The independent resource on global security

14. Dual-use and arms trade controls


Overview, Mark Bromley [PDF]

I. The Arms Trade Treaty, Giovanna Maletta and Mark Bromley [PDF]

II. Multilateral arms embargoes, Mark Bromley and Pieter D. Wezeman [PDF]

III. The multilateral export control regimes, Kolja Brockmann [PDF]

IV. Developments in the European Union’s dual-use and arms trade controls, Mark Bromley and Giovanna Maletta [PDF]

Global, multilateral and regional efforts continued in 2019 to strengthen controls on the trade in conventional arms and in dual-use items connected with conventional, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. Membership of the different international and multilateral instruments that seek to establish and promote agreed standards for the trade in arms and dual-use items remained stable. At the same time, there were growing signs that the strength of these instruments is being increasingly tested by stretched national resources and broader geopolitical tensions. This could be seen in the shortfalls in compliance with mandated reporting and funding obligations under the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the various reported violations of United Nations arms embargoes, and differences both within and among groups of states about how the obligations generated by these different instruments should be implemented. However, states did make substantive progress on reaching agreement on expanding and developing many of the technical aspects of these agreements in 2019. For example, states continued to outline in more detail how key obligations under the ATT should be implemented and made a number of additions to the set of good practice documents and control lists connecting the various export control regimes.


The Arms Trade Treaty

The Fifth Conference of States Parties to the ATT took place in Geneva in August 2019. Despite tensions and disputes, progress was made on articulating how the treaty’s provisions should be implemented, particularly those on gender-based violence (GBV). The ATT remains the only inter-national agreement in the field of arms or arms transfer controls that includes explicit provisions on GBV, and states’ attempts to specify what they mean in practice could have significance for other instruments. During 2019, the United States announced its intention to ‘unsign’ the ATT while China stated that it was taking steps towards acceding to the treaty. These contrasting moves will no doubt have implications for efforts to expand the membership of the ATT but the way in which this will happen remains hard to predict. 


Multilateral arms embargoes

During 2019, 13 UN arms embargoes, 21 European Union (EU) arms embargoes and 1 Arab League arms embargo were in force. No new embargo was imposed and none was lifted. Ten of the EU arms embargoes matched the scope of embargoes imposed by the UN, three were broader in terms of duration, geographical scope or the types of weapon covered, and eight had no UN counterpart. The single Arab League arms embargo, on Syria, had no UN counter-part. As in previous years, investigations by the UN revealed numerous reported cases of violations of varying significance. The implementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya, for example, has done little to halt the flow of arms into the conflict. During 2019, some arms transfers raised questions about what specific activ-ities and goods are covered by EU arms embargoes, and also highlighted the potential need for improved mechanisms of national reporting and independent monitoring.


Export control regimes

Each of the four multilateral export control regimes—the Australia Group (on chemical and biological weapons), 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—reviewed its respective trade control lists and guidelines in 2019. None of the four regimes admitted any new participating states (or partners) during 2019, despite a number of pending applications in several regimes. Geopolitical tensions continued to affect the work of the regimes, particularly work of a politically sensitive nature, such as information sharing on procurement efforts. In contrast, progress was made on the more technical aspects of the regimes’ work, such as control list amendments. This included new controls on cyber-surveillance and cyber-warfare tools made by the Wassenaar Arrangement. Several regimes took steps to engage more sub-stantially with each other on overlaps in their control lists, including with regard to their coverage of emerging technologies. 


EU controls

To implement the four export control regimes in its common market, the EU has established a shared legal basis for controls on the export, brokering, transit and trans-shipment of dual-use items and, to a certain degree, military items. During 2019, the EU’s two main instruments in this area—the EU Common Position on Arms Exports and the EU Dual-use Regulation—were the subject of review processes. The process of reviewing the EU Common Position was completed in September 2019 and led to limited changes to both the text of the instrument and its accompanying User’s Guide. However, the review of the EU Dual-use Regu-lation, begun in 2011, was still ongoing at the end of 2019. While substantive progress was made in 2019, the discussions also highlighted differences among the parties—the European Commission, European Parliament and the Council of the EU—about the overall purpose of the regulation. 

Dr Mark Bromley, Giovanna Maletta, Pieter D. Wezeman and Kolja Brockmann