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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Conventional Arms Control and Trade

States Denounce Cluster Munitions Use

October 2015

By Jefferson Morley

A man in the northern Syrian town of Taftanaz grasps a cluster bomb casing on November 9, 2012. (Photo credit: Philippe Desmazes /AFP/Getty Images)In response to reports of cluster munition attacks in conflicts around the world, scores of countries supporting the global ban on the explosive weapons categorically condemned their use in a declaration issued Sept. 11 in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

“We are deeply concerned by any and all allegations, reports or documented evidence of the use of cluster munitions, including in Cambodia, Libya, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen,” said the parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). “We condemn any use of cluster munitions by any actor.”

The 95 states-parties to the CCM, along with 23 signatory nations and numerous civil society groups, met Sept. 7-11 to review and assess the accomplishments of the treaty. The Dubrovnik meeting was the first review conference under the treaty, which entered into force on August 1, 2010. The CCM bans the possession and use of munitions that eject explosive bomblets designed to kill people and destroy vehicles.        

For advocates of a cluster munitions ban, the consensus declaration threw a spotlight on the policy of the U.S. government, which is destroying its cluster munitions stockpiles but has not renounced their use. The United States, which has not signed the CCM, is currently supporting the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, where Human Rights Watch has documented the repeated use of U.S.-manufactured cluster munitions. “Although the evidence is not definitive, several factors indicate that the Saudi-led coalition carried out the seven attacks,” the nongovernmental group stated in an Aug. 26 report. The attacks involving U.S.-made munitions have killed or wounded “dozens of civilians” since April, according to the group.

Representatives of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom—all U.S. military allies—asked for modification of the declaration’s categorical condemnation of all cluster munitions use. The wording, Canada said, “poses problems for States Parties who undertake military cooperation and operations with non-Parties, which the Convention permits us to do.” Article 21 of the CCM states that parties to the treaty “may engage in military cooperation and operations with States not party to this Convention that might engage in activities prohibited to a State Party.”

“The proposed changes also seem driven by a desire to create space—political and legal space—for the United States to use cluster munitions in the future,” said a Sept. 8 statement from Human Rights Watch on behalf of the Cluster Munition Coalition..

Thomas Nash of Article 36, a UK nongovernmental organization, said the “bizarre and isolated legal contortions by the UK, together with Australia and Canada, were hopelessly out of step with the mood and determination of the Review Conference to prevent any further use of cluster munitions by any actor.”

After the three countries and Lithuania expressed concerns, the unmodified declaration was approved by acclamation.

Signs of Progress

Many representatives of the 117 countries that have signed or ratified the CCM hailed the treaty for exceeding expectations born on its entry into force five years ago.

“Eighty percent of reported cluster munition stockpiles have already been destroyed,” Steffen Kongstad of Norway said, with “most states-parties achieving their targets much faster and at a significantly lower cost than some experts kept insisting on some years ago.”

Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco of Mexico congratulated Canada, Guinea, Guyana, Iceland, Palestine, Paraguay, Rwanda, Slovakia, and South Africa for joining the CCM in the past year. Their accession, he said, demonstrated “the vitality and strength of the regime that prohibits the use of these indiscriminate and inhuman weapons.”

Rodolfo Benítez Verson, chief of the Cuban delegation to the conference, announced Sept. 8 that his government was taking steps to join the treaty “shortly.”

“Today I can inform this Conference that Cuba is carrying out the required constitutional procedures for the accession of our country to the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” Benítez Verson said to applause.

The change comes as Washington and Havana are seeking to normalize long-frozen diplomatic relations. In past years, Cuba had declined to join the cluster munitions ban because it does not forbid U.S.-made munitions that are equipped with self-destruction and self-deactivation mechanisms, an exception that Havana said favored developed countries at the expense of poorer countries. In Dubrovnik, Benítez Verson repeated Cuban concerns about the “dangerous” language of the treaty’s Article 21, which permits CCM parties to the treaty to engage in military operations with countries that are not parties. He said Cuba will continue to press its views when it becomes a state-party to the treaty.

Work to Do

Nguyen Trung Thanh of Vietnam, attending as an observer, said his country could not afford to take on the treaty’s obligations, although Vietnam is one of the countries most contaminated with cluster munitions.

