July 15 2010, 5:49 PM  by Zuber

Poonam, Christian and Martin have been providing much appreciated service to the disarmament movement in New York and these reflections on the Day 1 of the ATT are a capable and most appreciated supplement to work done by Ray Acheson of Reaching Critical Will. It is valuable for all of us to experience  the ATT Prep Com through their evolving perspective.

Recap – Monday 2010/07/12 Morning Session

Poonam Sethi

In the first session of the Preparatory Committee, delegates expressed general concerns and hopes for what they expect from a future Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Roberto Garcia Moritan of Argentina returned as Chairperson, having also chaired the Open-Ended Working Group last year. The meeting began with adoption of the agenda, and unanimous approval on the question of NGO attendance, as NGOs were recognized for their support in the ATT process.

Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, outlined the negative qualities of the current situation, in which the ready availability of conventional weapons and ammunition has led to immense human suffering. Mr. Duarte stressed that while negotiating, it is important to build upon the existing United Nations framework, including the Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons and the International Tracing Instrument, “which represent important measures in regulating a vital part of the arms trade,” as well as the Register on Conventional Arms (RCA). He concluded by reminding delegates of their “considerable responsibility [to] help reverse the vicious cycles of conflict and armed violence”.

The delegates then organized into regional groups to elect members of the bureau, with Asian states electing Japan and the Republic of Korea, Eastern Europe choosing Bulgaria and Romania, and Latin America picking Mexico; the African states and Western European states have yet to elect members to the bureau. Mr. Moritan addressed the delegates before opening the floor, stressing the need for a legally binding treaty with clear intention.

Belgium spoke on behalf of the European Union as well as Turkey, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia. The EU supported the adoption in 2009 of the General Assembly resolution on the ATT. The European Union also feels that the Preparatory Committee should focus on the structure of the treaty to find an early, preliminary agreement on the potential structure of the treaty, which would allow for detailed negotiations in the next sessions.

Nigeria, on behalf of the African Group, stated that the ATT must be universal, fair, and emphasize equal human rights. Nigeria asserted that the ATT should promote security and peace, international cooperation, prevent regional arms races, should include the prevention of diversion of arms, and create transparency for all transfers. Kenya supported Nigeria’s statement, but added that they are concerned that implementation ultimately depends on the state’s capacity.   Sierra Leone believes that the ATT is long overdue, and added that the issue of gender is important, since armed conflict is never gender-neutral.

India recognized the right to self-defense, but noted that States have international obligations as well as a national responsibility for arms control. Switzerland agreed, citing their own example to advocate for integration of international obligations into domestic law. Australia highlighted the importance of including emerging technologies, to ensure that the ATT does not become outdated and must also avoid loopholes as well be easily updated. Austria advocated for the inclusion of all forms of conventional weapons, weapon parts and ammunition in the ATT.

Israel said that the treaty should include stringent enforcement and demand active support of eradication of illicit weapons.  The United Kingdom called for the ATT to ensure consistency and transparency with regular reporting and record keeping, but implemented at the national level with domestic enforcement, . Finally, the UK suggested that review conferences should be considered for inclusion in the treaty.

Poonam Sethi is an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. Additional reporting was contributed by Shauna Kelly, an intern with the International Action

Recap – Monday 2010/07/12 Afternoon Session

Christian Ciobanu and Martin P. Slawek

During Monday’s afternoon session, several  states provided their introductory remarks about the elements of a potential Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), including Iraq, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, the United States of America, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation, India, Netherlands, and Japan. The speakers outlined their goals for an ATT, including addressing the illicit transfer of arms and preserving national sovereignty, and shared their expectations on whether the first stage of negotiations will yield a robust and effective treaty.

Ghana noted the need for the ATT to address the illicit trade of arms and emphasized that states must ensure that they negotiate a treaty that does not “allow arms to flow from the legitimate market to the illicit market.” Similarly, Nigeria noted that the illicit transfer of arms undermines peace, security, and development. Nigeria recommended that the ATT must contain an element that will enforce current UN embargoes on regimes that commit human rights violations and protect women and children from the illicit transfer of weapons. Nigeria called upon producers and importers “to interact with one another in spirit of cooperation in achieving a larger and bigger picture.”

The French delegation asserted that states should set up technical assistance programs to establish universal norms for the ATT. Russia focused on the licensing and legal regulation of all arms-related activities, including brokering. Additionally, Morocco announced that the ATT must establish strict control mechanisms on every brokerage activity.

The Russian Federation would like to have a common effort in which countries define weak links within the legal arms trade where real risks of diversion to illicit or unofficial markets exist. The US delegation agrees that there is a need for transparency; however, they advocated for countries to take responsibility individually, and opposed an expansive verification regime. Additionally, the U.S. delegation stated that by creating rigorous, transparent standards it is possible to understand the flow of weapons.

The Chinese delegation believes that the ATT should be universal and objective, and stated that their primary goal for the ATT is to maintain stability, while at the same time preserving the right to self defense. The Chinese delegation believes that “we cannot strengthen one aspect at the expense of others.” The goals expressed by the Iranian delegation are to keep the ATT from undermining the ability of states to use arms for national security or transfer arms within a state, and that the ATT should not supersede other treaties.

China and Iran stressed state sovereignty during their remarks; China believes that the legal arms trade is necessary for self defense and sovereignty.  Iran expressed their view that the ATT cannot subvert states’ authority to the authority of a regional or international organization, adding that any weapon-sharing among members of military alliances should be governed by treaty provision.

In concluding their comments, both Russia and the United Arab Emirates expressed skepticism about the outcome of the negotiations.  Russia stated once again that it could not support an “ineffective” Arms Trade Treaty. The UAE focused instead on the structure of the negotiations, questioning whether it would be better for the Chair to direct discussion on components of the ATT individually instead of addressing the entirety of the treaty in plenary sessions.

Christian Ciobanu is an intern with the International Action Network on Small Arms. Martin P. Slawek is an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security.