Small Arms and Light Weapons


The destabilising accumulation, spread and misuse of small arms and light weapons contributes to the breakdown of law and order in many regions, including in the Asia Pacific. This, in turn, adversely affects the prospects for good governance, human rights and socio-economic development in many countries. Australia and other members of the international community recognise the need for early, concerted action to address the problems posed by small arms and light weapons.

United Nations Programme of Action

A United Nations international conference on the illicit arms trade in all its aspects was held in July 2001. The Conference adopted by consensus the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (Programme of Action), providing the framework to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons at national, regional and international levels. The second review conference took place in September 2012 in New York.

Arms Trade Treaty

Australia is committed to international efforts to achieve a robust treaty regulating trade in conventional arms, aimed at reducing the impact illicit arms has on security and development internationally. An Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will need to create an international framework under which States will trade responsibly and transparently in conventional arms. It should not restrict trade in conventional arms for legitimate national security reasons or constrain transfers.   Australia’s commitment to the ATT process is driven by our humanitarian and security interests.  Australia believes that a strong ATT has the potential to help vulnerable countries, including in the Asia-Pacific region, to address illicit arms trafficking.

In 2006 Australia co-authored UN General Assembly Resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty” which established a Group of Government Experts (GGE) charged with examining the feasibility, scope and parameters of an ATT.  In 2009 this work was pursued in meetings of an Open-Ended Working Group on the ATT.  In 2009, Australia co-authored a further UN General Assembly Resolution on an ATT (Resolution 64/48) which set a timetable for Treaty negotiations, with a final ATT Negotiating Conference set for July 2012.  Australia was an active participant in the preparatory process for the conference, including as a Friend of the Chair.  In addition, Australia funded workshops on the proposed treaty in the Pacific (Feb 2012), Africa (May 2012) and Caribbean (July 2010, Feb 2011 and May 2012), focussed at encouraging the widest engagement in the ATT negotiations.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty Diplomatic Conference in New York from 2-27 July 2012 did not agree on a Treaty, Australia has continued to push for an ATT and will work with a broad range of countries to achieve this. The United Nations General Assembly's First Committee decided to convene in New York from 18 to 28 March 2013 a Final United Nations Conference to conclude the Arms Trade Treaty.

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Last Updated: 7 December 2012