“In the best scenario,” he said, the job of clearing the munitions from 6.6 million hectares (16 million acres) of contaminated Vietnamese land and then destroying the weapons would require “more than a hundred years” and “many billions of dollars.”

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to the United Nations, called on CCM parties “to find a fair and equitable model” to fund the treaty’s implementation.

Correction: The original online version of this article erroneously attributed a quotation to the Cluster Munition Monitor. The source of the quotation is a Sept. 8 statement from Human Rights Watch on behalf of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Reports from Ukraine, Yemen, and other countries with civil conflicts prompted parties to the 2010 global ban on deadly explosives to condemn their use.

Getting to Know Ryan Gariepy

Interviewed by Jefferson Morley

Ryan Gariepy, shown in this 2014 photo, is co-founder of Clearpath Robotics. (Courtesy of Ryan Gariepy)“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Many people are worried about the prospect of lethal autonomous weapons systems, popularly known as “killer robots,” entering the battlefields of the world’s many armed conflicts. But not many of the critics of lethal autonomous systems know how to design and build high-tech robots. Enter Ryan Gariepy, the 28-year-old co-founder and chief technical officer of Clearpath Robotics, based in Kitchener, Canada. Last year, the fast-growing firm, with a workforce of 100, established a company policy of not accepting any work related to the building of robotics for lethal autonomous systems. In June, Gariepy was among 1,000-plus people from the world of artificial intelligence research and design, including famed physicist Stephen Hawking and inventor Elon Musk, who signed a statement calling for a ban on lethal autonomous systems. Gariepy is perhaps the first high-tech entrepreneur to make that position part of his business plan.

Arms Control Today caught up with Gariepy by telephone at his office in Kitchener. The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

Where did Clearpath come from?

From the University of Waterloo, a very strong engineering and math school in Ontario. Three of us were on a student robotics team, and we just saw a lot of potential in the things we were building. So after we graduated, we started a company.

It says on your website “The Future is Autonomous.” What are you getting at there?

The promise of unmanned systems, or autonomous systems or artificial intelligence systems, is to really free people from what is known, in the robotics community, as “dull, dirty, and dangerous” jobs.

Is the future of warfare autonomous?

We recognize the value that unmanned systems can bring to service members and keeping people out of harm’s way. The question is, can we not make sure that there is always an element of human involvement when a system decides to take lethal force?

How did you get interested in this issue?

We are always out there trying to extol the benefits of autonomous systems to companies and governments worldwide. But sometimes you run into a use case where you say, “Maybe this isn’t the best place for robotics.” It might not make business sense; or in this case, it may not be a humane thing to do, and it may be an incredibly risky way to deploy autonomous systems. Just like we look at the impact of our systems in a positive aspect, we also look at the negative aspect.

We saw the issue coming up more and more. In 2013 there was the “Losing Humanity” report by Human Rights Watch. Previous to that, you had Peter W. Singer’s book “Wired for War.” Before that, you had Ron Arkin’s textbook, “Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots.”

We are also seeing that robotics research is no longer being primarily driven by the military. People are approaching the issue as if the governments have the most say on what research is done. But robotics these days is quickly being dominated by private industry.

So if governments do not recognize the potential, good or bad, for this technology, then you might see that the technology is going to exist in a short time frame, certainly shorter than the international community can act on.

Does Clearpath have contracts with the U.S. or Canadian military?

We do work with the Canadian government and with the research arms of the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force.

What do you think of the term “killer robots”?

The term certainly brought the public’s eyes to the issue. The impact of that should not be underestimated. Personally, I prefer to say “lethal autonomous weapons systems,” but that’s because I’m an engineer.

What has been the reaction to Clearpath’s position on lethal autonomous systems?

Many of the skilled people, the engineers applying for jobs with us, have expressed interest in the issue, and we weren’t expecting that. We are expecting that the company might have a partial loss in military contracts at some point. We didn’t expect the level of public support we’ve gotten.

ATT Parties Hold First Conference

By Jefferson Morley

Former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias addresses the first conference of states-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty in Cancún, Mexico, on August 24. (Elizabeth Ruiz/AFP/Getty Images)Representatives of 130 countries last month adopted measures to implement the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which seeks to regulate the estimated $100 billion global trade in weapons.

