The Arms Trade Treaty Expert Group

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) entered into force, and therefore became international law, on 24 December 2014. Since even before that landmark moment, Saferworld has been working to ensure progressive interpretation and full implementation of the Treaty by all States Parties, in particular those with relatively little experience in operating a criteria- and international law- based system of arms transfer controls and/or with significant resource constraints.

As part of this we established the informal ATT Expert Group, which works with an evolving group of government and civil society experts to develop common understandings and explore emerging issues around Treaty implementation.

The ATT Expert Group maintains an informal dialogue process among diplomats, national policy practitioners and experts in order to share experiences on ATT ratification/accession and implementation. In doing so, the aim is to promote a clear understanding of how to maximise the effectiveness of the Treaty, and facilitate consistent and robust implementation.

So far there have been eight in-person meetings of the ATT Expert Group in a variety of locations ranging from Canada to Costa Rica, Germany to Ghana, involving government and civil society experts from all world regions, carefully selected based on the meetings’ agendas. The range of topics so far discussed includes: the interpretation of specific ATT Articles; the future operation of information exchange processes within the Treaty regime; issues relating to the establishment and functioning of the ATT Secretariat and Conference of States Parties; co-operation and assistance under the ATT; how to conduct an export risk assessment; the ATT and non-state armed groups; and reporting obligations under the Treaty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented almost all international agreements and processes with enormous procedural and logistical difficulties, and the ATT is no different. Since the onset of the pandemic, the ATT has struggled to develop new ways of working in order to maintain momentum in addressing the huge challenges posed by the ongoing proliferation and misuse of conventional arms.

The Expert Group has continued to support the ATT and to advance a positive agenda despite these obstacles. It has moved to a virtual setting, bringing together experts from around the world for a series of single-session meetings with topics including how best to manage the ATT process in the current exceptional circumstances; the annual and initial ATT reporting templates; understanding and applying terrorism and transnational crime provisions within the export assessment process.

In order to share the ATT Expert Group’s views on Treaty application and implementation with the widest possible audience, Saferworld also produces and disseminates briefings which summarise the discussions that have taken place at and around the meetings. These have proved useful in either conveying a sense of developing understandings on ATT issues or raising emerging issues for further consideration in the formal ATT environment. These briefings therefore serve as a useful resource to States Parties and signatories in their implementation of the Treaty at national level, and in their efforts to deliver a robust ATT regime at international level through the Conferences of States Parties and their preparatory and subsidiary processes.

Read the ninth briefing: Implementing Article 7.7 of the Arms Trade Treaty

Read the eighth briefing: Domestic accountability for international arms transfers: Law, policy and practice

Read the seventh briefing: Arms exports, terror and crime: Reducing risk under the Arms Trade Treaty

Read the sixth briefing: Implementing the ATT: undertaking an arms transfer risk assessment.

Read the fifth briefing: Implementing the ATT: Essential elements of an effective arms transfer control system.

Read the fourth briefing: Implementing the ATT: Developing brokering controls in less capacitated States.

Read the third briefing: Prevention, transit and innocent passage under the Arms Trade Treaty.

Read the second briefing: Key issues for ATT implementation: Preventing and combating diversion.

Read the first briefing: Key issues for ATT implementation: Information exchange under the ATT.

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