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Conventional weapons and missiles

Conventional weapons

Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) establishes common global standards for the international trade in conventional weapons. It encourages States Parties to trade conventional arms responsibly and transparently, thereby helping to deter their diversion to the illicit market.

The major driving force behind the negotiation of the ATT was concern over violations of international humanitarian law and human rights that occurred in various conflicts around the globe. There was also concern that the unregulated availability of weapons was a major contributing factor to civilian suffering during and after armed conflicts.

The ATT text adopted by the United Nations General Assembly was the product of a Final Arms Trade Treaty Conference chaired by Australia's then Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Mr Peter Woolcott. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty on 2 April 2013. The treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014.

Australia signed the Arms Trade Treaty at New York on 3 June 2013 and ratified it on 3 June 2014.

More information on the ATT, including on the number of States Parties, ratifications and signatories can be found at the links below:

Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or the Ottawa Convention, is the cornerstone of the international effort to end the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines. The Convention was adopted on 18 September 1997 and it entered into force on 1 March 1999. To date, 164 States have formally agreed to be bound by the Convention. The Convention provides a framework for mine action, seeking both to end existing suffering and to prevent future suffering. It bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. In addition, States that accede to the Convention agree to destroy both stockpiled and emplaced anti-personnel mines and to assist the victims of mines.

Australia was one of the original signatories of the Convention and in December 1998 the Australian Parliament passed the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Act 1998. This legislation gives effect under Australian law to the provisions of the Mine Ban Convention. It creates offences relating to the placement, possession, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines by Australian citizens or members of the Australian Defence Force or on territory under Australian jurisdiction or control.

In keeping with Australia's obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Australian Defence Force has destroyed Australia's stockpile of anti-personnel mines. A small number of mines have been retained, as permitted by the Convention, for research and training purposes in support of Australia's work in humanitarian demining.

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

The Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, also known as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), was concluded on 10 October 1980, and entered into force on 2 December 1983. The purpose of the Convention is to ban or restrict the use of specific types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately. There are currently 126 States Parties to the Convention and a further four signatories.

The CCW consists of a framework convention and five protocols. The weapons currently covered by the CCW include:

  • Weapons leaving undetectable fragments in the human body (Protocol I)
  • Mines, booby-traps and other devices (Protocol II)
  • Incendiary weapons (Protocol III)
  • Blinding laser weapons (Protocol IV) and
  • Explosive remnants of war (Protocol V)

Protocols I, II and III entered into force on 2 December 1983. Protocol IV on blinding laser weapons was negotiated and adopted in 1995 and entered into force on 30 July 1998. Protocol II on the prohibition or restriction on the use of mines, booby-traps and other devices was amended in 1996 and entered into force on 3 December 1998. In 2001, States Parties amended Article I of the Convention by extending the scope of its application to include internal armed conflicts. Protocol V was subsequently negotiated and adopted on 28 November 2003.

Australia ratified the CCW on 29 September 1983 together with Protocols I, II and III; the amended Protocol II and Protocol IV on 22 August 1997; the amendment to Article I on 3 December 2002; and Protocol V in January 2007.

Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS)

MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defence Systems) are lightweight anti-aircraft weapons. They are designed to protect soldiers from aerial attack and are most effective when deployed against low flying or slow aircraft.

The same characteristics that make MANPADS suitable for battlefield use by soldiers also make them attractive to terrorist groups and insurgents. Since their inception in the 1960s, MANPADS have been used in more than forty terrorist attacks against civilian aircraft and have been employed as effective weapons of asymmetrical warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Australia's Approach to MANPADS

MANPADS in the hands of non-state actors represent a significant threat to aviation security, especially to civilian aircraft.

In 2005, Australia launched an international diplomatic initiative to encourage governments to implement effective controls over the manufacture, storage, and transfer of MANPADS equipment and technology. Our initiative also urged governments to take effective measures to prevent illicit transfers to non-state actors.

Australia has been successful in advocating the inclusion of MANPADS and similar light weapons in the control lists under the Wassenaar Arrangement and has been advocating for the inclusion of such weapons in a future Arms Trade Treaty.


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 Indo-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 third review conference took place in June 2018 in New York.

Related Links

Cluster Munitions

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (also known as the Oslo Convention) prohibits all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions and establishes a framework for cooperation and assistance to ensure adequate care and rehabilitation for survivors and their communities, clearance of contaminated areas, risk reduction education and destruction of stockpiles.

The Convention was adopted on 30 May 2008, opened for signature on 3 December 2008 and entered into force on 1 August 2010. There are currently 112 State Parties to the Convention and a further 12 signatories.

Australia was among the original signatories to the Convention on 3 December 2008. On 21 August 2012, legislation implementing the Convention was passed by the Australian Parliament. The Convention entered into force for Australia on 1 April 2013.

Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies was established in 1995, replacing a previous export control mechanism (The Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Strategic Export Controls). The Wassenaar Arrangement promotes transparency, exchanges of views and information, and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies with military applications. Participating States undertake to ensure that exports of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine international and regional security and stability. Representatives of Participating States meet regularly in Vienna where the Wassenaar Arrangement's Secretariat is located.

Items controlled by the Wassenaar Arrangement are organised into two lists: a munitions list; and a dual-use goods and technology list. The dual-use goods and technology list is further divided into a Sensitive List, and a Very Sensitive List of items that are subject to more stringent monitoring.

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