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Transparency, Confidence-building Measures: CBMs


Introduction. The UN and other international organizations have adopted measures to increase "transparency" regarding conventional arms transfers, production, and holdings. These measures take the form of publication of data, or national exchanges of unpublished data, on conventional arms exports, imports, production, acquisition or holdings. There are also data exchanges on planned future changes in holdings, on military organization and military exercises, and on export licenses denied.

In the first instance, the sharing of information on conventional armaments is intended as a confidence-building measure. In addition, transparency may be a prelude to limits on arms holdings, production, or trade; it may accompany limits, as one among a number of mutually-reinforcing verification measures; or it may be a means of strengthening regimes of voluntary national restraints on arms holdings, production, acquisition or exports.

Coverage. This section covers the following fora and reporting regimes for increased transparency in conventional armaments and dual-use goods and technology:

• The UN Register of Conventional Arms, a published annual compilation of nationally reported data on conventional arms exports and imports, as well as supplementary information on conventional arms holdings and production;

• The UN General Assembly's resolutions relating to transparency.

• The UN Conference on Disarmament, a forum which in the past has sought to propose ways to increase Transparency in Armaments and strengthen the UN Register of Conventional Arms.

• The UN Disarmament Commission, which has also supported increased Transparency in Armaments.

• The Organization of American States Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Arms Acquisitions, which in 1999 established a new international convention to provide transparency regarding arms acquisition by import or national production.

• The Wassenaar Arrangement, which reinforce national export controls on conventional weapons and dual-use technology through exchanges of information on export licenses granted and denied.

Several other international agreements including measures of conventional transparency are covered in other sections: The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, which provides for an annual exchange of data on Treaty-limited equipment, is covered in the section on that treaty. Data exchanges undertaken to build confidence within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are covered in the section European Security Institutions. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), under which suppliers maintain voluntary national limits on exports of longer-range ballistic and cruise missiles and exchange information relating to such exports, is covered in the section on Missile Proliferation and Control.

Other agreements concerning limits on conventional arms transfers, production and holdings, including recent agreements concerning Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), are covered in the section on Conventional Arms Restraints; which previously included the material on Transparency this section now covers.

UN Register of Conventional Arms. Following the Gulf War, a number of states expressed interest in restraining arms sales to the Middle East. This led to suggestions for global restraints on transfers of conventional arms.

On 23 April 1991, Britain called on the UN to set up a register of arms sales. On 29 May 1991, US President George Bush called for a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council to discuss the conventional arms trade in the Middle East. On 31 May 1991, France called for controls on arms exports to all regions. On 10 December 1991, a UNGA resolution called for the creation of a UN Register of Conventional Arms. On 30 July 1992, a panel of experts created under this resolution finalized the format for reporting arms transfers and the weapons systems to be covered by the Register {ACR 707.D 1992}. On 9 December 1992, the UNGA approved by consensus the establishment of a UN Register of Conventional Arms and called on members to submit data on their arms transfers in 1992, beginning 30 April 1993. In October 1993, the Secretary-General issued a report on the Register and released the data submitted by 80 nations, representing 98 percent of the known arms trade for the year {11.10.93}.

In 1994, 81 states submitted data by the time the Secretary-General released his report in September {1.9.94}. The response belied growing dissension among UN members over the direction the Register should take in the future. In 1995, 85 nations submitted data on their 1994 arms transfers. However, the Register continued to be attacked by critics for its inconsistencies and omissions {11.11.95}. In 1996, 92 states submitted data on arms transfers in 1995 by the time the Secretary-General released his report {28.10.96}. Most leading arms exporters submitted data, while several leading importers did not.

The 1997 Register contained data from 89 states (some of them submitted after the Secretary-General's report) on their 1996 arms transfers. The entire world's leading arms exporters' submitted data, while only five of the top ten importers did so. A UN panel of governmental experts met in 1997 to review and evaluate the working of the Register, but failed to agree on any substantive measures to improve it {15.8.97}.

The 1998 Register contained data from 95 states {707.E 1998}. The Register incorporated the technical changes recommended in 1997 by the panel of governmental experts {15.8.97}, the voluntary submissions on weapons holdings submitted by 29 states, and procurement through national production submitted by 23 states. All of the top ten arms exporters except China submitted data, while only five of the top ten importers participated.

In 1999, 86 states submitted data on 1998 arms transfers. China continued its boycott of the Register, protesting the inclusion of arms exports to Taiwan in the US data. Most Middle Eastern states continued to boycott the Register {13.8.99}. Although these specific country gaps persisted, overall participation in the Register increased substantially in 2000-2002, when staff members from the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs and UN delegates who are "Friends of the Register" made a special effort to encourage countries with null reports (no trade in or holdings or production of major weapons) to submit annual data. For the four most recent years (concluding with submissions in 2004 on arms transfers in 2003), the numbers of states participating have been 99, 118, 126, and 115, respectively. At a symposium in 2002, marking the 10th anniversary of the Register, Under Secretary for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala noted that over the course of the decade, 162 countries had participated at least once.

