegal reporting was intended to prevent “excessive andactivity is the case of Viktor Bout, who was sentenced to destabilizing arms buildups” that posed a “threat to25 years in prison by a US court in April 2012 after being national, regional and international peace and security,found guilty of conspiracy to kill US citizens and officials, particularly by aggravating tensions and conflictdelivering anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist situations”.organisation. He developed his business by selling poorlysecured Soviet-era military equipment to a number of Transparency has value, but clearly governments will notregimes in conflict-ridden countries, such as Liberia and report transfers that would attract negative attention.the Democratic Republic of Congo. The value of trade in Even as Wassenaar and the UN Register were being setthis sector is another step below the “official”, state-to- up, the international arms trade was changing. In thestate SALW trade, but is the main source of weapons states of the former Soviet Union, military equipment wasused in civil wars and other conflicts in the developing becoming a commodity. Arms and equipment were soldworld. While much of the international attention to the for food, medicine, financial gain, or were simply stolen.global arms trade focuses on the wider trade described Black and grey arms trafficking blossomed during thisabove, it is the trafficking in this grey sector that is period.responsible for the violence that is the focus of manyopponents of the global arms trade. Controlling the trade These black market arms merchants specialised in SALW,in this sector has proven even more intractable. although they would supply whatever the customer sought and could pay for. Civil conflict in Africa, and politicalTaking control insurgents and drug cartels in Latin America, providedFollowing the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the arms exports that ready markets for weapons, and especially SALW.had built the Iraqi military prior to its invasion of Kuwait led© 2012 IHS 4 ihs.com
  • 5. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade TreatyIn response to the problem, in 1997 former Costa Rican which in 2009 became an Open-Ended Working Group.president Oscar Árias led a group of Nobel laureates in Throughout this process the US stated its opposition,calling for an International Code of Conduct on Arms arguing that to be effective an arms trade treaty must beTransfers to govern arms transfers. The proposed code, ratified by all major arms exporters, and many would joinwhich in some respects had more the form of a draft treaty the arrangement only if the treaty were so weak as tothan a voluntary instrument, stipulated that any country have little substance. Then, in October 2009, USwishing to purchase arms must meet certain criteria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a reversal ofincluding the promotion of democracy, the protection of this position. The UN General Assembly promptly passedhuman rights, and transparency in military spending. It a new resolution changing the Open-Ended Workingwould also prohibit arms sales to countries that support Group into a series of preparatory committee meetings toterrorism and to states that are engaged in aggression do the final groundwork for a four-week negotiationagainst other states or peoples. This call was gradually summit.taken up by a number of non-governmental organisations(NGOs), which collectively formed a coalition to advocate In the fourth week, the conference president, UNfor an Arms Trade Treaty. ambassador Roberto Moritán of Argentina, circulated a draft reflecting the work of two working groups and hisIn 2001, the first UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in own consultations. Discussions among delegationsSmall Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects met and indicated that while few felt the product was what they hadestablished the UN Programme of Action (PoA) to come hoping to achieve, a majority of participatingPrevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small governments supported the adoption of this text as theArms and Light Weapons. The UN PoA is voluntary and treaty. The NGOs that had long worked to get theseobliges participating states to take specific actions to negotiations, but which found serious deficiencies in thecontrol export, import, and domestic stocks of SALW, and president’s draft, nonetheless lent their support to adopt itto support international actions to this end. as a treaty.Towards a Treaty Other states judged the text seriously flawed, although for varying and often contradictory reasons. The last questionWith international momentum gathering towards for the conference would be whether there was theagreement on an International Arms Trade Treaty, the UN consensus required by the terms of reference to adopt thisGeneral Assembly met in December 2006 and adopted a text and open it for signature and ratification. Some statesresolution titled Towards an Arms Trade Treaty. This led did not support the text and appeared ready to breakto the formation of a Group of Governmental Experts,© 2012 IHS 5 ihs.com
  • 6. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade Treatyconsensus, but as the second state to break consensus, already voluntary reporting of transfers), and it was addednot the first. to the internal Wassenaar Arrangement reporting after a long debate. Given that many African and Latin AmericanOn the last day, the US emphasised that it wanted to join states had come specifically to control SALW, this was anconsensus and was aiming for a treaty the US Senate important step.would ratify. The US statement identified specificprovisions where the draft text was inadequate, and called Many of those governments, and the NGOs, had alsofor further negotiations. Russia also called for further sought a ninth category to be included – ammunition. Thisnegotiations. The conference president had not yet called met strong opposition from many arms exporters. Thefor consensus, but the question had been decided. compromise provided that ammunition exports should be evaluated using the same criteria as arms, somethingMore than 90 states responded by jointly stating that they many, but by no means all, arms exporters already do.were prepared to adopt the draft text as it stood, andexpressing frustration at the outcome. The NGO CRP.1 also establishes criteria for evaluating a proposedcommunity also expressed frustration and offered strong arms transfer to determine whether to authorise it or denysupport for the draft text, even though it did not include it. This includes whether