Import and Transit Considerations in an Arms Trade Treaty

Kenneth Epps

Author
Kenneth Epps,Guy Lamb and Anne-Charlotte Merrell Wetterwik

Findings Based on Case Studies of Barbados, Estonia, and Namibia

Technical study conducted for Control Arms by the Center for International Trade and Security – University of Georgia, Institute for Security Studies, and Project Ploughshares

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) process to negotiate a legally binding instrument to “establish the highest possible common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms” is an opportunity to establish universal regulatory provisions for the multiple dimensions of international weapons transfers. The ATT process has given substantial attention to conventional arms export standards. Less consideration has been given to the standards needed to responsibly regulate the import or transit of conventional weapons.

All states import conventional weapons and many allow the transit of arms across their territory. Indeed, most states in the Global South are primarily or even exclusively arms importers. For these states, the provisions of an Arms Trade Treaty related to weapons imports will be a significant focus of national implementation of the treaty. Regarding transit, as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has noted, “none of the existing instruments for controlling international transfers of all conventional weapons includes an explicit requirement for states to establish transit controls.” ATT negotiations are an important opportunity to address the lack of common standards for controlling transit, and trans-shipment, of conventional weapons.

This report is intended to provide food for thought on how countries can efficiently control the import and transit of conventional arms. The primary objective is to describe and provide practical examples of how these controls can be applied. Three states were selected representing different regions of the world and different geographical, institutional and economical contexts. The three states are located near major trade routes and thus familiar with the transit trade, while at the same time they are not major arms producers, exporters or importers. In addition the three states are dependent on importing conventional weapons for their sovereign defense needs. The three states selected were Barbados, Estonia and Namibia and the authors would like to thank governmental officials and other experts in the three states for their valuable input to the reports.

For each case study the author has used a common questionnaire to guide the research process. The questionnaire is annexed to the report and covers five major areas of interest: transfer data; laws and regulations; institutions and their responsibilities; proof of implementation; and finally special attention to non-state actors. Each report was constructed to provide a brief explanation of the kind of regulatory framework the state operates in, who carries out the legal requirements, and if there have been cases of either licenses denials or seizing of goods on the border. In addition the researchers have reviewed the state’s transparency record with respect to international fora. Each case study could merit its own report based on the way each state has chosen to tackle the common challenge of controlling import and transit of conventional weapons. No system is identical to the other. However common trends are identifiable and all three states provide ample examples of solutions. The final section of recommendations should be read as general conclusions that can be extracted as the lessons learned from reviewing the three different case studies. The recommendations are tailored as general suggestions for any country to implement efficient import and transit controls for conventional weapons.

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