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Responsible regulation of global arms transfers

Reducing the transfer of arms (and ammunition) to conflict-affected regions and human rights crisis zones is a critical element in preventing conflict and promoting peace. Achieving this will require better and more transparent regulation of the international arms trade based on the principles of responsibility and restraint.

Easy access to arms increases the likelihood of disputes escalating into violence. It can also prolong and intensify violence in conflict, and undermine the chances of resolving and recovering from conflict. Existing national, regional, and international controls on the global transfer of arms contain gaps and loopholes that undermine effective regulation. So work is required at every level in order to strengthen the application of these controls and curb the proliferation and misuse of conventional arms, in particular small arms. Effective controls are those which prevent transfers of arms that increase the risk of violent conflict, or undermine human rights, development, or good governance.

Our work on arms transfers involves different strands of work: ArmsTrade Treaty, Arms transfer controls in Europe, UK arms transfer controls.

Saferworld has been at the forefront of civil society efforts to achieve effective arms controls for a quarter of a century. Major successes during this time include the EU Common Position (formerly the EU Code of Conduct) defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment and the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Our role has been in persuading governments of the need for strengthened and co-ordinated arms transfer controls and in supporting these processes through policy analysis, development and advocacy.

Specifically during the ATT negotiation process, we engaged with key ATT supporter-states, legal experts, and global civil society in order to develop and build support for proposals for an effective treaty. Among these proposals were a series of evidence- and consultation-based recommendations on how best to provide for effective implementation of the treaty.

Following the adoption of the ATT in April 2013, we are working on ways to facilitate progressive, consistent, and robust implementation of the treaty through the establishment of an informal Expert Group on ATT Implementation (EGAI) and by assisting governments in identifying their treaty implementation requirements by carrying out national assessments in selected states.

At EU level, Saferworld works to promote sustained, year-on-year improvements in the Member States’ arms transfer control systems and implementation practices, through regular direct engagement with government officials from across the EU and through work with EU-based civil society organisations.

At the UK level, we engage in dialogue with government officials through targeted policy briefings and bilateral meetings to encourage the progressive development of truly robust and transparent controls. We also support the efforts of parliamentarians, including the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), to hold the Government accountable for its arms transfer policies and practices.

Legal opinion: UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Leading lawyers find that the UK Government is breaking the law by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia in the context of its military intervention in Yemen.


Public transparency critical to ensuring responsible state behaviour when it comes to transferring weapons

Saferworld’s EU transparency tracker allows you to compare levels of transparency in arms transfers among individual EU member states.