Diversion and the Arms Trade Treaty: Identifying Good Practice and Opportunities for Progress

Diversion and the ATT, White House and Congress at Odds Over Arms to Egypt, HK Fined for Illegal Arms & more


Diversion and the Arms Trade Treaty: Identifying Good Practice and Opportunities for Progress

Stimson Center, March 2021

A new report from the Stimson Center’s Rachel Stohl and Shannon Dick offers a compendium of best practice to minimize the risk of diversion in the international arms trade, with special attention on the benefits of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The report notes that diversion of conventional arms is a key international security concern, as unregulated weapons can perpetuate and exacerbate conflict and armed violence, facilitate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law —including gender-based violence —and contribute to insecurity and instability. A large proportion of diversions are related to international transfers of such arms. Thus, the prevention of diversion is a significant element of the ATT. 

The ATT establishes common international standards to ensure greater responsibility and transparency in the global arms trade and help prevent diversion posed by irresponsible or poorly regulated transfer decisions. Under Article 11, States Parties are required to take measures to prevent the diversion of conventional arms through specific measures including the mitigation of risks and, if a diversion is detected, to address such diversion.

The paper draws from extensive existing research on the types of diversion and associated risks throughout the transfer chain and is informed by interviews with government officials and analyses of public ATT reports as well as the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons for insights on States’ practices to prevent, detect, and address weapons diversion. The paper highlights the key issues related to diversion in the ATT, provides a status update on ATT initiatives and offers recommendations for the next steps on diversion within the ATT context.

To read the full report, click here

Security Assistance News & Research Roundup

News & Blog Posts



U.S. policy toward Egypt sparks conflict between congressional Democrats and Biden

Washington Post, April 2

Biden pledged there would be ‘no more blank checks for Trump’s “favorite dictator.”’ But a weapons sale is raising concerns and illustrate a brewing conflict between lawmakers and the White House on U.S.-Egyptian relations. 

New Zealand approved military exports to Saudis’ Yemen war ally UAE

The Guardian, March 29

A new report discloses that New Zealand approved export permits for weapons suppressors and artillery control systems sent to the UAE in 2018 and 2019. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said that the weapons were not used in Yemen while activists have questioned how the government can be sure the military equipment was not used in the conflict.

Court: Heckler & Koch must pay for illegal arms sales to Mexico

DW, March 30

Germany’s top criminal court has fined Heckler & Koch for allegedly using false documents to export more than 4,200 machine guns to Mexico’s central purchasing body, which then sold the weapons to “police departments located in states with dubious human rights records.”

New York Times, March 26

Intelligence officials have warned the Biden administration that Afghanistan could “fall largely under the control of the Taliban within two or three years” after the withdrawal of US troops if forces leave before the Taliban and Afghan government reach a power sharing agreement. Officials added that such events could “open the door for Al Qaeda to rebuild its strength within the country.” 

Al-Monitor, March 27

Italy is seeking additional arms deals with Egypt despite their previous diplomatic dispute and opposition from human rights activists. As of now, Italy will deliver the second FREMM Bergamini frigate to Egypt, worth approximately $1.3 billion, before the end of 2021.

Military Times, March 31

An audit from the DoD’s Inspector General has revealed that the Pentagon lost an unknown amount of reimbursement costs by neglecting to ask allies to “repay the United States for air transportation in Afghanistan” between September 2017 and September 2020. The US military paid about $773 million for air transportation in Afghanistan during that period but US Forces-Afghanistan Multinational Logistics did not collect data on allied use of the transportation, meaning the exact debt of coalition partners to the US cannot be known.

Research, Analysis, and Opinion  


Cashing in on Guns: Identifying the Nexus between Small Arms, Light Weapons and Terrorist Financing

The International Center for Counterterrorism, March 2021

This report presents the main findings of ICCT’s year-long research project on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) as a source of terrorism financing.