In 2004, the Register was expanded to include small arms and light weapons {59/86, ACR 801bGA04 14.10} and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) {59/90, ACR 801bGA04 1.11}. SALW were added in part to encourage African nations to begin reporting to the Register. The inclusion of MANPADS has been attributed as a response to international terrorism {2.11.04}.

UNGA. On 29 November 2001 the General Assembly adopted a resolution on transparency in armaments, 56/24Q, which reaffirms the UNGA's decision to keep the UN Arms Register under review. It requests the Secretary General to prepare a report on the "continuing operation of the Register and its further development," "taking into account" the CD's work in the field of transparency in armaments.{ACR 801bGA01} A similar resolution was passed in 2002 on the 10th anniversary of the Register {57/75, ACR 801bGA02 22.11}.

Conference on Disarmament (CD). In 1992-1994, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament's ad hoc committee on Transparency in Armaments (TIA), tasked with proposing additional uses for the UN Arms Register, debated this issue. In 1995-1997, the CD could not agree to re-establish the ad hoc committee due to disagreements over the relationship between conventional and nuclear disarmament {ACR 805bGA96 3.9; ACR 805bGA97 12.5-27.6; 28.7-12.9}. In 1998, the Special Coordinator for TIA held discussions on the merits of TIA, the scope for activity on TIA, and ways for the CD to address TIA {DD 8/9.98}. From 1999 to 2001, the CD has been unable to take any action on TIA because each year it has failed to agree on program of work {ACR 805bGA99 18.1. 26.3, 7.9; ACR 805bGA00 7.8-22.9; ACR 805bGA01 2.8-13.9}. In 2002, the Five Ambassadors' Initiative was proposed as an attempt to end the deadlock in the CD. A consensus could never be reached and the proposal was tabled until the next year's sessions {ACR 805bGA02 31.7-12.9}. During the 2003 and 2004 sessions, the CD remained unable to agree to the initiative {ACR 805bCD03 9.9; 805bCD04 7.9}.

Disarmament Commission. In May 1996, the UNDC approved "Guidelines for International Arms Transfers" {3.5.96}.

Organization of American States: Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions. In June 1999, the OAS approved a treaty on transparency in conventional arms acquisitions {7.6.99} which was signed by a majority of OAS members. Canada ratified the convention in 1999; Ecuador, Guatemala, and Uruguay ratified in 2001; El Salvador and Paraguay in 2002; Nicaragua in 2003. The convention went into effect one month after the sixth ratification (Paraguay) was deposited. According to the convention's article I and its annex, the member states will annually exchange data on the "purchase, lease, procurement, donation, loan or any other method" of acquisition of conventional arms. The arms covered are the same as those covered in the UN Register of Conventional Arms: tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers.

Wassenaar Arrangement. Created in 1949 by the Western alliance to prevent the transfer of militarily useful technology to the communist states, the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), which was the predecessor to the Wassenaar Arrangement, restricted international transfers of items in three categories:

• The Industrial List (dual-use items with both civilian and military applications, including nuclear-relevant, dual-use items);

• The International Atomic Energy List (items useful for nuclear-weapon design and testing); and

• The International Munitions List (conventional arms).

COCOM's members comprised all NATO states except Iceland, plus Australia and Japan.

With the end of the Cold War, the determination to restrict technology exports to Central and Eastern Europe faced. COCOM members decided, however, that some form of multilateral export regime was still needed to monitor and restrain the spread of dual-use technology to countries seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction (WMD). On 17 November 1993, COCOM members agreed that by 31 March 1994 they would replace COCOM with a new, expanded-membership organization. COCOM was disbanded at the end of March 1994; but the formation of a successor regime stalled, primarily over the issue of membership. On 11-12 September 1995, a group began to flesh out the successor organization, temporarily referred to as the New Forum.

On 18 December 1995, 28 nations meeting in Wassenaar, Holland, agreed to create the "Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies." After resolving differences over issues such as early notification of license approvals that had previously been denied by another participant, on 12 July 1996, 33 founding members adopted the "Initial Elements," the Arrangement's founding document, at an inaugural plenary in Vienna {3.4.96; 11-12.7.96}.

In 2000 the group decided to institute stringent controls over shoulder-fired missiles, based largely on Western, fears about the trade in Stinger missiles.

The Wassenaar Arrangement aims to promote transparency and reinforce existing national export controls on conventional arms and dual-use technology. Licensing decisions are left to individual states. Participating states exchange aggregate data every six months on both approvals and denials of licenses for the transfer of controlled items to non-Wassenaar countries. Controlled items are itemized in a List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies and a Munitions List. Prompt notification (within 60 days) is to take place for each export license denial and for each license approval that undercuts another country's previous denial of "an essentially identical transaction." Participation is voluntary, since there is no enforcement mechanism. All decisions are made by consensus (see the Summary of Initial Elements below).

