"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
Arms Survey Highlights ATT Challenge

Jefferson Morley

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) faces daunting obstacles in controlling the global conventional weapons market, according to the latest UN statistics analyzed in the 2014 Small Arms Survey. “The ATT process has raised the level of attention and scrutiny given to this issue at the global level, and will undoubtedly continue to do so,” said the annual report compiled by Swiss researchers and released in mid-June. But, the survey added, “the compromises necessary for agreement on the treaty text have left the ATT with few unqualified legal obligations.”

At the same time, the arms trade is burgeoning, according to the survey done by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. The researchers found that global trade in small arms and light weapons almost doubled between 2001 and 2011, from $2.4 billion to $4.6 billion. The market for small arms ammunition saw the greatest increase, followed by pistols and revolvers, sporting rifles, and sporting shotguns, according to the survey. But exporting countries are not required to report information on the approval or denial of export license applications, and more than half of the major arms-exporting countries do not do so, according to the survey.

“The ATT makes a significant contribution to existing legal frameworks by introducing new standards for the international transfer of conventional arms,” the survey said. “These gains are, however, more modest in comparison with existing small arms control measures.”

The treaty “has the potential to detract attention from ongoing processes,” such as the Firearms Protocol to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which requires states to establish criminal penalties for illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, as well as tampering with the markings on firearms, the survey said.

Existing laws regulating trade in ammunition are especially weak, according to a study of seven countries with arms conflicts conducted for the survey. Bullets made in China and the former Soviet Union accounted for the greatest share of ammunition found in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. “The presence of different types of unmarked cartridges in all but one of the countries and territories under review raises new hurdles for arms monitoring efforts,” the report said.