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Import controls and an arms trade treaty
Mark Bromley and Paul Holtom
SIPRI Background Paper

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The drafting of an arms trade treaty (ATT) represents a unique opportunity to define common state responsibilities for exercising control over the different stages of the arms transfer process and, as a result, prevent illicit and destabilizing arms transfers. Import controls represent a vital tool for helping to prevent cases of illicit diversion. They can also enable importer countries to play their part in preventing arms from being used to fuel conflicts or facilitate human rights abuses.

This paper provides an overview of existing international and regional agreements and best practices for controls on arms imports. It discusses national implemen­tation and enforce­ment of import controls, paying particular attention to licensing procedures, customs controls and the production and issuing of end-user certificates and other similar documentation. Improved standards in all of these areas could play an important role in reducing illicit and destabilizing arms transfers. A case study of transfers of AK-47 rifles from Bosnia to the United Kingdom demonstrates how poor enforce­ment of import controls can facilitate the diversion of small arms and light weapons (SALW).


I. Introduction
II. International obligations and guidelines
III. National implementation
IV. Import controls in an ATT

Related publications

Implementing an Arms Trade Treaty: Lessons on Reporting and Monitoring from Existing Mechanisms, SIPRI Policy Paper no. 28, Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley
'Transit and trans-shipment controls in an arms trade treaty', SIPRI Background Paper, Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley

About the authors

Paul Holtom (United Kingdom) is Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. His areas of research include transparency in the field of international arms transfers, UN arms embargoes and illicit arms trafficking; and European arms exports and export controls. His most recent publications include ‘Ukrainian arms supplies to sub-Saharan Africa’, SIPRI Background Paper (Feb. 2011); ‘The neverending flow: international transfers of used arms and military equipment’, Export vooruzheniy (Apr. 2011, co-author); and ‘Reporting to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms’, SIPRI Fact Sheet (May 2011, co-author).

Mark Bromley (United Kingdom) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. His areas of research include arms acquisitions in Latin America, transparency in the field of international arms transfers and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW). His recent publications include Air Transport and Destabilizing Commodity Flows , SIPRI Policy Paper no. 24 (May 2009, co-author) and ‘National reports on arms exports’, SIPRI Fact Sheet (Mar. 2011, co-author).

Publisher: SIPRI
12 pp.
July 2011


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