Include Ammunition in the ATT

March 3 2011, 3:03 PM  

The objective of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is to establish the highest common international standard for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, in order to prevent international transfers facilitating human suffering, serious violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, or contributing to armed conflict, displacement of people, organized crime, terrorist attacks thereby undermining peace, safety, stability and security for communities.

To this end, IANSA urges UN Members States to support an ATT that will include ammunition. In order to comply with the principles and objectives of the ATT, it is obvious that ammunition should be included in the scope.


Ammunition is a prerequisite for engaging in combat operations. Experience gathered in conflict zones and when looking at organized crime suggests that regular flows of ammunition is a logistical priority for all parties involved. Conflict, armed violence and criminal activities rely on the balance of power created by the use of small arms and all are fueled by ammunition.

Having said that, ammunition is, de facto, already included in the list of items covered by some national export control systems. A number of States – all major arms exporting governments – already regulate the activities related to ammunition: from manufacture to transfer, from transit to re-export, from brokering to commercial trade. In fact, in working on this issue for the last ten years, IANSA has not encountered a government that doesn’t include ammunition in the lists of equipment subject to export licensing. The US system, one of the most comprehensive in the world, places export controls over transfers of ammunition, ordnance, components, explosives and propellants for SALW, controls that include direct transfers, re-exports, licensed production and brokering activities.

Ammunition is, in practice, less complicated to control properly than is sometimes suggested. Practices and standards to control ammunition transfers and report on these already exist, therefore, the inclusion of ammunition within the scope of the ATT is not going to generate any un-solvable challenges.

It’s about time for a group of like minded progressive states to use every available opportunity to robustly defend inclusion of ammunition and not let a minority opinion fatally weaken the effectiveness of the ATT and its ability to defend and protect human rights, international law and ultimately, to deliver on its humanitarian imperative to protect the victims of armed violence around the globe. The exclusion of ammunition would severely limit realization of the Treaty’s main objectives. An ATT not covering ammunition would establish an international standard below national and regional practice.

Posted by Joseph Dube, IANSA