Export of war material

The export of war material such as weapons, armoured vehicles, ammunition and equipment requires a licence from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. The FDFA provides an assessment of the individual applications. At the end of 2014, the Federal Council adopted the Dispatch on the Approval of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Firms require a licence to export war material. Applications to export such material must be submitted to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which issues the licences. The FDFA reviews the applications and ensures that Switzerland fulfils its international obligations, applies its foreign policy principles, and complies with international law.

The review is based on Art. 5 of the War Material Ordinance. The following criteria are considered when reviewing an export application:

  • The maintenance of peace and international security
  • Regional stability
  • Respect for human rights
  • Principles and goals of Swiss development cooperation
  • The attitude of other states

An application is rejected if one of the following applies:

  • The country of destination is involved in an internal or international armed conflict
  • Systematic and serious violation of human rights
  • The country into which the war material is being imported is on the list of the poorest countries
  • Risk that the exported weapons will be used against the civilian population
  • High risk that the exported weapons will be passed on to an undesirable end recipient

Exports of war material have declined significantly in recent years. In 2013, Switzerland exported war material worth 460 million CHF (2012: 700 million CHF; 2011: 873 million CHF).

State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, War Material
Ordinance on War Material
Export controls of industrial products (dual-use) and specific military goods (Licensing) (fr)

The Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) establishes for the first time binding standards under international law to regulate and control the international trade in conventional arms. On 29 January 2014, the Federal Council adopted the Dispatch on the Approval of the Arms Trade Treaty for submission to the Federal Assembly. The treaty can be ratified after parliamentary deliberation and the referendum period.

The treaty aims to contribute to a responsible international arms trade, combat the illegal arms trade and at the same time alleviate human suffering. 40 states have ratified the ATT to date.

Dispatch on the Approval of the Arms Trade Treaty (de)

Switzerland's participation in the drawing up of the Arms Trade Treaty

After many years of negotiations, the ATT was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013 and signed by Switzerland on 3 June 2013. Switzerland was actively involved in the treaty negotiations. Accession to the ATT does not require any amendment of Swiss national legislation.

To date, the ATT has been signed by 118 countries, including some of the world's largest exporters of conventional weapons, such as the United States, Germany and France. 40 states have ratified the treaty. The ATT comes into force after the 50th signatory state has completed the ratification process.

UN Office for Disarmament Affairs: Arms Trade Treaty