The US military must plan for encounters with private military companies

Brookings, March 30

Rodrick H. McHaty and Joe Moye write on Russia’s increasing use of private military companies (PMCs), which the country uses to expand its influence and financial gain in developing countries, while avoiding attribution through the use of disinformation, deception, and propaganda. “In other words, PMCs allow the Russian government to operate in places where it could not openly do so — at least not without drawing international retribution or sanctions.” McHaty and Moye argue that the U.S. military must plan for this increased PMC presence, and do so in a proactive, timely, strategic manner. 

Why the United States Is Still the World’s Top Weapons Seller

National Interest, March 31

Michael Peck, a contributing writer for the National Interest, provides commentary on figures from a recent report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on trends in arms sales. “Some will hail it as a triumph of American capitalism. Others will say that it is a bloodstained badge of shame. But either way, the world’s top five arms manufacturers are all American companies.” 

The U.S. Army Goes to School on Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Foreign Policy, March 30

Jack Detsch, a Pentagon and national security reporter for Foreign Policy, writes on the proliferation of combat-ready drones that are increasingly less expensive and more lethal. “That means the Army, which hasn’t changed its camouflage face paint pattern for more than two decades, needs to find new ways to avoid being spotted, and killed, even by a weaker opponent,” says Detsch.  

Mercenaries and Money Laundering in Libya

Inkstick, March 29

A recent report by the United Nations exposed “Project Opus”, an $80 million plot whereby Erik Prince helped smuggle US military equipment to a Libyan warlord. Writing for Inkstick Media, Jodi Vittori explains what the plot reveals about illicit financial flows and mercenary activities. “Project Opus demonstrates the extent that illicit financial flows and secrecy jurisdictions are used to facilitate mercenary activities,” says Vittori, “It will take a much more concerted effort by both the United States and the international community to help stop them.”

The Parallax Effect: Corruption and the Endless War on Terrorism

U.K. Defence Forum, March 29

“To correct a parallax effect – the differing views of insurgencies by the military, politicians, and contractors due to their different focus — ‘orientation of eyes should be in a straight line.’ Follow the money,” writes Joseph E. Fallon, a Senior Research Associate with the U.K. Defence Forum. Fallon cites a 2018 Security Assistance Monitor report, “Corruption in the Defense Sector: Identifying Key Risks to U.S. Counterterrorism Aid”, noting that “corruption is the predominant reason why U.S. counterterrorism efforts are often critically ineffective and even counterproductive,” in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and Somalia

US ending aid to Saudi-led forces in Yemen, but questions persist

Tip News, March 30

President Biden’s decision to cease arms sales for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive operations” in war-torn Yemen signalled a distinct shift in Washington’s approach to the conflict. However, “the Biden administration has released few details on what support to Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen it plans to end – or how it will differentiate it from other US assistance and arms sales to Saudi Arabia.” Additionally, using data from the Security Assistance Monitor, Tip News writes that former President Trump “authorised $27.4bn in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia during his first three years in office.”  






Data Fact of the Week:

Share of the Global Arms Trade

The graphic above, courtesy of SIPRI, illustrates the breakdown of the global arms export market by country. 

A new report from Stimson shows the risks of diversion the international arms trade, and how the Arms Trade Treaty can mitigate some of those dangers.    

Click here to read the full report.  

Upcoming Events (All Online)

4/5: Does a Transitional Government Offer the Last Path to an Afghan Peace?, hosted by MEI
4/5: Samuel Dash Conference on Human Rights, hosted by Georgetown University
4/6: US-Japan Relations Under Biden and Suga: The Future of a Critical Alliance, hosted by Hudson Institute
4/6: Alternative Futures in the Black Sea Region, hosted by MEI
4/6Russia policy—American interests and values, hosted by the Atlantic Council
4/7Preventing nuclear proliferation and reassuring America’s allies, hosted by the Atlantic Council
4/7: Cooperation or Competition: Planning for the Next National Security Strategy, hosted by CSIS
4/8: Building Resilience in the Sahel in an Era of Forced Displacement, hosted by the Wilson Center 
4/8: The Perilous State of Freedom and Democracy in Africa, hosted by CSIS
5/3: Biden and Congress at 100 Days – Assessing Arms Trade Policy, hosted by Forum on the Arms Trade
Connect With Us on Social Media! 
Read Past Newsletters 
Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list