the exported arms could be usedprovisions they had previously identified as key to a to commit or facilitate serious violation of internationalsuccessful treaty. humanitarian law, international human rights law, or a “terror offense”. States are also to consider whether theLimited progress export might be diverted from authorised use and to takeDespite the frustration expressed in New York, the draft “appropriate measures” to prevent diversion to the illicittext (officially termed A/CONF.217/CRP.1, or simply market or for unauthorised end use. However, theseCRP.1) was not the feared lowest common denominator, stipulations are tempered by the fact that it “shall notbut neither was it as robust and comprehensive as many prejudice” a state’s obligations under “other instruments”had desired. or be grounds for voiding contractual obligations under “defence co-operation agreements”. These criteria fall farThe draft makes some important advances on previous short of those in, for example, the EU’s Code of Conductinternational efforts, such as including SALW as an eighth on arms exports.category of arms transfer. SALW had been added as aneighth reporting category for the UN Register only by Additionally, CRP.1 calls for measures to regulate transitmaking it voluntary (that is, more voluntary than the and transshipment of arms, but does not indicate what characteristics such regulations should have. For© 2012 IHS 6 ihs.com
  • 7. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade Treatyinstance, it does not outline to what degree a transit or July 2012 conference completed its mandate, so antransshipment state has the right, much less obligation, to entirely new conference would be technically necessary,judge the appropriateness of a transfer. While states are but the resolution could easily mandate that the newrequired to keep records of transfers authorised over the conference pick up working on CRP.1, as suggested byprevious 10 years, making such records public is not the US and Russia.addressed. Voluntary reporting to the UN Register may bedeemed to be adequate. The seven original sponsors (or others) might instead propose that the UN General Assembly formally adoptAs is increasingly common in multilateral treaties, CRP.1 CRP.1 as the Arms Trade Treaty and open it for signaturewould establish a staff, separate from the UN Secretariat, and ratification. As the US and Russia have said thatto assist with implementation. How this staff would have CRP.1 is not acceptable in its current form, this wouldeither the competence or the resources to provide such represent a decision to proceed without the world’s twoassistance is not addressed. Finally, verification is not largest arms exporters, together accounting for aroundaddressed or plausible, as this is a treaty to regulate 45% of global arms deliveries in 2011. As some othertrade, not to restrict the arms states possess or build. major arms exporters may also remain outside the treaty, given the reduced international pressure on them after theConclusion US and Russian decisions, the result could be a treatyThe UN General Assembly will take up the report from the purporting to regulate the arms trade but not accepted byJuly conference. The report will initially be discussed in those responsible for the majority of that trade.the First Committee, which will send a recommendation Other states, perhaps dissatisfied with whatever the Firstfor the General Assembly. Committee recommends, might seek to take the entireIt is likely that this recommendation will be driven by a process outside the UN framework, as was done with thedraft resolution submitted by the seven sponsors of the landmines convention. Such an “Ottawa” process wouldoriginal 2006 resolution (Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, mean that neither the United States nor Russia, andFinland, Japan, Kenya, and the UK). Other states might almost certainly some other important arms exporters,submit competing resolutions proposing different would participate. Fearing a “rump treaty” with little or nooutcomes, although this is less likely. practical effect, the original sponsors and many others would most likely oppose such a move.The key question is whether the seven original sponsorswill choose to propose a new negotiating conference. The As of October 2012 the UK, as the leader of the seven original sponsors, has not made a clear or authoritative© 2012 IHS 7 ihs.com
  • 8. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade Treatystatement of its desired next step, nor have the other co-sponsors. The 67th regular session of the UN GeneralAssembly Plenary formally opened on 18 September andaction on Ambassador Moritán’s report will begin inOctober. With key states either still considering theircourse of action or holding their decisions closely, the onlycertainties are that there will be some political fireworks inNew York, and some supporters of the Arms Trade Treatywill again be sorely disappointed. Which will bedisappointed and for what reason remains to be seen.launch.This analysis was first published in IHS Jane’s IntelligenceReview in October 2012 and is available with additionalrelated analysis within IHS Jane’s Military & SecurityAssessments Intelligence Centre.© 2012 IHS 8 ihs.com
  • 9. IHS Jane’s Analysis: The Uncertain Future of the Arms Trade TreatyAbout IHS About IHS Defence & SecurityIHS (NYSE: IHS) is a leading source of information and With over 100 years of history as Jane’s, IHS is the mostinsight in pivotal areas that shape today’s business trusted and respected public source of defence andlandscape: energy, economics, geopolitical risk, security information in the world.sustainability and supply chain management. With a reputation built on products such as IHS FightingBusinesses and governments around the globe rely on the Ships and IHS All the World’s Aircraft, IHS deliverscomprehensive content, expert independent analysis and comprehensive, credible and reliable news, insight andflexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impact analysis across all key defence and security subjectdecisions and develop strategies with speed and areas, and in support of critical military and securityconfidence. processes.IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a IHS defence and security products represent anpublicly traded company on the New York Stock invaluable open-source news, information and intelligenceExchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, asset for businesses, defence organisations and armedColorado, USA, IHS employs more than 6,000 people in forces.more than 30 countries around the world.ihs.com© 2012 IHS 9 ihs.com