A Second Chance to Save Lives: #ArmsTreaty Talks Continue in March

November 8 2012, 2:25 PM  by Lorey Campese
The 67th session of the UN General Assembly, at which the fate of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) process was determined, was no ordinary session. Midway through the First Committee deliberations on arms control and disarmament Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New York City forcing the closure of the United Nations for three days. However, despite the ensuing chaos diplomats and civil society organisations continued with their negotiations on how to move forward with the ATT, following the failure to achieve consensus at the July 2012 Diplomatic Conference. The discussions centred round the rules under which the ATT will be negotiated and the text of a draft Resolution (CRP.1), which seven Member States, the ‘co-authors’ of the ATT process, circulated to all delegates for consideration. The draft Resolution stipulated that negotiations would resume in 2013, and would be based on the final Chair’s draft Treaty (of 26 July). Crucially the draft Resolution said the negotiations would be held under the same ‘consensus’ rule as before – something many States feel is deeply problematic due to the failure of that rule in July.

Concerned that holding a second Conference on the same rules as the first risks failure again, the Control Arms coalition lobbied hard during the First Committee for supporters of the ATT to include in the final Resolution a ‘back stop’, to ensure that it is the views of the vast majority of states that want a strong Treaty that win out in March, not the few who seek to block or delay an outcome.

The lobbying paid off and the Resolution (A/C.1/67/L.11) that was tabled on 18th October mandated a special session to be held in this current session of the UNGA to receive the President of the DipCon’s report, thereby enabling any Member State to table the draft text from the March Conference at the special meeting, so it can be voted through into adoption.

The vote on the Resolution was finally held on Wednesday 7th November, with the UK presenting the Resolution to the First Committee on behalf of 103 co-sponsors. 157 States voted in favour, with no States opposing (18 abstained). Crucially, China, a major arms exporter, and India, an emerging arms exporter, supported the Resolution. Explanations of Vote were provided by twelve States.

The adopted Resolution establishes a “Final Diplomatic Conference” for the ATT to be held on 18 – 28 March 2013 on “the basis” of the Draft Treaty text of 26 July 2012. With just five months to prepare, diplomats and civil society organisations will now begin the most crisical stage of the long and difficult journey to achieve a strong and robust Treaty; ensuring that the Treaty text that emerges from the March Converence is one that meets its humanitarian purpose – to curb the irresponsible trade in arms, save lives, reduce the suffering of thousands affected by the ravages of war, and contribute to the socio-economic development of conflict-ridden nations.

Written by Dr. Helena Whall, Advocacy Officer- Oxfam Great Britain 

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