ATT 1st PrepCom: Day 4: Principles and Scope

July 16 2010, 6:36 AM by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW)

This day’s activities at the ATT Prep Com were dominated by two major activities:
First, Ambassador Moritan presented for diplomat review his non-paper on Principles organized in 19 paragraphs that, in essence, constitute a draft Preamble. This non-paper was the subject of debate among delegates who were also invited to share further comments on the ‘elements’ paper distributed the day previously. Ambassador Moritan also announced that the afternoon session would be an informal discussion covering the ‘scope’ of an ATT that would be chaired by Mr. Eden Charles, a ‘friend’ of the Chair.

Four comments at this stage:
First, as noted yesterday, there was some confusion in Day 3 about the ability and willingness of delegates to draw lines between ‘values’ and ‘elements.’ On the morning of Day 4, delegates were often commenting on two (un-numbered) documents simultaneously and were not always able to clearly identify (at least for purposes of this report) which specific topics they were commenting on. However, the blending of principles, elements and scope, while perhaps difficult to track, represents a predictable and welcome development. It may well be, as asserted by the delegation from Egypt, that our work here is largely about regulating a ‘profit making activity,’ but many delegations (and NGOs) also continue to draw inspiration for these negotiations from the diverse communities that will one day be spared the violence that so often results from the trade in illicit arms.

Second, as delegates themselves largely acknowledged, Day 4 comments in both morning and afternoon sessions were quite similar in tone and content to those expressed earlier. More clarifications of position were offered than shifts in position. Delegations seemed concerned that their positions were not being heard or sufficiently regarded by either the Chair or the other delegations. At one point, Ambassador Moritan felt the need to remind delegates that their positions really are being duly noted and seriously considered, and that there is not such a great need for delegations to continually repeat positions, either their own or those of other delegations with which they agree.

Third, there was some controversy in the afternoon session regarding the presence (or non-presence) of participating NGOs for the discussion on ‘scope,’ with implications for other ‘informal consultations’ to be held over the next few days. After years of relentless campaigning to ensure States negotiate a strong global treaty to regulate the arms trade, civil society groups have been denied participation in key discussions. The decision to close the meeting came as a surprise as numerous Member States had made earlier statements on the importance of openness and transparency in the process. For the NGO public reaction to this decision by the chair please see this blog in the Huffington Post. In the afternoon session some delegations (especially Nigeria and New Zealand) acknowledged, NGOs are an integral part of the partnership structure that has advocated for and will continue to promote an ATT through the lengthy processes of adoption and implementation.

Fourth, Ambassador Moritan was shown appreciation in several quarters (including by us) for his decision to submit draft ‘non papers’ for delegate scrutiny early in the process. While these ‘conversation starters’ occasionally ‘started’ conversations that were contentious and at times critical of the Chair’s summaries, the documents gave delegates a chance to weigh in at early stages in a more focused manner. Delegates’ comments were focused on a common text rather than solely on defining national interest. Moreover, as Ambassador Moritan noted to us, ‘it is important not to surprise delegates.’ The combination of common texts and abundant private conversations with delegations helps define a sensible path to negotiated progress on an ATT.

Principles and Elements Again
The working non-papers produced by the Chair as the focal points for the morning session are works-in-progress. Delegations made many suggestions related to the positioning of specific principles, the use (or non-use) of specific terminology, the inclusion or exclusion of certain delegation priorities. The Chair has made clear that the current working documents are only the first in a series of attempts to summarize delegate concerns towards a workable negotiating consensus. As these documents are revised and resubmitted, they will be made available for more general scrutiny by interested parties.

Among the many highlights of the morning session were the following:

  • Belgium (on behalf of the EU) insisted that standards for an ATT remain ‘high’ and invited states to adopt even more restrictive measures on transfers than the ATT would require. South Africa joined in this, reminding delegates that there is no “obligation to export” implied in the Treaty.
  • Indonesia made a strong case – endorsed by the Philippines, Vietnam and some other states – affirming the “right of all states to territorial integrity and political independence.” Iran did not endorse this language specifically, but did call for a treaty that impeded neither regional security nor the economic pursuits of states.
  • Switzerland called for a “simple and effective Treaty” and requested (as did other delegations) a section on definitions to help bring some clarity to the negotiations and future implementation of the Treaty.
  • Brazil requested more attention on issues of weapons diversion as did Mexico in the context of their concerns about “corruption,” France in the context of their concern with “money laundering,” and Trinidad and Tobago in the context of their concern with “drug trafficking.” Brazil clearly noted that a vigorous “marking and tracing” protocol should be a condition for licit transfers.
  • States differed on the role of development and international human rights law in the language of the Treaty, especially in the Preamble. Egypt wondered about the direct relevance of IHL to the ATT, noting that this is largely a ‘Third Committee’ concern. Norway, citing the SG’s report on the MDGs, wants the Treaty to acknowledge “human suffering,” the impact of armed violence on development, and the links between the ATT and IHL. Peru wants a Preamble that mentions poverty reduction and environmental protection. Most states were a bit cautious about including value statements (such as ‘abuse’ and ‘discrimination’) in the body of the Treaty, preferring to keep them in the Preamble.
  • Nigeria made a strong case for a compelling Preamble, noting that everyone should be able to see the “noble goals” as soon as they open the Treaty. Nigeria was also one of the states reinforcing the EU’s call for an Annex that can address options for the regulation of transfers beyond the scope of the initial ATT.
  • Australia was concerned about language claiming “growing support” for at ATT, noting that there is already sufficient support to motivate states to participate in this Prep Com towards a strong and verifiable ATT.
  • The Russian Federation joined with a number of other states in calling for a workable balance between the rights and responsibilities of states under the Treaty.

Some of the highlights of the afternoon session, which included the participation of the ICRC, included the following:

  • Most delegations, including Uruguay, Costa Rica and Peru called for the broadest possible scope for an ATT including items beyond ammunition and weapons components. Peru called for a permanent ‘experts committee’ to help define and identify items that should be part of the treaty and the UK called for a formal ‘list’ of the small arms and light weapons to be included in the Treaty. The ICRC noted that “it is hard to fathom weapons that should not be included in the scope of an ATT.”
  • Mexico seeks to ensure that “we don’t approve a treaty in 2012 and then have to renegotiate it.” In this spirit, they advocated for the drawing up of a comprehensive list of weapons to be included with the flexibility to both incorporate new weapons technology and regulate arms transfers throughout the life cycle of the weapons.
  • Trinidad and Tobago affirmed that the Treaty should have the capacity to regulate future weapons and they invoked international law as the standard by which the inclusion or exclusion of weapons in an ATT should be judged.
  • Both Egypt and the UK emphasized the problem of reporting burdens — especially on small states — if the scope of at ATT is drawn too broadly, though the Egyptian delegation favored a more restrictive scope for an ATT that, at least at this stage, does not directly reference small arms and light weapons as items to be covered under the treaty. In this, they cited a concern to not undermine ‘universality’ by extending the mandate further than was intended.
  • The issue of dual use technology was raised, with countries like Costa Rica in favor and countries like Japan and New Zealand, among others, wondering about the feasibility and ultimate value of defining and regulating dual use items. In this light New Zealand was clear about not regulating items such as sporting guns and antique guns used domestically. Iran does not want technology for civilian purposes covered under the treaty.
  • There were calls by Egypt and others for stronger national controls on transfers and well-defined national focal points to coordinate national implementation of Treaty provisions.

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