Held in the Mexican city of Cancún, the first conference of states-parties to the ATT picked Geneva as the site of the organization’s headquarters, chose Simeon Dumisani Dladla of South Africa as the interim leader of the treaty’s secretariat, and decided that major decisions about implementation will require a two-thirds majority.

But the conference postponed a decision on the key issue of what participating countries will be required to report about their arms transfers, disappointing activists seeking to curb the weapons that fuel civil conflict and crime worldwide.

The ATT, adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2013, entered into force in December 2014. A key requirement of the pact is that countries develop national reporting systems on the import, export, and diversion of conventional arms.

The ATT “offers the promise of a more peaceful world,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a video message on Aug. 24, the first day of the conference. “I commend those states that are promoting responsible arms transfers, and I salute civil society for pushing this process from the very beginning.”

The differences between the governments seeking to regulate the often lucrative arms trade according to international norms and the governments and civil society groups seeking to curtail the arms transfers that stoke deadly conflicts around the world emerged in opening statements from attendees.

“I am concerned about the gap...between the duty to ensure respect for international humanitarian law in arms transfers and the actual transfer practices of too many states,” said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in another Aug. 24 video address to the conference.

“Every year, millions of ordinary people have their lives devastated by conflict in war-torn countries such as Yemen and South Sudan, as well as in areas of high armed violence such as Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Anna Macdonald, director of Control Arms, a global coalition of civil society groups seeking to control the weapons trade.

But in an Aug. 25 statement, Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation and leader of the U.S. delegation, said the roles of governments and civil society at the Cancún meeting were not the same.

“We are here to breathe life into this Treaty by standing up its international operation,” he said. Countryman added that the ATT “contains obligations for States Parties, not for other entities. The decisions made here must reflect this fact. Civil society and industry played important roles during the negotiation, but neither one can join the Treaty. Only States Parties can.”

Civil society groups could not persuade treaty participants to agree on a common template for reporting arms transfers or on mandatory disclosure of the reports. Activists said a failure to adopt those elements would undermine the treaty’s goals.

“Without having external eyes looking on the [arms] trade, you have the risk of setting up a cozy club where everybody agrees not to rock the boat too much,” said Roy Isbister of Safer World, a UK group that seeks to prevent violent conflicts, in an Aug. 19 interview with Arms Control Today.

The treaty requires all parties to submit an initial report by December on their efforts to comply with the treaty and to file an annual report on their arms imports and exports and their efforts to prevent diversion.

The ATT, first proposed by a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in 1997, has been ratified by 72 countries, including five of the world’s top 10 arms exporting countries. The United States, by far the largest arms producer and exporter, is among 58 additional countries that have signed but not ratified the treaty. 

The first conference of states-parties to the Arms Trade Treaty grappled with practical measures intended to curb diversion of weapons that fuel deadly conflicts.

France Pays to Settle Mistral Dispute

By Jefferson Morley

Ending a 10-month-long impasse, French President François Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Aug. 5 to sever a 2011 contract in which France had committed to selling Russia two Mistral-class amphibious landing ships.

The contract is worth 1.2 billion euros (about $1.3 billion), according to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. It became controversial after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and began arming separatists fighting the Ukrainian government. On the eve of a meeting of NATO allies in September 2014, Hollande demanded that Russia agree to a ceasefire and a political settlement as a condition for scheduled delivery of the first ship in November 2014.

When no ceasefire materialized, France and Russia entered into negotiations early this year to dissolve the financial arrangement.

“The price in the [termination] agreement, which is the best possible, will be less as Russia will be repaid to the nearest euro the advance payments that have been made,” Le Drian told a radio reporter Aug. 6.

Reuters reported that France had offered a settlement of $866 million. Russia has asked for compensation of $1.28 billion, according to the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant.

A French official told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 18 e-mail that the exact amount of the settlement is not public information but will be shared this fall with the French Parliament, which has to ratify the settlement. The official said the French compensation “will be inferior to what Russia has spent” and therefore less than $1.3 billion.

