ATT 1st PrepCom: Day Three: Values and Elements

July 15 2010, 7:05 AM by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW)
Substituting for Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will

Day 3 of the ATT Prep Com had two primary agenda items:

1. A discussion of the ‘principles’ that provide the rationale and inspiration for ATT negotiations.
2. A review of a non-paper prepared by Ambassador Moritan and distributed during the morning session, representing his best efforts to summarize the various delegate positions on ‘elements’ of an Arms Trade Treaty.

Values Clarification

The discussion on ‘principles’ was focused primarily but not exclusively on the content of the ‘Preamble’ sections of the Treaty. Why are we as delegates and governments undertaking this exercise? What are the diverse state concerns that we seek to address? Who are the constituents we have in mind as we move through this Prep Com and what are their needs and aspirations? How do the principles and values we espouse impact the Treaty we have assembled to develop?

After yesterday’s intense discussion on ‘elements’ it proved challenging for many delegations to make clear distinctions between what the Treaty should cover and the motivations and inspiration for engaging in the process. The US delegation and others noted the ‘confusion’ between principles and elements that characterized much of the morning discussion. Much of the ‘confusion,’ however seemed to be a quite reasonable effort to integrate what governments care about and what they can ‘live with’ in terms of a final negotiated outcome.

At times, it seemed as though there were wide chasms between those governments focused on the ‘human’ implications of controlling the illicit arms trade and those who were concerned with the impact of a Treaty on government prerogatives. But the differences appeared to be of degree rather than of kind. Pakistan, for instance, was one of the strongest voices highlighting government prerogatives – the right to self-defense, the right to self-determination, etc. At the same time, Pakistan called for ‘conflict resolution’ to reduce the demand for weapons. For its part, Norway, one of the most vocal countries for language indicating ‘responsibility to prevent and reduce human suffering,’ also endorsed the need to preserve territorial integrity and joined with the EU statement highlighting ‘transnational organized crime, terrorist acts, serious human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law’ as reasons for undertaking the arduous negotiating work towards an ATT.

Uruguay was among a number of nations stressing the impacts of illicit weapons on criminality as well as the need to incorporate ‘victims assistance’ into a final treaty. Throughout the morning discussions, there was general acknowledgement of the threats to peace, security and social development that continue to be posed by the unchecked trade in illicit weapons.

While delegations did not specifically raise concerns about the ‘gap’ between government-focused and community-focused values, there was some basic agreement on guidance moving forward. One piece of that, endorsed by South Africa and others, is to keep ‘principles’ confined to the Preamble of the Treaty, keeping the body of the Treaty focused on defining the scope of the Treaty and laying out its elements. Another piece, suggested by Egypt and others, is to reference the consensus principles articulated in the UN Charter as the basis for ATT-specific principles. This reflected more general concerns by a number of delegations that the ATT process must strive for consistency with the provisions of the UN Charter as well as the 2001 Program of Action on Small Arms and other efforts at the UN to regulate the illicit trade in armaments.

As delegates went to break for lunch, consensus remained unclear. There were specific human needs in diverse communities highlighted in the context of discussions calling for an urgent response to the global epidemic of illicit arms. At the same time, governments have expressed compelling interests in maintaining self-determination, the right to self-defense and territorial integrity. These are values with clear implications for subsequent discussions and negotiations to define the scope and elements of an Arms Trade Treaty.

Elements Again

The afternoon session was focused on a review of the ‘Chairman’s Draft Elements’ of an Arms Trade Treaty, the result of Ambassador Moritan’s efforts to distill consensus from discussions on Monday and Tuesday. The non-paper listed the following elements:

1. Preamble
2. Goals and Objectives
3. Scope: a) Type of weapons, b) Type of activities/transactions
4. Common standards/criteria for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms
5. Implementation and Application: a) National legislation and controls, b) End-use certification/certificates, c) Licensing and Denials, d) Enforcement, e) Criminalization of Violations
6. Transparency: a) Reporting, b) Information Sharing, c) Preventing Abuse and Discrimination
7. Monitoring, Verification and Compliance
8. Settlement of Disputes
9. International Cooperation, Assistance and Capacity Building
10. Establishment of an International Implementation Support Secretariat
11. Final Provisions: a) Follow-up Mechanisms, b) Review Processes, c) Amendments, d) Reservations, e) Signature, Ratification or Accession, f) Entry into Force, g) Withdrawal and Denunciation, h) Depository and Authentic Texts

Ambassador Moritan took a bit of a risk in vetting this list at such an early stage in the Prep Com which was acknowledged (often with some humor) by delegates. As the commentary ensued, the Ambassador listened carefully and refrained from intervening to defend the list from delegations objecting to the terms employed, the arrangement of the list, or issue exclusions from the list.

It is beyond the scope of this short report to share all of the conceptual and ‘repositioning’ suggestions from delegations, but there were several concerns raised that are worth special attention:

  • The need raised by Egypt for language to balance general obligations and general rights under the Treaty, including balancing supplier and recipient responsibilities.
  • The need raised by Norway and others for language that highlights victims assistance provisions.
  • The need raised by Australia and others for language that links an ATT to existing, disarmament-related, treaty obligations.
  • The need raised by Mexico, South Africa and others, for language that focuses specifically on the problem of ‘diversion’ as a key element in combating terrorism, criminality and other threats.
  • The need raised by Mexico for language focused specifically on marking and tracing protocols.
  • The need expressed by many delegations for more explicit ‘cooperation and assistance’ language.
  • The need expressed by Trinidad and Tobago for a distinct ATT secretariat to ensure that ODA is not saddled with the responsibility for monitoring compliance and other fundamental duties.

In the end, it was apparent that Ambassador Moritan in consultation with the Bureau, will continue to assess, document and share delegate opinions on key aspects of the principles, scope and elements of an Arms Trade Treaty. It is also clear from yesterday’s discussion that this vetting of a shared document is an extremely helpful exercise. Having a ‘common text’ on which to reflect is as important at this stage of the process as it will be later on as Treaty provisions are debated and integrated into a final document.

At the end of the day, a note of inspiration was raised by Suriname on behalf of CARICOM, whose delegation urged member states ‘not to squander this opportunity.’ For those watching the proceedings and the care with which delegates crafted statements on principles and reviewed elements, there seemed to be little chance that this opportunity will slide. Delegates seemed to be heeding the call to embrace high standards and build a Treaty on a ‘foundation of rock rather than sand.’ Morocco reminded delegates that, in cases of negotiations like this, the excellent can become the enemy of the good. But as Trinidad and Tobago asserted, there is an opportunity here is to do something very good in a timely and effective manner, and both delegates and civil society representatives seem up to that challenge.

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