New Arms Trade Treaty Within Reach

Security Experts Urge President Obama to Lead, Not Delay

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2012, 11:30am EST

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 ext. 117

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the UN launched a process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, states are coalescing around a final treaty text.

However, it appears that the United States is balking over a few remaining issues (none of which are core treaty issues) that it says must be clarified and that the U.S. delegation says the decision-makers in Washington may not have time to help resolve.

"President Obama must lead and not further delay this important and long-running process to help reduce human suffering as a result of irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering," said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

Although the U.S. delegation has succeeded in inserting all of its preferred formulations in the treaty text, the conference was told this morning that several issues must be further clarified or language must be further adjusted.

"Indeed, the Arms Trade Treaty text issued Thursday evening can and should be adjusted today to close loopholes and clarify its protections against illicit arms transfers of all kinds, but there is tremendous momentum to conclude a sound text now. Today is the day to resolve remaining issues and questions," said Kimball.

"The conclusion of a sound Arms Trade Treaty would represent an important step forward for U.S. security and international security that President Obama and the U.S. Congress should embrace," Kimball said.

At its core, the treaty would establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized. It would require regular reporting of such transfers, which would help improve transparency and accountability. It has the potential to close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering. The current treaty text also recognizes "the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively in their territory …."

The most recent treaty text:

  • would require that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • includes a prohibition on arms transfers to states for the purpose of facilitating the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity;
  • obligates states not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is an "overriding risk" that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.
"We urge the United States and other arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, the U.K., and India, to work with other states, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility needed to reach a sound agreement by tonight's deadline," Kimball urged.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.