Last year was highly significant for conventional arms control because of the adoption of the historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). It is the first-ever global, legally binding regulation of the conventional arms trade negotiated within the United Nations.
The ATT sets robust standards against which arms transfer decisions must be assessed. Well over half of UN member states have already signed the ATT, but we should not rest until all states have done so.
One of the most impressive outcomes of the ATT negotiations was the successful inclusion of small arms under its scope, and the fact that the treaty also covers the trade in ammunition. It clearly prohibits exports of arms and ammunition that would violate Security Council arms embargoes or that could be used against civilians and in the commission of serious violations of international law.
Moreover, the ATT requires states to regulate arms brokering, to take measures to prevent diversion of weaponry, and to assess the risk that exports of arms and ammunition would be used in the commission of grave violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law. All these provisions are particularly relevant for the issue of small arms.
Another ‘first’ with respect to the development of global norms was last year's Security Council Resolution 2117 on the issue of small arms. Its adoption reflects the widespread conviction that effectively dealing with conflict and post-conflict settings requires a specific focus on improving small arms control measures.