The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, the first global multilateral arrangement covering both conventional weapons and sensitive dual-use goods and technologies, received final approval by 33 co-founding countries in July 1996 and began operations in September 1996.
As a means of contributing to international and regional security and stability, the Arrangement was designed to prevent destabilizing accumulations of arms and dual-use goods and technologies by establishing a process of transparency, consultation and, where appropriate, encouraging national policies of restraint, and by promoting greater responsibility and accountability in transfers of arms and dual-use goods and technologies.
The Participating States seek through their national policies to ensure that transfers of arms dual-use goods and technologies do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities that undermine the goals of the Wassenaar Arrangement and are not diverted to support such capabilities.
The decision to transfer or deny an item is the sole responsibility of each Participating State and the Arrangement does not impede bona fide civil transactions. The Arrangement considers exports to non-members only and is not directed against any state or group of states. All measures undertaken with respect to the Arrangement are in accordance with national legislation and policies and implemented on the basis of national discretion.
The Wassenaar Arrangement is also designed to deal firmly with states whose behavior is a cause for serious concern by preventing, through shared national policies of restraint, their acquisition of armaments and sensitive dual-use goods and technologies for military end-use.
Participating States maintain effective export controls on all items on the Wassenaar Arrangement Munitions and Dual-Use lists, with the objective of preventing unauthorized transfers or re-transfers of those items. These lists will be reviewed periodically to take into account technological advances or other changes in circumstances.
The Dual-Use List, or Basic List (Tier 1), has two nested sub-divisions, a Sensitive List (Tier 2) and a very Sensitive List (Tier 2 sub-set). For items on the Sensitive List, information exchange requirements are more extensive (see below). For items on the Very Sensitive List (e.g., stealth technology materials, equipment related to submarine detection, advanced radar, advanced jet engine technology), Participating States are to exercise "extreme vigilance" with respect to exports.
The Wassenaar Arrangement is designed to complement and reinforce, without duplication, the existing regimes for weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. The composition and goals of the Arrangement close a critical gap in the international non-proliferation mechanisms, which have concentrated on preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
The Arrangement does not interfere with the rights of states to acquire legitimate means with which to defend themselves pursuant to Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, nor does it, as mentioned, impede bona fide civil transactions.
Participating States are concerned with preventing destabilizing accumulations of arms and sensitive dual-use goods and technologies and with preventing the acquisition of arms and sensitive dual-use goods and technologies for military end-use if the situation in a region or the behavior of a states, or becomes, a cause for serious concern to the Participating States.
The Arrangement is open on a global and non-discriminatory basis to prospective adherents that comply with the agreed criteria. Admission of new members requires the consensus of all members.
To be admitted, a state must: be a producer/exporter of arms or sensitive industrial equipment; maintain non-proliferation policies and appropriate national policies including: adherence to non-proliferation policies, control list and, where applicable, guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Australia Group; and adherence to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Biological and Toxicological Weapons Treaty (BWC), the Chemical Weapons Treaty (CWC) and, where applicable, START 1, including the Lisbon Protocol; and maintain fully effective export controls.
The Arrangement does not have an observer category.
All non-Participating States are encouraged to maintain fully effective export controls, to adopt national policies consistent with the objectives of the Wassenaar Arrangement and to adhere to relevant non-proliferation treaties and regimes. Maintaining fully effective export controls could include implementation of the Wassenaar Arrangement control lists in accordance with national legislation and regulations.
The current 33 Participating States of the Wassenaar Arrangement are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.
The Wassenaar Arrangement provides a venue in which governments can consider collectively the implications of various transfers on their international and regional security interests. This is the principal security benefit that membership brings. Through transparency and consultation, suppliers of arms and dual-use items can develop common understandings of the risks associated with their transfer and assess the scope for coordinating national control policies to combat these risks.
For example, at the Plenary Meeting in December 1996, Participating States shared detailed information on export policies to Sudan, Central Africa and the successor states of the former Yugoslavia. They also issued a public statement confirming that, as a matter of national policy, no participant transfers arms or ammunition to the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan. Valuable discussions have continued in 1997 and in 1998 on the need to exercise maximum restraint with respect to arms transfers to areas of conflict in Central Africa.
Membership in the Wassenaar Arrangement does not provide an entitlement to obtain arms or dual-use goods or technologies from another member and no obligation to supply it. Members are expected, just as such trade between members and non-members, to exercise responsibility and appropriate vigilance in trade with other members.
However, a country's record of consistent fulfillment of membership criteria and commitments clearly would be positive factors taken into account in members' export decisions.
Information exchange requirements are set forth in the Arrangement's Initial Elements, which comprise the commitments undertaken by Participating States.
Participating States also exchange on a voluntary basis general information that will enhance transparency and that will lead to discussion among all Participating States of transfers of arms and sensitive dual-use goods and technologies and on the risks associated with such transfers in order to consider, where necessary, the scope for coordinating national control policies to combat these risks.
Information exchanged in the Arrangement can include any matter that individual Participating States wish to bring to the attention of other members, such as emerging trends in weapons programs, projects of concern and the accumulation of particular weapon systems. For those wishing to do so, notifications may go beyond those agreed upon.
The Arrangement's specific information exchange requirements involve semi-annual notifications of arms transfers, currently covering seven categories derived from the UN Register of Conventional Arms (including model and type information), Sensitive List dual-use transfers and denials of Basic List dual-use transfers. Members are also required to report with 30-60 days any denials of Sensitive List items. Any member that undercuts such denials (i.e., export the denied item to the same end-user) within three years of the denial must report the issuance of the export license within 30-60 days.
Denial reporting helps to alert members that a non-member may be seeking an item that would undermine the objectives of the regime and helps to foster common and consistent export policies, while eliminating inadvertent undercuts by other members.
Over time, such information exchanges will help member detect and prevent destabilizing accumulations or emerging trends or threats that may undermine the regime's objectives. Any information on specific transfers in addition to that specified above may be requested through normal diplomatic channels.
Information exchanged in the Arrangement remains confidential and is treated as privileged diplomatic communications. However, Participating States can discuss whether to make information public.
In accordance with the objectives of the Arrangement, Participating States meet on a regular basis to ensure that transfers of conventional arms and transfers of dual-use goods and technologies are carried out responsibility and in furtherance of international and regional peace and security. Meetings are held in Vienna, where the Arrangement has established its headquarters and a small Secretariat. Plenary Meetings are held at least once a year and the Plenary has established a General Working Group and an Experts' Group, which meet periodically.
Decisions are made by consensus.
The Wassenaar Arrangement has decided to conduct outreach activities to prospective members and non-members. These outreach activities, conducted by the Plenary Chairman, Secretariat personnel or by teams composed of Participating State representatives, are designed to prepare prospective members for admission and to keep non-members informed about the group's activities, within the limits set by the Arrangement's confidentiality guidelines, and encouraged to maintain effective export controls and appropriate national policies.
Financial needs of the Arrangement are covered under annual budgets adopted at Plenary Meetings.