Arms rights activists and shooting sports enthusiasts, not just the broader arms and security industries, must get serious about the  post-ATT threats to their interests.

By Jeff MORAN | Geneva

The unsurprising failure of the Final United Nations (UN) Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on 28 March was the result of overdone advocacy by the Oslo faction, a coalition of states led by Austria, Mexico, and Norway.[1]  This coalition importantly includes a constellation of supporting humanitarian and disarmament non-governmental organizations (NGOs) whose members have even been direct participants in the ATT negotiations on state delegations.[2]  While Oslo faction members did not break consensus themselves, their advocacy directly resulted in an over-representation of their interests in the draft treaty text.  The result was an under-representation of more authoritarian states interests, and the interests of arms importing states in the draft ATT text.[3]  In the end, as correctly estimated by this author prior to the Conference, consensus was blocked by Iran, Syria, and North Korea. [4]

The next step is for states to vote on the ATT during a session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), perhaps as early as Tuesday 2 April 2013.   The treaty will be popular but will not likely be ratified by the United States, or all of the remaining permanent UN Security Council members.  As such the ATT is not likely result in globally binding customary international law anytime soon, if ever.

This being said, a key take-away is that the ATT will be a regulatory baseline, and must be seen as a giant bow wave for more small arms related international gun control and trade restrictions to come.  This is because the Oslo faction, guided by its vision and long-term agenda, will continue to advance amendments to the ATT along with other policy that are based in a progressive humanitarian idealism which rejects the notion of an individual’s right to armed self defense.   Therefore, to a large extent, the Oslo faction and its advocacy must be seen as serious threats to the libertarian interests of civil arms rights activists, and, by extension, the interests of modern shooting enthusiasts and the the broader arms and security industry.

This article describes the Olso faction, its idealistic vision and long-term agenda, and the perception that this faction is promoting a form of misguided if not dishonest humanitarianism.  It concludes with a warning and ten recommendations for pro-gun civil libertarian groups, sport shooting clubs & associations, and industry stakeholders.


The Oslo Faction

The Oslo faction made a name for itself within the context of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and their insurgent coup during the 2011 Review Conference on the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).[5]  The backstory starts with Oslo faction giving birth to the CCM outside the UN amid protest by specially affected states (states that produce and/or use most of the world’s cluster munitions).  The states specially affected by the CCM believe that all such disarmament treaties must be negotiated within the UN  system, and have not embraced the resulting CCM treaty because they consider it to be too restrictive to ever sign.  As such, specially affected states consider the CCM as a well-intended humanitarian expression but one of limited practical relevance because it will likely never become globally binding on them.

In response to the Oslo faction’s CCM, specially affected states pushed for a complementary treaty more in line with their interests.  This complementary treaty was negotiated in a Group of Governmental Experts format within the framework of the CCW.  The intent was to create an additional Sixth Protocol to the CCW by consensus.  The draft  Sixth Protocol was designed to have significant impacts on reducing and restricting older less discriminating cluster munitions but permitted newer ones with greater precautionary technologies, such as post-deployment deactivation features, so their use and effects would be less likely to adversely impact civilians.  The Protocol was then proposed for adoption by consensus during the Fourth Review Conference of the CCW in November, 2011.  However, the proposal was acrimoniously defeated in a coup by the Oslo faction in the form of a group statement by 28 States (spoken by Costa Rica’s representative) and, quite controversially, with advocacy by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).[6]

The core of the Oslo faction comprises approximately 14 states, and enjoys varying degrees of support from over 100 states.  This is suggested by previous joint statements delivered by Costa Rica at the 2011 Review Conference for the CCW and by Mexico at two UN ATT Conferences.[7]  An estimate of the broader of the Oslo faction is below (click to enlarge):


The Oslo Vision

The Oslo vision is a reflection the faction’s general outlook, and can be better understood by looking at key humanitarian NGO publications and official state positions and synthesizing them.  Oxfam International’s 2010 “National Implementation of the Proposed Arms Trade Treaty: A Practical Guide” conveys a vision for the ideal scope and approach for the ATT to be achieved over time.[8]  An 11 March 2013 interview with Amnesty International’s Brian Wood reveals that an ATT is hoped to be a historic effort leading to severe trade restrictions, domestic gun control, and a new front for international lawfare against the United States and it’s interests.[10]

Had the US not insisted on consensus rules in 2009, the scope for the ATT would have been even more aspirational and restrictive than it is.[9]  This being said, the Oslo faction sees the ATT as merely a starting point, a baseline.  Eventually they hope to expand the scope of the ATT to touch stakeholders beyond just states and the corporate makers and distributors of conventional weapons.