Hollande’s statement on the cancellation agreement made no mention of Russian military intervention in Ukraine. The French president said he and Putin agreed that the negotiation took place in “a warm, open climate of partnership,” adding that he and Putin “agreed that the matter was now closed.”

Cluster Munitions Use in Yemen Reported

July/August 2015

By Jefferson Morley

Pictured above are remnants of an air-dropped cluster munition and unexploded BLU-97 submunitions found in northern Yemen on May 23, according to Human Rights Watch.(© 2015 Basset al-Sharafi)Reports of cluster munitions use in the conflict in Yemen remain under investigation, according to the U.S. State Department. 

Two cluster munitions attacks in Yemen injured seven people, six of them civilians, according to a May 31 report by Human Rights Watch. The attacks took place in areas held by Houthi insurgents, whose ouster of the Yemeni government triggered a military campaign by a coalition of armed forces led by neighboring Saudi Arabia, according to Human Rights Watch.

“We take all such allegations seriously and we’re continuing our review of the claims made in this report,” a State Department official said in a June 19 e-mail. Asked if the U.S. government had communicated these concerns to Saudi Arabia, the official said the United States “remain[s] in close coordination” with the Saudis “on a wide range of issues.”

In a June 8 e-mail, Ole Solvang, an investigator for Human Rights Watch, emphasized that the fighting in Yemen made it difficult to determine who was responsible for the use of cluster munitions. Although the group has “a very incomplete picture,” what it has seen “is quite worrying,” Solvang said. Human Rights Watch has documented the use of three types of cluster munitions, he said. 

U.S.-made cluster munitions, containing BLU-97 submunitions, were used in at least two attacks on May 23, according to reports cited by Human Rights Watch.

On the basis of photographs, the group identified one of the weapons used in an April 29 attack near the Saudi border as a type of ground-fired cluster munition containing “ZP-39” submunitions with a distinctive red ribbon. The ZP-39’s producer and the delivery system used are not publicly known, according to Human Rights Watch.

On April 27, aircraft of the Saudi-led coalition dropped a U.S.-made cluster munition, the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon, on a village south of the Houthi stronghold of Saada, said Human Rights Watch, citing the reports it had received.

Saudi Arabia and Yemen, like the United States, are not signatories to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, the international treaty banning the weapons. The treaty has been ratified by 92 countries and signed by 24 more.

Reports of cluster munitions use in the conflict in Yemen remain under investigation, according to the U.S. State Department. 

Debate on Autonomous Weapons Resumes

May 2015

By Jefferson Morley

Experts convene in Geneva for an April 14 session of the week-long meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems. (UN Geneva)Representatives of 88 countries discussed the specter of robotic warfare at an April 13-17 meeting in Geneva, finding widespread agreement on the importance of controlling weapons that can automatically target and kill people without human control but failing to reach consensus on how to do that. 

The informal experts meeting, called by the parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) last November, was the second multinational conference held on the lethal autonomous weapons systems. The first meeting was held in Geneva last May. (See ACT, June 2014.)

A small group of states, including Cuba, Ecuador, the Holy See, and Pakistan continued to call for a ban on the autonomous systems that civil society groups have dubbed “killer robots.” In a statement to the gathering, Irfan Mahmood Bokhari of Pakistan said further development and use of such weapons systems “must be pre-emptively banned through a dedicated protocol of the CCW.” 

Other countries called for action short of a ban. 

“As a step forward at this stage,” Sweden’s delegation said in its opening statement, “we would encourage transparency and propose information-sharing measures among interested states.” A representative of Poland said, “It would seem at least advisable to...prevent transfers of such systems and their components to undesirable end users.” 

But Michael Meier, the State Department official who headed the U.S. delegation, urged the meeting to “focus on increasing our understanding versus trying to decide possible outcomes.”

Six civil society groups (Article 36, Human Rights Watch, International Committee for Robot Arm Control, Mines Action Canada, PAX, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) called for the prohibition of lethal autonomous systems. 

The multinational debate on lethal autonomous weapons was triggered by a May 2013 report, written by Christof Heyns, a South African jurist who serves as UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. The report called for a moratorium on the building of such weapons. In a speech to last month’s conference, Heyns welcomed what he called “an emerging consensus that the notion of meaningful human control presents a guide to distinguish acceptable forms” of autonomous weapons. 