The Initial Elements call for a plenary meeting "at least once a year." The Fifth plenary and First Review Conference took place in December 1999 in Vienna {1-3.12.99}. The review conference examined many proposals for strengthening the arrangement. The only significant decision, however, was an amendment of Appendix 3 to the Initial Elements. Members agreed to amend the dual-use goods and technology control list and to update the lists in timely manner to keep pace with technological and other developments.

Review of the Wassenaar Arrangement. During its 7th plenary meeting in Vienna (6 7 December 2001), the Wassenaar participating states amended the arrangement's founding document by adding a new section declaring that they will "continue to prevent the acquisition of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies by terrorist groups and organisations as well as by individual terrorists." This was the first amendment of the "Initial Elements" (the core document of the Wassenaar Arrangement) since its creation in 1996.

In December of 2004, the members approved measures that would further adapt the Wassenaar Arrangement to take on the threat of terrorism. Stricter regulations were put in place with regard to the export of SALW and MANPADS. Arms brokers would also be placed under increased scrutiny. The authority to approve the export of MANPADS, for example, would be reserved for those at the "senior policy level" {12.12.04}.

Location and sessions. The Wassenaar Arrangement's secretariat is located in Vienna. Initial exchange of data began in September 1996 {1.9.96}. Data exchanges and General Working Group meetings are continuing.

Weapons. "Conventional weapons," as defined by the UN for the purpose of the Register of Conventional Arms, comprising the five categories covered by the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty: main battle tanks; armored personnel carriers; attack helicopters; combat aircraft; and artillery, plus combat ships and missiles and missile launchers {10.12.91}. "Small arms and light weapons" include firearms, hand grenades, bazookas, and MANPADS {13.11.95, 12.12.04}.

Membership in the Wassenaar Arrangement

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

Total members: 33

Summary of Initial Elements of the Wassenaar Arrangement

I. Purposes

1. Promoting transparency and greater responsibility on arms and dual-use technology transfers

2. Complementing and reinforcing existing control regimes

3. Enhancing cooperation to prevent acquisition of arms and dual-use technologies by states or regions of concern

4. The arrangement is not directed against any state or group of states

II. Scope

1. Participants will meet on a regular basis.

2. Participants will exchange, on a voluntary basis, information to enhance transparency and lead to discussions on coordinating national control policies.

3. License decisions will be left up to the individual member states.

4. Participants agree to notify each other of transfers and denials to non-participant states. Notification of a denial by one participant does not require other participants to deny similar licenses, but participants will notify, "preferably within 30 days, but not later than within 60 days, all other Participating States of an approval of a license which has been denied by another Participating State for an essentially identical transaction during the last three years."

5. Work on further guidelines and procedures will continue.

6. This arrangement will be assessed regularly, beginning in 1999.

III. Control Lists

1. Controlled items are set forth in Dual Use List and Munitions List.

2. The Dual Use List includes two annexes: "sensitive" (tier 2) items and "very sensitive" (sub-set tier 2) items.

3. The control lists will be reviewed regularly.

IV. Procedures for General Information Exchange

1. Participants will exchange general information of risks of sensitive exports and export control policies.

2. Elements of general information exchange are provided in Appendix 1.

V. Procedures for the Exchange of Information on Dual-Use Goods and Technology

1. Participants will notify each other of licenses denied to non-participants.

2. Data on tier-1 items will be exchanged twice a year.

3. Tier 2 and sub-set tier 2 item denials will be announced no later than 60 days after the date of the denial.

4. Tier 2 item transfers/approvals notification will take place twice a year.

5. Countries will "exert extreme vigilance" for sub-set tier 2 items, and compare national export policies for these items.

6. Participants may request this data through other diplomatic channels.

VI. Procedures for the Exchange of Information on Arms

1. Participants will exchange general information and concerns about arms accumulations.

2. Data on deliveries of conventional arms (from the UN Register of Conventional Arms) will be exchanged every six months.

3. This data can also be requested through normal diplomatic channels.

VII. Meetings and Administration

1. Participants will meet "periodically."

2. Plenary meetings will be held at least once a year; chair will rotate annually.

3. Working Groups may be established by the Plenary.

4. There will be a secretariat and a staff.

5. All decisions within the framework of the Arrangement will be made by consensus.

VIII. Participation

Admission of new members is by consensus.

IX. Confidentiality

Information exchanges and discussions are confidential.


Appendix 1: General Information Exchange

Appendix 2: Specific Information Exchange on Dual-Use Goods and Technologies

Appendix 3: Specific Information Exchange on Arms

Appendix 4: Participation Criteria (Participants must be producers/exporters of arms, adhere to non-proliferation policies, and maintain fully effective export controls)

{See 250d 1996 (Nonproliferation Regimes) for complete text.}

Further Information

Wassenaar Arrangement, The Amended Arrangement:

Organization of American States, Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions:

United Nations, United Nations Register of Conventional Arms:

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