Here are some of the items that would become more restricted to the extent the Oslo faction succeeds in amending the ATT’s scope over time (click to enlarge):


The position statement put forward by Burundi on 18 March 2013, which was posted on the UN website but then curiously removed the next day, provides insight on another dimension of the vision some Oslo faction states have for the ATT.[10]  Whatever the reason for the removal of Burundi’s statement, its text indicates Oslo faction members clearly seek to codify new global norms, standards, and principles embodied in two existing and extremely restrictive regional treaties: the 2004 Nairobi Protocol (KP) and the 2010 Kinshasa Convention (KC).[11][12]

For example, Burundi stated the ATT must be “in accordance” with the NP and the KC, and that their position was not just their own, but held by many states.  These states’ positions:

“[R]equire the future Arms Trade Treaty take into account Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), ammunition and other related materials in accordance with the Kinshasa Convention and Nairobi Protocol…[I]t should be emphasized that signing the Treaty will not be an end in itself, but a good start to the regulation of the Arms Trade.”[13]

Put in a global context, Burundi is among the world’s least developed, most poor, and most corrupt states on the planet[14][15][16].  Burundi is state still struggling to get beyond its recent civil wars and genocidal trauma.  So, as such, their concerns about weapons and violence are real and legitimate, and align nicely with the views championed by Norway and leading NGOs such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and members of the Control Arms Campaign.[17]  Indeed, Burundi is a good example of a bad situation, and has been a special test bed for NGOs like Oxfam International.[18]


The Long-run Oslo Agenda

For Burundi and most if not all countries within the Olso faction, the KC and NP represent a kind of ideal regional “as-is” template for a “to-be” globally binding framework restricting small arms and ammunition.  These treaties are quite expansive and clearly  run contrary to the interests of civil libertarians, shooting sports clubs and associations, and industry.  They focus on possession, use, manufacture, sale, repair, marking, tracing, and international registration and reporting on domestic and international transfers of small arms, ammunition, parts, components, AND items that can be used for their manufacture, repair, or assembly.

Here are “just” seventeen elements of these existing treaties, which, properly understood, are ideal long-run action items by many Oslo faction states and their humanitarian NGO partners:

1.  Create an international electronic registry of small arms and ammunition and all parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair and assembly including: names and addresses of current and former owners, shippers, consignees, dates of import/export, transit, domestic transfer, complete banking/financial information, and insurance agents.  (KP, Articles 20 & 21)

2.  Create an international electronic registry of the name and complete and addresses of every home producer or industrial manufacturer, every distributor and every maintainer of small arms and light weapons, their ammunition and all parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair and assembly.  (KP, Articles 20 & 21)

3.  Prohibit the civilian possession and use of all semi-automatic rifles. (NP, Article 3)

4.  Require marking and tracing of ammunition including specific markings on ammunition casings.  (KC, Article 14)

5.  Require marking and tracing of all parts and components that can be used for the manufacture, repair and assembly of small arms and their ammunition (NP, Article 3)

6.  Restrict owners’ rights to “relinquish control, use, and possess” small arms and ammunition (NP, Article 3)

7.  Restrict the number of small arms that may be privately owned (NP, Article 3)

8.  Prohibit the pawning and “pledging” of small arms (NP, Article 3)

9.  Deny licenses for the purchase, use, or possession of firearms by civilians who have “any” criminal record or psychiatric history. (KP, Article 8)

10.  Institute a mandatory 30 day waiting period for firearms purchases (KP, Article 8)

11.  Condition the issuance of civilian ownership licenses upon applicants demonstrating a “valid” reason, with automatic expiration every 5 years. (KP, Article 8)

12.  Strictly prohibit the carrying small arms by civilians in public places. (KP, Article 8)

13.  Strictly license home and industrial manufacture and distribution of all parts and components that can be used for the manufacturing, repair, and assembly of small arms and ammunition. (KP, Article 11)

14.  Reduce the local manufacture of small arms and their ammunition. (KP, Article 11).

15.  Strictly licensing of all “activities” (i.e. businesses and hobby work) related to the manufacture, distribution and repair of small arms, their ammunition and all parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair and assembly. (KP, Article 11)

16.  Submit an annual national report to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms for all import, export, transit, trans-shipment and transport or other movement to, across and from the territory of one State Party of small arms, their ammunition and all parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair and assembly.  (KP, Article 24)

