OAS Transparency Convention Ready for Signature

The first regional arms transparency regime aimed at revealing conventional weapons transfers will be opened for signature by the foreign ministers of the 34 members of the Organization of American States (OAS) on June 7 at the OAS General Assembly in Guatemala. The convention, which will enter into force 30 days after the sixth instrument of ratification is deposited, will be the first to require states-parties to report on weapons transactions, as well as make timely notifications for arms acquisitions, whether imported or manufactured domestically.

Specifically, states-parties to the convention will submit reports no later than June 15 each year to the OAS General Secretariat detailing imports and exports of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers during the preceding year. These categories mirror those of the voluntary UN Register of Conventional Arms, to which less than half of OAS members made reports for 1997, the latest reporting period with data available.

States will also be required to notify the OAS of arms acquisitions no later than 90 days after the incorporation of weapons covered by the seven categories into their armed forces inventory. The United States, a principal proponent of the regime, had sought to include advanced notification of transfers in the convention, but other states objected. As constructed, however, the notification requirement does not rule out advance notification, and states-parties may notify of budgeting for future weapons acquisitions. States are also free to consult with one another regarding the information provided to the OAS General Secretariat. The OAS is not expected to release the data declarations to the public.

Cuba, whose membership in the OAS was suspended in 1962, will not participate in the regime.