Home / Events / ISS Seminar Report: Reducing the Human Cost of Poorly Regulated Arms Transfers: An African Contribution Towards a Strong Arms Trade Treaty
ISS Seminar Report: Reducing the Human Cost of Poorly Regulated Arms Transfers: An African Contribution Towards a Strong Arms Trade Treaty
Date: 3 April 2012
Venue: , Block C, Brooklyn Court, 361 Veale Street, New Muckleneuk, Pretoria, Parking in Brooklyn Mall & ABSA court for a fee




Hosted by the Transnational Threats and International Crime Division and International Committee of the Red Cross

United Nations Member States have been discussing the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty since 2006.  In July this year, States will meet at the UN headquarters in New York at a diplomatic conference to negotiate a legally binding treaty that will establish common international standards for the transfer of conventional weapons.  One of the objectives of such a treaty should be to reduce the human cost associated with the poorly regulated global trade in conventional weapons.  In order to achieve this, the ATT will need to cover a broad scope of weapons and activities, and include strong criteria for the authorisation of transfers. 

The fourth preparatory committee (PrepCom) meeting took place during February 2012. The focus of the fourth ATT PrepCom was for UN Member States to discuss and agree the procedural mechanisms of the ATT Negotiating Conference in July.  To date, the Chairman, Ambassador Roberto GarcàƒÂ­a MoritàƒÂ¡n has distributed a draft paper that sets out the proposed elements, including goals and objectives of the treaty, the scope of the weapons and transactions to be covered, transfer criteria and implementation. The Chairman`s draft paper dated 14 July 2011 will serve as one of the background documents for the Diplomatic Conference. It was highlighted during the seminar that States decided during the PrepCom sessions that the Diplomatic Conference shall conduct its work ‘on the basis of consensus` and ‘shall take its decisions and consider the text of the Treaty, by consensus`.  That is why it is crucial for African States to support a strong African Common Position on the ATT. To date, States` positions have ranged from favouring a comprehensive treaty scope that regulates the trade of all conventional weapons and their ammunition, to supporting a scope that is limited to the 7 categories of major weapon systems as listed under the UN Register of Conventional Arms.

Another important issue under negotiation that was highlighted by the speakers was about the formulation of arms transfer criteria. These are the standards that States should apply when determining whether to authorise a transfer of arms. The most commonly proposed criteria for an ATT relate to existing international obligations prohibiting transfers, such as UN Security Council arms embargoes.

This seminar was organised on the eve of the International Day for Mine Awareness - a day that calls for increased awareness of the suffering caused by mines and other explosive remnants of war - as a reminder of the harm that the proliferation of arms and ammunition can cause.  Experts spoke on the humanitarian consequences of a poorly regulated arms trade, various elements of the proposed treaty, and the role of African Governments, including South Africa, in the upcoming negotiations.

Presenters included:

  • Ms Sarah Swart (International Committee of the Red Cross)
    "How to ensure a humanitarian Arms Trade Treaty"
  •  Mr Johann Kellerman (Department of International Relations and Cooperation)
    "Prospects for a strong Arms Trade Treaty: a South African perspective”
  • Mr Guy Lamb (Institute for Security Studies)
    “The ATT and the need for African leadership: A critical assessment of African participation in the ATT processes”
  • Mr Joseph Dube (International Action Network on Small Arms)
    "A civil society perspective of the ATT in Africa"

 Please Note: All ISS Events occur under the ISS Rules, which means no attribution without specific permission, unless indicated otherwise.


Block C
Brooklyn Court
361 Veale Street
New Muckleneuk
Parking in Brooklyn Mall & ABSA court for a fee

Ms Agar Ngwenya

General enquiries & Media:
Ms Gugu Dube

ICRC Media enquiries: Ms Otae Mkandawire
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