ATT 1st PrepCom: Day Five Recap

July 22 2010, 9:19 AM by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW)

Report – Friday, 2010-07-16 Morning Session, NGO Statements
By Zunaira Choudhary

At Friday morning’s session of the UN Preparatory Committee, representatives from Oxfam International, Amnesty International, IANSA, the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities, and the Defense Small Arms Advisory Council provided additional perspectives on the necessity of a potential arms trade treaty, and elements to be included in the treaty.

Speaking on behalf of Oxfam International, Rima Chemirik declared that it is “high time to conclude a robust treaty,” citing irresponsible transfers of weapons often lead to death, injury, sexual and gender-based violence and displacement. Additionally, Ms. Chemirik stated that it is the hope of all people to live in a world in which “human rights and the dignity of the human being are respected.”

The second NGO representative, Seydi Gassama, spoke on behalf of Amnesty International and a brief presentation accompanied his statement. Telling the story of a wounded woman in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Gassama underscored that the bullet which caused her injury was not among those included in the 7+1 list. He further stated that in order for a future ATT to be effective, it must regulate all conventional weapons, including those weapons that can be potentially modified for lethal purposes. He also recommended that brokerage be licensed on the basis of certain criteria.

The following three speakers, Daniel Mack, Ema Tagicakibau, and Rebecca Peters, represented the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).

Mr. Mack’s statement was primarily concerned with addressing the question, “What is the ATT for?” Advising that the purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty is to “diminish the human cost of the poorly-regulated arms trade,” he was keen to point out that the ATT must focus on human security in addition to state security. Noting that there is no value in drafting a weak treaty simply so that it is able to be signed and ratified, Mr. Mack stated that the ATT should “aim to raise national standards globally,” and should contain clear and strong language.

Ms. Tagicakibau noted that “some fundamentally important principles” are absent from the list provided in the Chair’s draft document. She asserted that a truly effective ATT must address the issues of gender-based violence, corruption and crime, and development and military expenditures among other principles. In support of the inclusion of the abovementioned principles, Ms. Tagicakibau mentioned evidence of direct linkages between violence against women and the arms trade, the fact that the arms trade is among the top three most corrupt trade industries, and the “mystery” that in some places the cost of a gun may be more than the cost of putting a child through one year of schooling.

Ms. Peters, the outgoing Director of IANSA, highlighted the history and development of IANSA, noting that what began as a civil society movement has now become a process between states at the United Nations. She stated that Tuesday’s draft on the principles of an arms trade treaty omitted “some of the most important reasons why we need an ATT,” including the fact that illegal arms transfers contribute to violations of international humanitarian law, impede efforts to reduce poverty, and lead to cases of gender-based violence.

Speaking on behalf of the WFSA, Ted Rowe noted that though there appears to be agreement over the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in a future ATT, there is considerable disagreement over which SALW should be included. He recommended that an ATT focus primarily on military instead of civilian SALW. Mr. Rowe stated that that the great majority of civilian firearms are legally owned and that regulation of civilian firearms has always occurred on a state level. He advised that inclusion of civilian SALW in the arms trade treaty will “make the ATT a political issue in certain jurisdictions.”

The last speaker, General Allen Youngman from the Defense Small Arms Advisory Council, stated that the scope of the treaty is “perhaps the most critical issue to be decided.” He advised that trying to incorporate every dual-use item, such as “wine bottles that could become Molotov cocktails” may impossibly complicate an already difficult process.

Zunaira Choudhary is an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. Ben Karsai, an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, contributed additional reporting.

Report – Friday, 2010-07-16 Morning Session, Plenary Session
By Benjamin Karsai

Following statements from NGO representatives, the chair resumed the formal plenary meeting session Nearly all the speakers including the EU, Australia, Brazil, Iran, India and Egypt began their statements by expressing appreciation for the NGOs and civil society’s association, input and suggestions in the ATT process. The United States, Egypt and Mexico began their remarks by expressing appreciation for the work of IANSA Director Rebecca Peters and wished her the best of luck with her future endeavors.

One area of general consensus amongst the states was clearly defining the terms and objectives of the ATT. The EU, Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Australia, and India all sought a treaty that clearly expressed these goals and avoided ambiguity. Nicaragua explained that with clear objectives, implementation will be much more effective. The Indian delegation was particularly adamant about clearly defined objectives; India proposed creating a separate article that clearly outlined the goals and terms of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Belgium, representing the European Union, stressed the importance of setting “international norms [regulating the arms trade] that comprise the highest possible standards and prevent the illicit trafficking of arms”. Ghana suggested that all legal weapons exports and imports should have an internationally accepted mark that would indicate the weapon’s destination, year of manufacture, country of origin, and other relevant information. Australia suggested that the ATT should create obligatory systems of control that would prevent the illegal proliferation of weapons, including small arms and light weapons (SALW). With such provisions, Australia asserted that the ATT will “strengthen international, national and regional security.” The Russian Federation agreed, stating that controlling illicit trafficking is the primary objective of the ATT.

Brazil, Indonesia, and Iran expressed concerns over issues of state sovereignty despite the general consensus around the establishment of international norms. Indonesia explained that it was vital that the ATT complement instead of infringe upon already established rules, regulations and bilateral agreements in regards to the arms trade. Brazil further stressed that the ATT remain in accordance with Article 51 of the UN charter and avoid interference with states’ right to self defense.

India, the Russian Federation, Israel and the EU advocated the establishment of barriers to prevent the transfer of arms to non-state actors. Israel stressed the importance of the future ATT prohibiting the transfer of arms to terrorist groups. Belgium also stressed that one of the major objectives of the treaty must be to prevent terrorist attacks, the destabilization of states, organized crime and illicit trafficking of arms to non-state groups.

Nicaragua, Brazil and Indonesia argued that the facilitation and promotion of cooperation amongst states party is the principal goal of the Arms Trade Treaty. Nicaragua encouraged international assistance in implementation of the ATT, and communication as a means to share best practices and further coordination in the international community. Indonesia stressed the importance of regional cooperation and development.

Another objective discussed by the states was diminishing human suffering and empowering international humanitarian efforts. Egypt, Belgium and Australia all placed international humanitarian law as an objective of the ATT. Australia explained that one of the primary purposes of the Arms Trade Treaty should be to bolster sustainable socio-economic development as outlined by the Group of Governmental Experts’ (GGE) 2008 report.

The International Red Cross (ICRC) and UNIDIR also made statements during the session, addressing the possible inclusion of human rights and humanitarian law. The ICRC stressed the importance of the protection of human health and dignity, prevention of war crimes and the facilitation of humanitarian assistance, arguing that through an effective ATT, illicit weapons and groups will do less harm to humanitarian efforts all over the world. The Deputy Director of UNIDIR agreed with the ICRC representative, and also explained that the ATT was one of a wide array of actions that will need to be taken in order to address the problem of the illicit arms trade.

Benjamin Karsai is an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. Zunaira Choudhary, an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, contributed additional reporting.

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