ATT Background


On April 2, 2013, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted at the United Nations in New York.

This historic achievement marked the culmination of 15 years of civil society advocacy for binding common standards to prevent irresponsible transfers of conventional arms.

Project Ploughshares has been an active member of the international civil society coalition that has pressed for an effective ATT.


May 1997

A group of Nobel Peace Laureates led by former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, calls for a Code of Conduct on international arms transfers. The Code and the principles on which it is based are endorsed by Project Ploughshares in June 1997.

April 1999

Ploughshares joins an NGO Working Group on the Nobel Peace Laureates Code of Conduct to co-ordinate action to build international support for the code. The working group includes representatives of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, the Council on Economic Priorities and Demilitarization for Democracy, the British American Security Information Council, Saferworld, Amnesty International and the American Friends Service Committee.

November 2000

Ploughshares participates in an Ottawa seminar with other NGO Working Group members, Canadian government officials and legal experts from the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law at Cambridge University to explore the legal aspects of the Code of Conduct. The seminar contributes to a transformation of the Code of Conduct principles into a Framework Convention.

October 2003

Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (of which Project Ploughshares is a founding member) launch the three-year Control Arms campaign that calls for an Arms Trade Treaty to be negotiated at the UN. Ploughshares maintains active participation in the expanded international Arms Trade Treaty Steering Committee (ATTSC) that replaces the working group.

June 2004

The Control Arms campaign publishes Guns or Growth? Assessing the impact of arms sales on sustainable development as a guide for arms exporting states. Project Ploughshares, Oxfam and Saferworld jointly research and write this report.

March 2005

Project Ploughshares launches a Canadian public education campaign that promotes participation in the global Control Arms campaign. In conjunction with sponsor churches and other partners, Ploughshares gathers thousands of Canadian faces for the Million Faces Petition component of the campaign.

June 2006

Ploughshares, with Canadian Control Arms partners Amnesty International, Oxfam Canada and Oxfam Quebec, delivers more than 10,000 petition faces to Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay in Ottawa. Senator Roméo Dallaire speaks in favour of Canadian leadership on the ATT at a press conference on Parliament Hill arranged by the NGO partners.

December 2006

The resolution Towards an Arms Trade Treaty is overwhelmingly passed by the UN General Assembly to begin the UN process to negotiate a legally binding, global treaty. The resolution follows the conclusion of the three-year Control Arms campaign with the delivery of the Million Faces petition to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in July.

February 2007

Project Ploughshares hosts an international seminar on the “Regional Dimensions of Global Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Transfer Principles.”  Ploughshares subsequently publishes the seminar papers in Towards Global Standards: Regional Experience in Small Arms Transfer Controls. It is distributed to government and civil society participants attending an informal international meeting of states hosted by Canada in Geneva in August to consider global transfer principles for small arms and light weapons. Immediately following the international seminar, Ploughshares hosts the annual meeting of the ATTSC.

April 2009

On behalf of the ATTSC, Ploughshares begins management of major funding from the UK government for a one-year program to support activities of the international network of civil society groups advocating a strong ATT.

February 2010

The ATTSC hosts an international meeting in Vienna that seeks to expand and diversify the global civil society network working for a strong ATT. At this meeting the ATTSC and Control Arms campaign are restructured into the Control Arms Coalition Steering Board and coalition member working groups. Project Ploughshares continues active participation in the new organization.

February-March 2010

With funding support from Foreign Affairs Canada, Project Ploughshares sponsors two expert roundtables on the ATT in Washington, D.C. and Cape Town, South Africa. The roundtables, organized with local NGO partners, bring together a range of stakeholders in each country to review the issues and challenges of ATT negotiations.

June 2010

Ploughshares publishes UN Arms Embargoes and the Arms Trade Treaty with support from Foreign Affairs Canada. The working paper is distributed to UN delegates during the first and second Preparatory Committee meetings of the ATT conference, held in New York in July 2010.

July 2010

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) holds its first regional meeting to prepare for ATT negotiations in Port of Spain, Trinidad. An invited speaker, Project Ploughshares consults with regional partners on further ATT regional meetings in 2011.

February-March 2011

Project Ploughshares participates in the third Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2012 ATT conference. Ploughshares also supports participation by its regional institutional partner, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, to advance regional collaboration on ATT negotiations.

February 2012

Project Ploughshares participates in Control Arms meetings and final Preparatory Committee meeting (PrepCom) for the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Project Ploughshares presents its Barbados case study from Import and Transit Considerations in an Arms Trade Treaty during a side meeting of the UN PrepCom. The meeting is attended by approximately 75 diplomats and NGO representatives.

March 2012

With funding from the Canadian government, Project Ploughshares assists the organization and hosting of an ATT roundtable for the MERCOSUR subregion of South America. In preparation for the July diplomatic conference, the roundtable is held at the Senate building in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Participants include government officials and civil society representatives.

May 2012

Canadian Control Arms coalition members (Project Ploughshares, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec and Amnesty International) meet with parliamentarians and government officials in Ottawa about ATT negotiations. These meetings include a May 17 breakfast briefing for Canadian parliamentarians.

June 2012

Canadian Control Arms coalition members, including Project Ploughshares, appear as witnesses before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

July 2012

The UN diplomatic conference to negotiate the Arms Trade Treaty is held in New York. Project Ploughshares participates as “co-chair” of the Control Arms coalition. After month-long negotiations, delegates at the UN fail to reach consensus and agree on an Arms Trade Treaty.

March 2013

With Canadian Control Arms partners, Project Ploughshares again briefs Parliamentarians from all parties on the “final” treaty negotiations later in the month. Three opposition parties subsequently raise questions on Canada and the ATT in the House of Commons.

Iran, North Korea and Syria block the Arms Trade Treaty’s adoption by consensus on the last day of the two-week Final Conference on the ATT.

April 2013

The 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approves the Arms Trade Treaty, the first and only treaty regulating the trade in conventional arms ranging from light weapons to jet fighters and warships. Final vote count: 155 in favour, 3 against, 22 abstentions.