This backgrounder provides an overview of the role of civil society in the process towards developing the Arms Trade Treaty.

For over a decade, an expanding movement of global civil society has been stressing the ATT’s urgency: Seven years ago, global civil society launched the Control Arms campaign to raise public awareness and press governments to accept the idea of a principled ATT. Millions of potential victims cannot afford to wait for a protracted diplomatic process, or one that yields a toothless instrument: a strong and effective ATT is needed immediately; increasingly, more and more governments have come to agree.

Civil society’s calls for a needed gear shift in the pace of ATT progress resulted in the General Assembly resolution in December 2009 which sets out a more definite process, with 2010 and 2011 marking the first and second years of a series of preparatory committees leading to a treaty negotiating conference planned for 2012. Timing resolved, the main challenge now for civil society and governments alike is to ensure that the content of an ATT is sufficiently robust to address the problems identified in the resolutions of the General Assembly – and to be accepted as legitimate by world public opinion.

Citation: Daniel Mack and Brian Wood (2012). "Civil Society and the Drive Towards an Arms Trade Treaty", UNIDIR, Geneva.