ATT 1st PrepCom: Day Four: Reporting on Conventional Arms Transfers

July 20 2010, 11:34 AM by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW)

Report – Thursday, 2010-07-15 Side Event – “Reporting on Conventional Arms Transfers”
By Zunaira Choudhary

At a Thursday, July 15th event titled “Reporting on conventional arms transfers: Side event in the context of discussing an ATT on the UN Register of Conventional Arms,” speakers from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) gathered to discuss the state of reporting to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, and ways in which the benefits of the UN Register can be enhanced.

Mr. Yuriy Kryvonos from UNODA illustrated an “ominous decrease in the reporting rate” to the Register, noting that the number of new reports declined each of the last two years; an early analysis of the reporting rate in 2010 showed a “visible” decrease in reports from states that have until now consistently reported to the Register. Mr. Kryvonos mentioned that the decrease in global participation has occurred across all regional groups. Suggesting the need to investigate this decline in reporting from previously active countries, Mr. Kryvonos further stated that a lack of capacity on the part of states may contribute to this decreasing relevancy of the Register. In addition, since 71 countries reported on transfers of small arms and light weapons (SALW) even though this is not a main category of the instrument, he advised adding SALW as an additional category to the Register. Given that the transparency in arms transfers is an “integral element” in a future Arms Trade Treaty, Mr. Kryvonos noted the importance of building confidence in the Register so that states party can utilize it to realize their declared objectives.

The second speaker, Mr. Paul Holtom from SIPRI, focused his statement on the transparency of the Register, possible expansions to its scope, and lessons learned from the experience of the Register thus far. Stating that a norm of international transparency on arms transfers “builds confidence,” promoting both national and international security of states, Mr. Holtom suggested that the Register can additionally “inform decision-making.” Since the Register provides information to policymakers and the public, Mr. Holtom said it is his hope that the data can be used to hold governments accountable for unfavorably-viewed arms transfers. Citing one “unfortunate case,” Mr. Holtom mentioned that after discrepancies in Kenya’s reporting to the Register prompted scrutiny, the state discontinued reporting to the instrument. Lastly, Mr. Holtom stated that the Register could positively benefit from a permanent secretariat for the purpose of reconciling discrepancies and investigating disputes between state parties.

In a brief question and answer period, a representative speaking outside of his national capacity asked about the mismatches of the Register against the SIPRI database. Mr. Holtom answered that a laborious analysis of the reporting demonstrated that one-third of reporting showed exact matches, forty percent had some element of matching, and one quarter did not match due to only one side of a transfer having reported.

A second representative from ODA discussed future changes to the Register after recommendations to make it more technologically current and user-friendly were made. She highlighted the eventual addition of a search function that can be set to scan the database based on year, country, and type of transfer, among other classifications. Additionally, the Register will include maps, charts, & graphs and an online reporting capability for states. She concluded that such features will enhance the value of the Register for member states, as well as for researchers and the media.Zunaira Choudhary is an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security.

Verena Simmel, an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, contributed additional reporting.

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