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UN Arms Trade Treaty
Corruption & Peacekeeping

  • While there are international treaties to control the sale of goods from dinosaur bones to postage stamps and bananas, there has thus far been no such treaty to control the trade in weapons worldwide. Two-thirds of the largest arms importers and half of the biggest arms exporters in the world have relatively weak anti-corruption controls. On 2 April 2013, the United Nations General Assembly has taken an important step to change this as an overwhelming majority of states voted in favour of the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT has been signed by 113 states, including the United States of America, and ratified by 7. It will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 states.

    Transparency International very much welcomes this historic treaty. It is the result of years of work by concerned countries, its diplomats and TI’s partners in civil society—particularly the Control Arms coalition. It is also the result of TI’s own work with governments, institutional investors and the defence industry towards a robust ATT fortified by strong anti-corruption measures.

    Alongside its partners in the Control Arms coalition, TI is calling on states to see the treaty as a starting point to set new international standards. Once passed, states should aim high in their implementation plans and to sign and ratify the treaty as soon as possible. As many states have pointed out: the Arms Trade Treaty will be ‘a floor, not a ceiling’.

    "[The ATT] will have a requirement to take into account in export licensing decisions, the risks of serious acts of gender based violence, violence against women and children and corruption."

    Jo Adamson - Head of the UK Delegation for the ATT negotiations


    Get the UN Arms Trade Treaty ratified in your country.



      Three sections in the ATT will help states to address the corruption risks at the various stages of an arms transfer:

    • As part of the strictest level of arms export assessment criteria (alongside international humanitarian law and human rights law), in Article 7.1.b.iv. the treaty mandates that states shall not authorise an export if there is a risk that the arms in question could be used to “commit or facilitate an act constituting an offence under international conventions or protocols relating to transnational organised crime to which the exporting State is a Party.”

      As is clearly pointed out in the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, to which 174 States are Party, these offences include both corruption and money laundering.

    • The phenomenon of diversion of weapons away from their intended end-user (e.g. from police and security forces to criminal groups) has been one of the key arguments for why states want an ATT. Consequently, an entire article (Art. 11) is now devoted to diversion. The risk of diversion is a reason to refuse an arms export license. Article 11.5 discusses the relevant information about illicit activities that states should share with each other to better comprehend and to prevent diversion. The first element listed is corruption. This is important as it establishes a clear link between the diversion assessment and information about corruption or corrupt practices.

    • Under “International Cooperation” in Article 15.6, “State Parties are encouraged to take national measures and to cooperate with each other to prevent the transfer of conventional arms [...] becoming subject to corrupt practices. This article thus calls upon states to take action at the national level beyond the risk assessment, and to actively work with others at the international level to address corruption risks preventively.
  • Failing to take account of the threat of corruption during peacekeeping operations can come at a high cost, warns a new study by our programme. In the long run, the whole success of an international intervention can be put in jeopardy if corruption is not addressed early on in the process.

    “We call on the UN—as the largest worldwide body leading Peacekeeping missions—to end this indifference to corruption. A clear statement of direction by the Secretary General is a good place to start, followed by the UN initiating a debate on how to institute practical anti-corruption and transparency measures.”

    Mark Pyman, Director of Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme

    Corruption in conflict can perpetuate violence and opens the door to organised crime. Yet guidance on preventing corruption is largely absent from almost everything to do with peacekeeping. There is no general UN policy relating to corruption in post-conflict situations; Peacekeeping mandates rarely, if ever, mention it. Peacekeeping training centres do not include training on it.

    Underlying this is the cultural approach to corruption by diplomats, policy-makers and peacekeeping practitioners: corruption is not yet seen as a central or even an important issue. Take Afghanistan. Only after nine years of one of the largest military interventions in history was modest international action on corruption initiated. Why did it take so long? What was the cost of this? Most officials, and certainly the international military forces, now accept that this indifference was a serious mistake. (You can find other examples of corruption in peacekeeping in our press release.)

    Tackling corruption in peacekeeping is not an easy task. Peacekeeping forces are deployed to challenging environments where patronage networks and corruption often reign unchecked. Plagued by decades of conflict and weak governance, post-conflict environments such as Haiti, Guinea-Bissau and Kosovo are often fertile breeding ground for organised crime.

    By fighting corruption the UN, EU, NATO and other international organisations can make peacekeeping missions safer, more cost-effective and help countries transition to stability. Above all they can protect the citizens they are mandated to look after.


    • In this new study, the defence team identifies 28 types of corruption that threaten peacekeeping. It also spells out ways in which the UN can give an important lead in combatting corruption risk in peacekeeping operations.

    • The study recommends eight actions to the UN to meet the threat of corruption in peacekeeping missions, six of which are focused on developing policy, guidance and training for the UN, for Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) and for the missions themselves. Another stresses the urgent need for the UN to establish a more independent and robust oversight, investigation and whistle-blowing capability.

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