17.  Include the following details for each transfer included in the annual report to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms: the type and number of small arms, their ammunition and all parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair and assembly; and the name and up-to-date address of the relevant persons involved. (KP, Article 24)


Misguided If Not Dishonest Humanitarianism

The Oslo faction will continue to be an international regulatory force to be reckoned with after the ATT negotiations conclude.  And it is important to recognize that the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, the US, the UK, and Russia…the leading arms exporters in the world) don’t have the highest regard for the Oslo faction or its advocacy.  The reason for this is rooted in their perception that the Oslo faction and its humanitarian NGO supporters tend to promote a form of misguided if not dishonest humanitarianism.

Put another way, Oslo faction states and campaigners are thought to base their advocacy on three false assumptions with respect the arms trade and small arms control.  This in turn causes friction and undermines credibility with leading exporting states.  These false assumptions are:

1.  A State must never balance peace and security interests against human rights, because human rights are absolute; there must be no violations of human rights under any circumstances.

This assumption is considered false, if not insanely so, by leading exporting States and many States in the Middle East and Asia.  Their reasoning is that human rights are not absolute because there are words like “arbitrary” and derogation clauses in human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[19]  The understanding by most States rejecting the absolutist line is that a State is not only permitted, but has a duty to deprive people of certain human rights (e.g. the right to life) in the interest of law and order, and public safety in certain circumstances.  This being said, these non-absolutist States do recognize some State actions are never permissible.  What’s more, they would argue that the deprivation of the human right to life, for example, must never be arbitrary, and that States must follow certain procedures when derogating from human rights treaties.

Consult the endnote section regarding human rights as absolute rights, and additional legal perspectives on the ATT draft text.[20]

2.  Proliferation of small arms is a universal threat to humanity because it causes more armed violence everywhere, or, alternatively, the greater availability of small arms will cause more gun deaths in any given society.  

This assumption may be true for weak and fragile States, but it is not true at the societal level for all States.  The US is a striking exception that proves this global assumption false.  There, the proliferation of arms by another State actually did much good for the local humanity: it helped freedom-seeking insurgents to gain independence from an abusive colonial power.  What’s more, since 1993, gun availability spiked, ownership rates rose, and, as the chart below shows (click to enlarge), the rates of gun-related homicide, suicide, and accidents dropped nearly 50%, 15%, and 70% respectively.[21]


3.  There is a large and serious disease of international illegal weapons trafficking creating havoc for humanity everywhere, and the cure is a highly restrictive one-size-fits-all global arms trade treaty.

This assumption has been proven false through improvements in scholarship since it came into vogue in the early 2000s.  Yet key  thought leaders and NGO’s know this assumption is false but keep promoting (either explicitly or implicitly) the ATT as a viable blanket solution, as if trafficking and armed violence follow a disease model plaguing everybody.

One case example is the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey (SAS), an “independent” research NGO actually funded by UN organizations and other states less than sympathetic towards the defense rights of citizens, organized shooting sports, and industry.  It’s members have given numerous “expert” talks on the small arms trade that were soft-sell forms of ATT advocacy.[22]  Yet on 14 March 2013 Dr. Kieth Krause, the director and founder of the SAS, gave a pre-ATT Conference news briefing on guns and armed violence around the world and suggested blanket solutions were inherently problematic.  About 20 minutes into his presentation, he stated:

“[Armed] violence doesn’t spread epidemically, invisibly through society the way you could think of it as epidemiology or disease models but actually follows along particular networks that are involved in often illicit activities…If you are going to try to tackle the question of lethal violence, and guns are one part of that puzzle, you have to think about who is affected, where, and under what circumstances, and for what reasons, rather than just a blanket approach to the problem.”[23]

Another example would be the 25 March 2013 statement by Raymond C. Offenheiser of Oxfam America.  Mr. Offenheiser was quite explicit in his assertion that the ATT was, still, a necessary “global solution:”

“The Arms Trade Treaty would provide a global solution to the rogue and irresponsible trade of weapons across borders. It would require countries to adopt national control systems that stop the pervasive sale of arms to war criminals or rogue actors.”(24) 

Statements like those from Oxam America come off as uninformed, misguided or even dishonest when reconciled with scholarship on the topic.  For instance, one reputable study of studies confirmed that for years illegal trafficking has been known to be a largely overstated problem.  In fact, study has shown illegal trafficking to be a generally small problem isolated to a relatively small number of states with more fundamental governance problems such as corruption, deficient rule of law, and diversion from government control.  A key qoute:

“For most developing or fragile states, a combination of weak domestic regulation of authorised firearms possession with theft, loss or corrupt sale from official holdings tends to be a bigger source of weapons of concern than illicit trafficking across borders.”[25]

Ultimately, arguing for the ATT as a blanket approach to armed violence or trafficking just isn’t supported by research.  If anything, the research suggests solutions to these problems should  be more local and customized to the governance needs on the ground.  And this is an important reason why many Oslo faction members are perceived as practicing a misguided if not dishonest humanitarianism.

