A Mandate for Monitoring: Critical and Feasible

February 14 2012, 7:31 AM  by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will

The development of an objective, reliable system for monitoring an
Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is critical to ensuring a “strong and robust”
treaty. The absence of an ATT monitoring system would be a major blow
to the goal of effective treaty implementation, as states parties
would be left substantial autonomy to interpret and implement a treaty
as they see fit. Unfortunately, monitoring has not received its due
attention in substantive debate during the ATT process thus far. State
and civil society representatives that call for a strong ATT need to
engage this crucial theme in order to encourage a better understanding
of the importance of monitoring, the available options for a system,
and the views of states.

by Nathan Sears

ATT monitoring is feasible. There are two general forms of monitoring
that an ATT can and should take: an official system that maintains
continuous operations through some form of permanent, independent
institutional body (whether an implementation support unit, a
technical secretariat, an executive body, or a combination thereof);
and a civil society initiative that collects relevant, open-source
information on treaty implementation that is used to independently
judge states parties’ treaty compliance. An official monitoring
system would be a big asset for an ATT, and there are a number of
existing monitoring systems in the disarmament, arms control, and
non-proliferation field that provide useful models for an ATT,
particularly the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). These
bodies have permanent executives and secretariats that collect and
analyze information presented directly by states parties, as well as
what is gathered through more intrusive means, such as fact-finding
missions, on-site inspections, requests for clarification of
compliance, and advanced monitoring technologies.

However, a more modest system could still provide substantial value
for strengthening ATT implementation and compliance. Many states have
expressed their support for an ATT implementation support unit (ISU),
although their visions of its role vary. It is feasible for an ISU to
have a monitoring function. At the minimum, its mandate should consist
of the collection and analysis of states parties’ reports, including
cross-verifying their contents in order to build confidence in their
accuracy and identify inconsistencies. An ISU should produce annual
reports of its own for objective, reliable analysis of states parties’
treaty implementation and compliance, which could be an important
source of information for assemblies of states parties. The scope of
ISU reporting could be to, inter alia, provide quantitative and
qualitative analysis on conventional arms transfers; evaluate states
parties’ transfer control systems; identify weaknesses in reports or
failure to meet reporting requirements; evaluate states parties’
actions taken towards treaty implementation; warn states parties of
high risk end-users and transit routes; and identify transfers that
seem to violate ATT transfer criteria. A mandate that gives an ISU
independent judgment of states parties’ treaty implementation and
compliance would be critical to make this system effective.

While the specifics of a monitoring system could be left to be debated
in subsequent ATT review processes, the creation of an institution
with a general mandate for treaty monitoring is a critical and
feasible objective for ATT negotiations. The goal of an ISU—if it
takes that specific form—should be thought of as “to promote” rather
than simply “to assist” states parties’ treaty implementation, as is
the current language of the Chairman’s Draft Paper of 14 July 2011,
and specific provisions should be made to give an ISU a mandate to
monitor the actions taken by states parties towards treaty
implementation and to identify and analyze suspected cases of
non-compliance. The ISU should be mandated to report its findings to
assemblies of states parties, in which states parties could then
decide collectively the actions to be taken on the basis of these
findings.

ATT monitoring is inevitable in some form as long as negotiations
produce a treaty; the monitoring potential of civil society makes this
so. Nevertheless an official treaty mandate for a monitoring system
would make an enormous contribution to the goal of a strong and robust
ATT. An ATT monitoring system can draw on the lessons of existing
systems within the disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation
field, such as the IAEA and OPCW. However, for a monitoring mandate to
be achieved, it first needs to become a bigger part of the ATT
discourse—which has up to this stage received only minor attention.
State and civil society representatives that call for a strong and
robust treaty therefore need to make a concerted effort to direct
debate towards the theme of ATT monitoring.
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