#ArmsTreaty Negotiations Day 2: Now We’re Getting Somewhere!

March 20 2013, 11:48 AM  by Lorey Campese


We’re only into the second day of the Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty but it’s already beginning to feel like progress is being made. After the positive statement by over 108 countries yesterday that they wouldn’t settle for a weak Treaty, states moved straight into the substance of the negotiations on Tuesday morning, finishing the debate on the opening Preamble and Principles and beginning to discuss the heart of the Treaty – the section on Scope.Once again during the negotiations on the Preamble and Principles, a few states wanted to push for a major upgrade to the Principles section, in order to move them to the main body of the Treaty. There was also division over the inclusion over some of the existing principles, in particular about the prospect of the ATT acting as a floor rather than a ceiling for standards. There was also division on the right of states to regulate historic and cultural arms. Despite this however, there were a lot of positive highlights from this session, particularly the large number of more progressive states visibly supporting each other.  Together they urged everyone to move on to the more functional parts of the Treaty, in particular its Scope and Prohibitions, sections which will identiy the which weapons the treaty covers, the different methods of transferring them and when states must prohibit transfers.

During the morning and afternoon sessions on the Scope, there was a huge groundswell of support for improving a number of areas, including preventing diversion of weapons to unauthorised users, and strengthening provisions on gender based violence. But by far the biggest issue for many states, as has been the case throughout the entire process, is ensuring that ammunition will be sufficiently covered by the Treaty alongside conventional weapons. Currently ammunition is relegated to a section that doesn’t require states to take human rights or humanitarian risks into account in its transfer like other items. A huge number of states spoke about the importance of including ammunition under the Scope. The most exciting part was the statement by Ghana on behalf of 69 countries expressing their determination to see ammunition in the treaty!

As the Ghanaain Ambassador stated, including weapons but not ammunition is like having a soccer player without the ball. Only a few states, including the USA, Canada, Vietnam and Iran, were opposed. States were also very united in support of placing parts and components of conventional weapons under the Scope of the treaty. All signs are looking good!

There was also a united show of support for improving and strengthening criteria on socio-economic development, so that states would have to take it into account when exporting weapons. Costa Rica read out a statement on behalf of 41 countries supporting improvements in this provision. Almost all states that spoke also wanted to widen the list of activities, such as arms brokering and transit of arms, that are covered under the Treaty, and most wanted to strengthen the weak language currently in the Treaty on how arms transfers are assessed.

Of course, number of states also tried to weaken the existing treaty, such as Venezuela, India and North Korea, but it’s really pleasing to see that these states are by far in the minority within the UN, and there are increasingly more and more states coming together on key issues to strengthen the Arms Trade Treaty!

It already feels like we’ve been here a week and it’s barely been 48 hours, but everyone is excited and hopefully that the next 10 days of negotiations can bring together a strong and robust ATT. Tomorrow the focus moves on to the Implementation of the Treaty, but there are negotiations going on behind the scenes at all hours, almost certainly as you read this! So you never know what the news the morning might bring…

Blog written by Daniel Lee