Consult the endnote section for more on the second and third false assumptions above with respect to UN small arms control initiatives in general.[26]


Conclusion and Next Steps

To the extent the ATT helps the world adopt practical arms-related export controls, licensing procedures, and domestic regulation like those already in place in the United States, the world will be made better off.  But civil libertarian groups, shooting clubs and associations, and the broader arms and security industry must see the ATT for what it really is: a baseline and a bow wave for more small arms related international gun control and trade restrictions to come.

Ultimately, the ATT will create a new battlespace for international lawfare against the United States and other subjects of international law;  inspire further restrictions on civilian possession and use of firearms across the globe; and involve further anti-industry restrictions affecting the lawful manufacture, distribution and repair of small arms, ammunition and parts, components, and accessories that can be used for their manufacture, repair, assembly and use.

American stakeholders in particular must get serious about the mega trend of international small arms controls and de facto protectionism abroad.  Stakeholders must also get smart on how lawmaking in international organizations and customary international law is being actively pursued and how it bypasses domestic legislative processes and makes traditional national advocacy efforts obsolete.  Those that ignore the game-changing legal forces at work do so at their own peril.

The imperatives for arms rights activist groups, shooting sports clubs and associations, and the firms operating in the international shooting and security industry are clear:

1.  Turn on, tune in, and take seriously what is going on within the UN and its member organizations.

2.  Build and implement an international regulatory awareness and advocacy program.

3.  Learn how the UN works, seek opportunities to attend meetings, and become an inside operator to shape the regulatory agenda.

4.  Recognize that sources of international regulatory risk are not just global treaties or foreign national regulations, but also regional treaties, UN organizational rulemaking and customary international law.

5.  Focus on the UN’s Coordinating Activity on Small Arms (CASA), which seeks to roll-out an ISO-backed International Small Arms Control Standard.

6.  Take appropriate actions when and where threatening “soft-law” is being proposed and hardened through treaties, declarations, UN organizational standard setting, and state practice.

7.  Seek outside expertise but don’t completely outsource your surveillance, monitoring, and advocacy to collective  associations.

8.  Develop coalitions, create discipline, and promote your interests with like-minded stakeholders and groups in other countries.

9.  Coordinate advocacy internationally and direct it at relevant governments and international organizations for impact.

10.  Don’t only push positions; try also to create relationships so to build mutually beneficial outcomes based on shared interests.

Ultimately, unless stakeholders do more to actively develop the international normative environment, they will likely see their interests undermined: individual arms rights will be frustrated; modern shooting sports may be banned; and firms will see their competitive positions eroded and their profits diminish around the world.  And this is what many within the Oslo faction hope will happen.  Arms rights activists, shooting sports enthusiasts, and industry must therefore take the Oslo faction, the UN, and international organizations more seriously and work together to improve upon their precarious position.


About The Author

Jeff Moran lives in Geneva, Switzerland and is a consultant specializing in the international defense, security, and shooting sports industries at TSM Worldwide LLC.  Previously Mr. Moran was a strategic marketing leader for a multi-billion dollar business unit of a public defense & aerospace company and an American military diplomat.  He is currently studying weapons law within the Executive LL.M. Program of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.  Mr. Moran has an Executive Master in International Negotiations and Policymaking from the Graduate Institute of Geneva, an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and a BSFS from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.


End notes

[1]  The 2013 ATT Conference failed for same reason the 2012 Conference failed…overdone advocacy by the Oslo faction.  The Oslo faction pushed too hard for too many things that were offensive to state sovereigntists.  For a detailed explanation as to why the 2012 Conference failed, please see  For commentary for why the 2013 Conference failed, please see:

[2]  The key humanitarian NGOs involved in the ATT are Oxfam International, Amnesty International, and the International Action Network on Small Arms.  Collectively they made up the Control Arms Coalition, which had all but publicly disintegrated by July 2011 due to conflicting priorities.  The international Committee of the Red Cross has been quite involved as well.  Research organizations include the UN’s Institute for Disarmament Research, and the Small Arms Survey.  The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights has been quite productive with coordinating publications and hosting ATT related events, and with providing specialists to the Swiss delegation in support of the ATT.

