ATT 1st PrepCom: Day 8

July 22 2010, 6:46 AM by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

On Wednesday afternoon, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) reopened its doors to civil society representatives, just in time for a quick discussion about other possible elements for an ATT. Topics covered included treaty implementation, international cooperation and assistance, transparency and reporting, and compliance and enforcement. While not much new was added to the discussion, there were some interesting comments on victim assistance and child soldiers, and some trouble areas were teased out. Toward the end of the meeting, the US delegate expressed regret that some of the interventions highlighted “essential elements” that have little chance for success. He encouraged other delegations to “think carefully” about elements that will lead to success rather than failure in negotiations.

The European Union reiterated its support for the establishment of national control systems to implement the ATT, including legislative and administrative measures and the establishment of competent licensing authorities. Costa Rica’s delegation emphasized that states parties will need to have effective control over legislation domestically but that the Treaty should include provisions that ensure effective verification and monitoring of implementation. It argued that it is important for there to be third parties that have effective monitoring capacity and suggested that civil society organizations can provide oversight together with states of international arms transfers.

International cooperation and assistance
The EU suggested the establishment of a minimal structure within the United Nations to keep records of offers and requests for international assistance. France added that states should afford each other the widest possible assistance regarding legal matters and judicial proceedings when dealing with ATT violations. Brazil suggested states could provide assistance in tracing weapons.

Australia’s delegation suggested the ATT could include provisions for providing international cooperation and assistance to states who are not yet party to the Treaty, in order to bring their systems up to standard in order to join the Treaty.

Pakistan’s delegation emphasized that assistance should be provided upon request and upon the determination of requesting state.

New Zealand’s ambassador suggested that victim assistance could come under international cooperation and assistance. However, Nigeria’s delegation emphasized that it should be kept separate, because if other forms of international assistance is to be granted upon request, it would mean that victims would have to apply for assistance from those who have done them wrong, which would not be appropriate. Costa Rica’s delegation said the PrepCom should be careful about including victim assistance within the ATT. It argued that within IHL and human rights law there are sufficient provisions to deal with this issue and that it could be counter productive to refer to these topics in a document of this nature.

Transparency and reporting
The EU argued that the ATT should include provisions for states parties to exchange information “upon request and as appropriate”.

Australia noted that while transparency is important to build confidence and accountability, reporting should strive to avoid duplication of other initiatives and too many obligations for small states.

The Costa Rican delegation argued that it is clear that effective implementation of the ATT should hinge on a practice of “periodic and detailed report submission” covering obligations that arise under the Treaty. It emphasized that states should not just report on authorized transfers and licenses but on those that are not authorized. It also suggested that reports should include requests for technical assistance.

Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay suggested that each state party should maintain records of the arms trade activities for at least ten years.

Pakistan’s delegation argued that transparency is a “potentially problematic concept,” saying that it has to be dealt with “with due deference to a state’s security paradigm or military doctrine”. Pakistan suggested that information about an international transfer of arms could be shared “in generic terms upon special request and upon total confidentiality,” arguing that “ambiguity in defence capabilities of a state does ultimately dove tail into regional and subregional stability.”

Senegal’s delegation also seemed to find the concept of transparency to be problematic. The Senegalese delegate asked for clarification on what the “content” of transparency is, asking, does it mean declaring all our means of defence, everything we acquire, purchase, import, export? What is exact content of annual report that majority of states want to see included in ATT? Who would it be addressed to?

Compliance and enforcement
Australia urged delegations to be clear about whether they are discussing compliance of states with international law or domestic compliance of individuals or companies with national laws in terms of ATT obligations. The Australian delegate suggested that at the state level, the PrepCom may wish to consider mechanisms in existing instruments as models, such as the Anti-Personnel Mine Treaty. At the domestic level, he argued that compliance with national legislation is matter for states, though the ATT might seek to establish some standards, such as requiring criminal penalties for violations.

Australia’s delegation also called for a dispute settlement mechanism to be provided for by the Treaty. Pakistan’s delegate likewise argued in favour of a mechanism for raising objections, but emphasized that such an objection would have to be be based on a “solid foundation,” not on a just news story or blog entry, in order to avoid “frivolous interference”. He said that the party making the objection should have to have “reasonable grounds” and have a “reasonable stake” in the matter.

Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay argued that the ATT should be flexible enough to cover all types of conventional arms, including SALW, ammunition, components, parts, technology, and related materials. They suggested that “a general definition that includes all arms that are not of a nuclear, chemical or biological nature could provide the flexibility needed and avoid lengthy negotiations on specific definitions that can quickly become obsolete.”

This group of countries also argued that the ATT should cover all types of transactions and transfers and all types of activities related to the arms trade.

Marking and tracing
Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay argued that all weapons covered by the Treaty, and their major parts, must be marked at the time of production and the information must be maintained in databases for tracing.

International humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law
Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay argued that the ATT should establish clear, objective, and non-discriminatory norms to prevent the transfer of arms when there is a clear and reasonable ground to believe that they will be used in violation of IHL or international human rights law.

Nigeria’s delegation called for the Treaty to respect not just UN Security Council sanctions and embargoes but also those imposed by regional organizations.

Child soldiers
Belgium’s delegation called for the ATT to address the issue of child soldiers, noting that it’s government has a low prohibiting the export of weapons to countries that recruit children as soldiers.

Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay argued that the ATT should regulate the transfer of arms that will be used in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. However, Pakistan’s delegation voiced caution about including these elements in the Treaty.

The Costa Rican delegation pointed out that the arms trade is one of the top three industries suffering from corruption. It suggested that the ATT should establish criteria for establishing the possibility of inappropriate transfers and acts of corruption within that transfer.
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