ATT 1st PrepCom: Day Three: Elements of Progress

July 14 2010, 8:01 AM by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW)

As reported by Ray Acheson, Day 2 of the ATT Prep Com, delegates spent a challenging day debating elements that should – or should not – be included as part of the basis for formal Arms Trade negotiations.

Of particular interest to us was the rather robust list of suggestions for why a potential arms transfer might legitimately be denied under an Arms Trade Treaty – not only because of fears of terrorism or concerns about potential violations of human rights (as important as we believe this is) but in cases where transfers might exacerbate conflicts, violate Security Council resolutions or embargoes, or otherwise contribute to the ‘destabilization’ of states.

While each of these restrictions faces some obstacles to implementation and in some instances might not be politically feasible at all, it was helpful to hear delegates wrestle with some of the compelling interests that might legitimately require the international community to restrict certain transfers. The need expressed by Korea and others to ‘balance’ humanitarian and sovereign concerns is applicable here, but yesterday’s discussion seemed to reinforce that in matters of arms transfers as elsewhere, sovereignty is a critically important but not absolute principle. The impacts of transfers on the well-being of communities and on the practice of international law are applicable as well.

The other matter of interest for us was the call, expressed by many delegations, for the Treaty to include provisions on international cooperation and assistance. The EU, Switzerland, and Mexico went so far as to advocate for the Treaty to include a regular review mechanism, which could certainly help assess capacity support. We believe it is indispensable that the consensus framework established at the Prep Com translate into consensus about the need for ongoing state-to-state assistance on a variety of matters including border security issues and provisions for ‘national systems of implementation’ called for by Brazil. It is clear that treaty provisions will have the most impact if reflected in national action planning, and the assistance of the international community is instrumental in ‘leveling the playing field’ so that all states have equal opportunity both to fulfill their responsibilities under any future treaty and to contribute what they can to treaty compliance by other states.

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