In his draft final report on the meeting, chairman Michael Biontino of Germany said that “there was a general understanding that the debate needs further deepening. Delegations supported the idea that the CCW was the right forum for a continuation of the discussions, with some delegations indicating that other fora could complement the CCW debate.” 

The parties to the CCW will meet in Geneva in November.

Cluster Munitions Kill 13 in Ukraine

April 2015

By Jefferson Morley

Russian-backed separatist forces and beleaguered Ukrainian government troops traded cluster munition attacks in January that killed 13 civilians, according to reports received by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe and confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

In one reported attack in Artemivsk, a government-controlled city near Donetsk, a woman and a boy were killed on a playground. In Komsomolske, a village about 40 kilometers southeast of Donetsk, a father and his 10-year-old son were killed as they walked on a street in the late evening.

In a March 25 interview, Human Rights Watch investigator Ole Solvang said he was “highly confident” that both sides in the Ukraine conflict had used the deadly air-dropped explosives that indiscriminately spray sharp bomblets over a wide area in a single blast.

The Ukrainian military denies using cluster munitions in crowded urban areas. Separatist forces and the Russian government have categorically denied use of cluster of munitions in the Ukraine conflict. Neither Ukraine nor Russia is a signatory to the global treaty banning the use of cluster munitions.

Solvang said that he had presented information gathered from witnesses and authorities in seven towns to the representatives of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and military prosecutors.

As for the attacks emanating from rebel-held areas, Solvang said the perpetrators could not be identified. “Were they from rebel forces or from Russian forces operating in rebel-held areas? We don’t know,” he said.

Russian-backed separatist forces and beleaguered Ukrainian government troops traded cluster munition attacks in January that killed 13 civilians, according to reports...

U.S. Sets ‘Stringent’ Drone Sales Policy

April 2015

By Jefferson Morley

The U.S. government will impose “stringent conditions” on the sale or transfer of U.S.-made military drones to other countries, the State Department announced Feb. 17, saying in its summary of the policy that the process would include a “strong presumption of denial” for licenses to export the largest and deadliest drones.

Although news stories reported the Obama administration had “opened up” the possibility of sales to “friendly and allied countries,” analysts questioned whether the policy marked a significant change from past practices on unmanned aerial systems, as drones are more formally known.

“This is not, certainly, an open door…by any means” for the sale of unmanned systems, said Joel Johnson, analyst for the Teal Group, a Washington firm that monitors the defense industry, in a March 17 interview. “From an industry perspective, the policy signals that there is a process in place that is something other than the previous ad hoc review [of proposed sales]. But it also shows [export of military drones] is still a sensitive area for the government.”

The popularity and notoriety of military drones has surged in the past decade as the U.S. government has deployed them against suspected Islamic militants in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Washington has faced harsh criticism for the resulting civilian casualties.

An MQ-9 Reaper sits at Hurlburt Field in Florida on April 24, 2014. (U.S. Air Force)

Some U.S. allies seeking to adopt the same technology have been blocked from buying U.S. drones. Washington approved sales of armed drones to the United Kingdom in 2007 and France in 2011, according to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. But in those years, the Obama administration rejected requests for armed unmanned systems from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, he says.

“There is a huge demand for these systems,” said Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a March 17 interview. “Everyone wants to use these systems very much the way the U.S. has been using them.”

Washington apparently wants to keep it that way. The new policy requires recipient countries to agree to four principles for “proper use,” the Feb. 17 summary says.

Purchasers will have to agree that the systems will be used “in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” They will have to assure the United States that the drones will be deployed “only when there is a lawful basis for use of force under international law, such as national self-defense.” In addition, recipients will have to guarantee that the drones are not used to “conduct unlawful surveillance or use unlawful force against their domestic population.” Finally, drone users will have to agree to require technical and doctrinal training “to reduce the risk of unintended injury or damage.”

The U.S. government itself might not meet those criteria, more than one critic noted. “There are many serious concerns about how the US currently interprets ‘national self-defense,’” observed Sarah Knuckey, an associate clinical professor of law at Columbia Law School in a post for the Just Security blog.

