The Encyclopedia is a project of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights launched on 2 December 2013. The Enyclopedia aims to provide accurate, up-to-date information on weapons, the effects of their use, and their regulation under public international law, in a format that is accessible to non-specialists.+ Find out more
The Initial Elements establish the foundations of the 1995 Wassenaar Arrangement, whose purpose, scope and modalities they state. They constitute a basic mechanism of information exchange on transfers of conventional weapons, including but not limited to small arms and light weapons, as well as dual-use goods and technologies.
The Initial Elements were the founding document of the Wassenaar Arrangement, and hence their history overlaps. See entry on the 1995 Wassenaar Arrangement for further information.
The Initial Elements state the purpose of the 1995 Wassenaar Arrangement: to contribute to peace and security by preventing destabilising accumulations of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies through transparent and responsible transfers. Criteria for participation in the Arrangement are elaborated in Appendix 4 of the document.
They proceed with stating the scope of the Arrangement, including: regular meetings; voluntary exchange of information; national prerogative to authorize or not a transfer; agreement to notify participating states of transfers and denials; and development of guidelines and procedures.
Two control lists are included, and regularly reviewed: of dual-use goods and technologies and of munitions (Appendix 5). The former is divided into three tiers: basic, sensitive, and very sensitive. The Munitions List covers a wide range of arms and military equipment, from small arms to ships, as well as ammunition, information and communication technologies, training equipment, and equipment for producing arms. Several significant arms-exporting non members, including China, have fully or partially aligned their national control lists with the Munitions List. P. Holtom and M. Bromley, ‘The International Arms Trade: Difficult to Define, Measure and Control’, Arms Control Today, Arms Control Association, July/August 2010. As a result, all of the top 10 arms suppliers in 2005–09 have control lists derived from the Wassenaar Arrangement.
The Elements also state procedures for information exchange, divided into general information, information on dual-use goods and technology, and information on arms. Three annexes specify indicative contents for each of these categories (Appendixes 1, 2, and 3). The list of arms to be reported on was initially modelled on the UN Register of Conventional Arms.
The Elements were amended in 2002, after the 11 September 2001 attacks, when a provision was added stating that states would continue to prevent terrorist organisations and individuals from acquiring conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies that could be used for military purposes. W. Boese, ‘Wassenaar Members Amend Founding Document’, Arms Control Today, Arms Control Association, January/February 2002. This is significant as it was the first time Wassenaar Participating States recognized a responsibility in transfers to non-state actors.
In December 2003, small arms were added as a reporting category in Appendix 3.
Last updated on: 07 August 2017