CA: Control Arms

Control Arms


Who they are?

  • Control Arms is an international civil society network that advocates for greater controls in the international arms trade to end the human suffering caused by the irresponsible arms trade, and to stop arms transfers that fuel conflict, systemic armed violence, poverty and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Why does the global arms trade need to be limited?

  • The uncontrolled proliferation of arms and ammunition fuels conflicts, increases human rights abuses and exacerbates poverty. While one person dies every minute as a result of armed violence, millions more suffer displacement, human rights abuses, loss of services through direct damage to infrastructure and increased unemployment. There is an irrefutable link between high levels of armed violence and poverty, particularly from the illicit trade. Bringing the licit trade under control is the first necessary step toward addressing a reduction in the illicit trade.

How did they get started?

  • While civil society groups have been advocating for regulation of the international trade of arms and ammunition since the 1980s, the Control Arms Coalition came together in 2003.  The coalition's main goal from its founding was helping to enact a legally binding and internationally recognized treaty regulating arms trade, what would come to be known as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). 

What is the Control Arms Coalition and how does it operate?

  • The Control Arms Coalition is an international alliance of non-governmental organisations working for strong international arms controls.  The coalition consists of over 300 civil society groups in all regions of the world including Amnesty International, Oxfam International, the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, International Action Network on Small Arms, and Saferworld among countless others.
  • The Control Arms Secretariat, established in 2011, is the coordination body for Control Arms Coalition, supporting its members, representing them to governments at the UN and providing leadership in the furtherance of the campaign. 

How did they go about advocating for an international ATT?

  • After establishing the Control Arms Coalition in 2003, the network set out to campaign for the creation and adoption of the ATT in over a hundred countries at the grassroots level.  One of their most impactful strategies was the "Millionth Person" petition which sought to collect a million signatures from people around the world who were affected by arm violence or supported regulating such at the international level of governance. Julius Arile of Kenya was the millionth signatory of the petition and presented it to then UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan in June of 2006.
  • In December of 2006, a group of countries helped to successfully introduce UN Resolution 61/89 instructed the UN Secretary-General to seek consultations from member states on the drafting of a "comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms" and submit such to the General Assembly.  The ensuing vote of the General Assembly adopted the resolution by a tally of 153 countries for - 1 against (the United States) - 24 abstentions.

What roll did the UN play upon adopting the 2006 resolution?

  • After the adoption of UN Resolution 61/89, member states were encouraged to submit their views on the adoption of an ATT which led to 94 members, almost half of the membership, to submit their recommendations on the topic.  During this time, the US administration shifted their approach on the topic and began to participate in the consultations as they were part of a 28-country group of governmental experts to also publish a final report on the matter.  By October of 2009, the General Assembly voted to convene negotiations on the adoption of an internationally recognized, legally binding ATT by a tally of 153 countries for - 1 against (Zimbabwe) - 19 abstentions.
  • Negotiations occurred over the course of the next three and a half years, culminating in the adoption UN Resolution 67/234B, which authorized the adoption of the international ATT, in April of 2013, by the official vote count of 154 countries for - 3 against (Iran, Syria, North Korea) - and 22 abstentions. This became a historic moment as the Control Arms Coalition succeeded in accomplishing their long-held mission after a decade of grassroots activism and providing assistance to the UN-backed negotiations.

How did Control Arms provide support to the UN-backed negotiations?

  • Even with the UN taking up the consultation and negotiation process for an international ATT in 2006, Control Arms maintained an instrumental role in organizing grassroots mobilization to continue to provide pressure for the passage of a treaty on the matter of international arms trade. UN-Secretary General at the time of the adoption of the ATT, Ban Ki-moon, commented on the importance of civil society groups throughout the negotiations saying, "The adoption of the ATT is further testament to what can be accomplished when Governments and civil society work together through the United Nations... I commend the members of civil society for their tireless campaigns, expert contributions and unwavering support." 
  • While the UN was supporting consultations between its member states and its self-appointed group of governmental experts, Control Arms conducted "People's Consultations" in over one hundred countries to collect input from ordinary citizens on the regulations they hoped to see in an international arms treaty.
  • Once the UN began negotiations for the drafting of the international ATT in 2009, Control Arms continued to be a central partner to the discussions as they worked closely with supportive governments in their campaign for a strong ATT ranging from member states who co-sponsored the original resolution in 2006 to member states with limited resources at the United Nations. Control Arms have had a presence at many of major meetings on the Arms Trade Treaty, including both UN negotiating conferences in July 2012 and March 2013. Offering the perspectives and inputs from a large civil society network that collected substantial data at the grassroots level, Control Arms was able to make sure that the voices of people from around the world were considered throughout the negotiations.
  • All the while during the UN negotiations, Control Arms continued to engage in grassroots mobilization campaigns that sought to keep the general public involved in the negotiation process.  The coalition organized various activities including petition signing which culminated in the mass "Speak Out" campaign, a strategy that combined petition signing with sticker dissemination to expand the coalition’s base of support and draw greater attention to the need for a strong ATT.  Control Arms also managed a website to further promote transparency of the negotiations,, which details members states' positions during the negotiation process in addition to maintaining a record of member states' votes on the final resolution which led to the adoption of the ATT.

Where does the international ATT stand now in terms of signatures and ratifications?  

  • The international ATT opened to member states signatures on June 3, 2013. To enter into force as an internationally binding treaty, an UN-adopted resolution needs to be signed and ratified by a minimum of fifty member states.  A group of member states, including the required fiftieth state, ratified the treaty in a signing ceremony on September 25, 2014 which lead to its entry into force ninety days later on December 24, 2014.
  • As of the end of 2019, the international ATT now contains 129 signatures and 105 ratifications/accessions to the treaty with the Maldives being the most recent to accede to the treaty on September 27, 2019. Now, more than half the countries in the world are legally bound to an international arms trade treaty. Unfortunately, the United States, who signed the treaty all the way back in 2013, recently announced on April 26, 2019 under President Donald Trump that they would withdraw their signature from the treaty.  Ironically, the announcement occurred at an event for the National Rifle Association (NRA).

What is Control Arms up to now?

  • The goals of the Control Arms Coalition now are to ensure that more member states join the international ATT to the point where every member state of the UN has not only signed, but ratified/acceded to the treaty. Control Arms also works with member states that have ratified/acceded to the treaty to fully implement the ATT, thereby establishing high international norms for future arms transfer decision-making. Ensuring the efficacy of the ATT  requires high-quality implementation efforts by member states as well as the development of new legislation, regulations, procedures, technological infrastructure and/or capacities.. Many States, particularly those that are low-income and have low-capacity, require assistance before they can fully implement the ATT.  Since the treaty's entry into force in 2014, Control Arms has published leading research through its ATT Monitor reports on the implementation of and compliance with the ATT. They have also organized conferences and workshops aimed at guiding states through the accession process.
  • Control Arms has also provided assistance and expertise to various other UN-supported initiatives that help with the implementation of and compliance with the ATT.  Control Arms maintains a significant presence on the Conference of States Parties (CSP), an annual meeting, now in its sixth year, for member states that have joined the ATT. It is an important place to report on progress made in implementing the treaty as well as address the challenges or concerns of member states. The coalition also provides expertise at the The United Nations First Committee which deals with disarmament and international security issues. The First Committee is comprised of all 193 members of the UN and usually meets for 4-5 weeks during October-November in New York to discuss a range of issues from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction to conventional arms and cyber security, regional measures and disarmament machinery.

Where can I learn more about them?

Click here to visit their website to learn more about their organization

Click here to view Control Arm's profile in our  'Many Faces of Nonviolence' series

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