News & events

Training workshop in Vienna on dual-use and arms trade controls

4 February 2016

A range of international experts met in Vienna on 21-22 January 2016 to discuss how to practically strengthen the implementation and enforcement of trade controls for arms and dual-use items. Illicit arms flows are major stressors for fragile states, increasing both the risk of conflict onset and prolonging conflict duration. At a time when conflicts are becoming more complex and intractable, violent extremism is spreading and terrorist organisations are increasing their lethality and capability, it is crucially important to enforce efficient controls to prevent the spread or diversion of arms and dual-use items to conflict zones and unintended or proscribed end-users.

Existing national and international controls currently contain gaps and loopholes that undermine effective regulation and efforts to prevent conflict. The Vienna workshop brought together practitioners, officials and academics from China and several Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) Participating States to debate solutions to the challenges in implementing and enforcing export controls. This dialogue has the potential to bring about more effective, transparent, and joined-up efforts on dual-use and arms trade controls.

The workshop, which was jointly held by Saferworld, the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC) and the Austrian Institute for International Affairs (OIIP), allowed participants to exchange views on developing and updating national control lists of arms and dual-use items and technologies that meet high common international standards. A presentation by a Chinese official comparing Chinese control lists with those of international regimes highlighted that although differences remain, there are also overarching similarities. There is a common interest in enhancing China’s constructive engagement with multilateral export-control regimes and of strengthening and mutually reinforcing export controls.

A session which focused on strengthening the efficacy of end-use verification and risk assessment also raised the utility of the Arms Trade Treaty in enhancing national end-use and risk assessment across countries by obliging States Parties to align their national criteria with the Treaty’s provisions, dissuading signatories from undermining the purpose of the Treaty, and establishing norms that have implications even for non-signatories.

Other sessions addressed the control of brokering services and intangible transfers of technology and how to embed commercial export-controls compliance as one component of an effective national system of arms and dual-use transfer controls.

The second half of the workshop focused on real-life case studies to illustrate export control policy and practice in action and demonstrate responses to challenges such as controls on the export of dual-use items that are not included in national control lists and the risk of diversion to sensitive destinations. Participants found the case study analysis to be “very valuable” because it “teased out the real issues and identified practical measures that would benefit future cooperation”.

This workshop was held under a project led by Saferworld and CAITEC which seeks to enhance the implementation and enforcement of Chinese dual-use and arms trade controls and promote Chinese engagement in key international processes and regimes. A technical expert working group (TEWG) of four Chinese officials and officials from the Republic of Korea, Russia, the UK and the US act as the engine of this project to drive dialogue. A briefing paper summarises the outcomes of their first meeting in Beijing in September 2015.

“Illicit arms flows are major stressors for fragile states, increasing both the risk of conflict onset and prolonging conflict duration.”