[3]  The  evolution of the ATT text can be seen by looking several drafts over time.  These are available here:

[4]  Jeff Moran.  Consensus Unlikely: Commentary and Outlook for the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.  TSM Worldwide: 2013.  Going into the Conference, this author estimated the probability of not reaching consensus to be 75% and correctly estimated which countries would break consensus if Oslo faction members didn’t do so directly.  The link to this e-brief  is here:  The press release here:

[5]  Here is a link to the CCM treaty text by the International Committee of the Red Cross:  Here is the UN summary and link to the CCW and its constituent Protocol texts:

[6]  Here is the United Nations summary and link to official documents from the 2011 Fourth Review Conference on the CCW:  Here is the group statement by Costa Rica at the Fourth Review Conference on the CCW in 2011:  Here is the ICRC statement at Fourth Review Conference of CCW:  Here is a link to the US statement regarding the Oslo coup during the CCW Review Conference in 2011:

[7]  Prior UN ATT joint statements made by Mexico are available here:

[8]  Here is the treaty implementation guide published by Oxfam International:

[9]  The US insisted upon consensus rules when it announced its support for the UN ATT process.  See the press announcement here:

[10]  See interview with Amnesty International’s Brian Wood here:

[11]  See Burundi’s 18 March 2013 statement, in French, here:  Hereafter referred to as Statement of Burundi.

[12]  See the Kinshasa Convention here:

[13]  See the Nairobi Protocol here:

[14]  Statement from Burundi, 18 March 2013.

[15]  The UN ranks Burundi 178 of 187 countries in terms of human development.  See profile at (last accessed 20 March 2013)

[16]  Transparency International ranks Burundi 165 of 176 on its corruption perceptions ranking at (last accessed 20 March 2013)

[17]  Burundi is the 4th poorest country in the world according to the International Monetary Fund in terms of GDP at purchasing power parity per capita in 2011.  See IMF output data available at

[18]  See the ICRC statement on the ATT here:  See the Control Arms statement on the ATT here:

[19]  A few years ago Oxfam promoted a film about Burundi called “Bang For Your Buck, ” a great short film detailing the horrible effects of widely available hand grenades in civil society, which was marred only by its concluding non sequitur calling for a global arms trade treaty.  You can find a link to “Band For Your Buck” on the United Nations YouTube channel:  You can also read TSM Worldwide’s commentary on the film here:

[20]  Here is the text for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

[21]  See to find discussion of human rights as absolute rights and the so-called “balancing problem.”  The audio for this is also available at the link.  A quote referring to human rights being absolute can be found at marker 16 minutes, 35 seconds.  You will hear the voice of Dr. Andrew Clapham, the Director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

[22]  Gun ownership data:

[23]  This author has personally attended several such talks.  Two examples.

4 November 2011: A representative of SAS was a guest lecturer at a seminar on international policy-making, and set-up his talk by asserting as fact the idea that more guns causes more armed violence in civil society everywhere.  He then proceeded to explain what the SAS has done to advance the agenda of restricting the lawful trade in small arms and the availability of arms in civil societies around the world.

30 October 2012.  Two representatives of the SAS particpated in a press conference devoted to an analysis of the 26 July 2012 draft  ATT.  An SAS representative was a co-author of the analysis and panel speaker.  As the discussion developed,  conference became a sort of advocacy forum on the ATT as a necessary blanket approach to a global problem of trafficking, armed violence.  In fact, one speaker called special attention to his colleague’s ATT advocacy blog projected onto the wall.  Read more on this press conference here:

[24]  Kieth Krause.  Director, Small Arms Survey.  Press Conference.  Geneva, Switzerland.  14 March 2013.  MP4 audio available (25MB approx):

[25]  See Oxfam America’s statement here:

[26]  Owen Greene and Nicholas Marsh, eds.  Small Arms, Crime and Conflict: Global Governance and the Threat of Armed Violence.  Routledge: 2012.  P. 91.  Book purchase link:

[27]  Here is a prior article focusing on UN small arms controls initiatives and two false assumptions that appear to be driving them:


First Published: 1 April 2013
Last Updated: 1 April 2013


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