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10. Dual-use and arms trade controls



  • Overview
  • I. Arms trade treaty negotiations (sample PDF)
  • II. Multilateral arms embargoes
  • III. Financial sanctions and other restrictive measures
  • IV. Export control regimes
  • V. Export control developments in the European Union



Governments are
increasingly aware that controlling flows of conventional arms and items that
can be used for both civilian and military purposes—dual-use items—is a complex
process involving regulation of exports and associated brokering, transit,
trans-shipment and financing activities. This complexity requires effort and
cooperation from countries around the world. States, therefore, engage in
various multilateral mechanisms and continually create or adapt instruments to
address these challenges.


Arms trade treaty negotiations

The July 2012
United Nations conference on an arms trade treaty (ATT) concluded without
agreement on a draft treaty text. Several states, in particular Russia and the
United States, called for more time for UN member states to discuss these

Two issues proved particularly challenging
for ATT negotiators in 2012: finding an agreeable compromise on how to
incorporate respect for obligations under international humanitarian and human
rights law alongside state security prerogatives for arms transfers; and
defining the scope of items to be subject to transfer controls.

The final conference on the ATT took place
in March 2013, with UN member states given a final chance to achieve consensus
on an international treaty to establish the ‘highest possible common
international standards for the transfer of conventional arms’.


Arms embargoes, financial sanctions and other
restrictive measures

During 2012, 13 UN
arms embargoes, 19 European Union (EU) arms embargoes, and 1 League of
Arab States arms embargo were in force. No new arms embargo was imposed or
lifted in 2012. The UN Security Council failed to agree an arms embargo against

A variety of other restrictive measures
have been used to prevent proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical
weapons, and missile systems for their delivery. These measures include
restrictions on trade, financial sanctions and restrictions on travel.
Restrictions on trade can be either general or targeting particular goods.

Financial sanctions can include, for
example, the freezing of funds or economic resources, prohibitions on financial
transactions or requirements for prior approval before entering into such
transactions, and restrictions on the provision of export credits or investment
funds. Examples of restrictions on travel include flight bans and restrictions
on the admission of named individuals.

In 2012 an important understanding was
reached among the states that play a central role in managing the international
financial system on how to use financial sanctions to support
non-proliferation. In addition, new and expanded measures were adopted to
attempt to bring about a change in the national nuclear policy of Iran.


Multilateral arms embargoes in force, 2012

United Nations (13 embargoes)
• Al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities • Democratic Republic
of the Congo (NGF) • Côte d’Ivoire • Eritrea • Iran • Iraq (NGF) •
North Korea • Lebanon (NGF) • Liberia (NGF) • Libya (NGF) • Somalia
• Sudan (Darfur) • Taliban

European Union (19 embargoes)
Implementations of UN embargoes (9): • Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and
associated individuals and entities • Democratic Republic of the Congo
(NGF) • Côte d’Ivoire • Eritrea • Iraq (NGF) • Lebanon (NGF) • Liberia
(NGF) • Libya (NGF) • Somalia (NGF)

Adaptations of UN embargoes (3): • Iran • North Korea • Sudan

Embargoes with no UN counterpart (7): • Belarus • China • Guinea • Myanmar • South Sudan • Syria • Zimbabwe

ECOWAS (1 embargo)
• Guinea

Arab League (1 embargo)
• Syria 

NGF = non-governmental forces.

Export control regimes

Four informal,
consensus-based export control regimes—the Australia Group, the Missile
Technology Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassenaar
Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-use Goods and
Technologies—work within their specific fields to strengthen trade control

One cross-regime trend throughout 2012
involved ongoing efforts to expand the scope of discussions and guidelines
about activities and items to be subject to controls, in particular regarding
brokering, transit and trans-shipment, intangible transfers of technology, and
proliferation financing. Although export controls remain the regimes’ main
organizing principle, associated trade activities are increasingly becoming the
focus of control efforts.


Export control developments in the European

During 2012 the
ongoing review of the EU Common Position defining common rules governing
control of exports of military technology and equipment led to no major
developments regarding EU-wide rules for the control of arms exports,
brokering, trans-shipment and transit. However, EU member states implementated
a new regulation governing intra-community trade in defence goods.

The range of dual-use items subject to
control was expanded in line with agreements in the multilateral control
regimes, albeit with a substantial delay due to the new requirement to involve
the European Parliament. The Parliament’s efforts to expand the coverage of EU
controls on dual-use items to include transfers of surveillance technology
formed part of a range of initiatives in this area in the wake of the events of
the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2012. The Parliament is thus emerging as a new
actor shaping dual-use trade controls in the EU.