The new policy cites the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which mandates a “strong presumption of denial” for the transfer of the largest unmanned aerial systems that carry missiles. The MTCR, a nonbinding agreement of 34 countries that has been developed since the 1980s to regulate the ballistic missile trade, also covers slower-moving drones, according to the State Department. The MTCR states that international transfers of unmanned systems with a range of more than 300 kilometers and a payload of more than 500 kilograms should be approved only on “rare occasions.”

“We’re going to have to watch the next half dozen sales [of armed drones] to know what the policy means in practice,” said the Teal Group’s Johnson.

One possible customer under the new policy is the Netherlands. On Feb. 6, the State Department approved the Dutch government’s request for approval of the $339 million purchase of four Predator-B drones and associated equipment and training from General Atomics, a San Diego firm. Described as “arms-capable,” these drones could be weaponized without difficulty, according to a General Atomics spokeswoman. Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told Cabinet colleagues March 6 that the Netherlands currently does not need to arm the drones, but she did not rule out the possibility, according to NL Times, a Dutch news site..

Under the new policy, the sale or transfer of a U.S.-made weaponized drone must advance four goals. It must enhance “the operational capabilities and capacity of trusted partner nations” and increase “US interoperability with these partners for coalition operations.” Any export of armed drones also must ensure “responsible use” and ease “stress on US force structure.”

“What happens if a country doesn’t adhere?” asked Rachel Stohl of the nonpartisan Stimson Center in a March 18 interview. “We don’t know. They’ve codified what was an ad hoc process, but it would be nice to know more.”

The State Department’s Feb. 17 announcement codifies the interagency process for approving the export of armed drones. Analysts doubt that the new policy will enable many more countries to purchase the deadliest unmanned systems.

Countries Meet on Arms Trade Treaty

March 2015

By Jefferson Morley

Representatives of more than 80 states-parties and signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) gathered in Trinidad and Tobago last month to discuss the location of the treaty’s future secretariat and reporting requirements for the global effort to regulate the arms trade.

At the Feb. 23-24 meeting in Port-of-Spain, the capital of the island state, more than 40 delegations spoke during the discussion of the secretariat’s location, according to social media reports from the conference. Three countries—Austria, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago—are vying to become permanent home to the secretariat. Among the issues discussed were the size and cost of the secretariat and the need for “geographical balance.” No decision on the location was made.

Attendees also reported on presentations on how treaty participants can develop common reporting procedures on arms transfers. The Baseline Assessment Project, launched in 2013 by the Stimson Center in Washington, studied 44 countries and found a wide range of reporting requirements on arms transfers. The meeting closed with a discussion of reporting templates and the schedule of submissions. All parties to the treaty are required to submit an initial report on their national implementation efforts by Dec. 24.

Opponents of the treaty also attended the meeting as a result of the intervention of the U.S. State Department. Tom Mason, a Washington representative of the Rome-based World Forum on Shooting Activities, said department officials asked the conference organizers to drop a provision requiring attendees to support the “object and purpose of the treaty.” Eight members of gun-user and gun manufacturing organizations attended, according to the list of conference participants.

Treaty opponents have found themselves isolated in international forums. The only governments that voted against the ATT in the UN General Assembly in April 2013 were Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Twenty-three countries abstained.

The preparatory conference in Port-of-Spain was the first of three planned meetings before the first conference of states-parties, which is scheduled to be held in Mexico City in September. The next preparatory meeting for that conference is scheduled to take place April 20-21 in Vienna.

The ATT, signed by 130 countries and ratified by 62, entered into force on Dec. 24, 2014. The United States has signed, but not ratified it.

Representatives of more than 80 states-parties and signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) gathered in Trinidad and Tobago last month...

At Last: Global Arms Trade Treaty Enters Into Force

A decades-long struggle to forge binding international rules on the trade of nearly all conventional arms transfers reached a milestone this month when the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) formally entered into force on December 24. The ATT was opened for signature in June 2013 and since then the treaty has rapidly garnered more than 125 signatures, including all NATO countries (except Canada) and U.S. allies, such as Israel and South Korea. More than 60 states have ratified the treaty as of this month. The landmark accord, which required 50 ratifications to become international law, establishes...

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