ATT 1st PrepCom: Day Two

July 18 2010, 6:03 AM by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW)

Report – Tuesday, 2010-07-12 Morning Session
By Zunaira Choudhary

At Tuesday’s morning session of the ATT Preparatory Committee, Bangladesh, Belgium, Suriname, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Mexico were among the seventeen states that contributed to a discussion on the elements that should comprise a meaningful future ATT and the principles upon which it should stand.

Bangladesh stressed that a strong ATT should encompass imports, exports, and other transfers of arms in order to constitute a truly comprehensive system to contain the movement of these weapons, a claim echoed by many of the other states speaking at the session. Bangladesh noted that a proper implementation system must be established in order for the treaty to prove successful. An assertion unique to the Bangladeshi representative was that a clause prohibiting the exchange of weapons for food or essential minerals should be included in the outcome document.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Belgium welcomed the “gradual, incremental” work of the PrepCom and encouraged the widest possible participation in discussions over the next two weeks. Belgium encouraged the inclusion of provisions defining the purpose of the treaty, clauses articulating the national implementation of the treaty by states party, and items devoted to international cooperation in the interest of transparency. Additionally, the representative noted that a future ATT should not in any way “imply lowering the level of standards to which states are already committed.”

Suriname, speaking on behalf of CARICOM, cited that fact that many of its member states are “used in transit of illicit weapons.” Highlighting the ways in which the illegal arms trade has contributed to a growing culture of violence and impeded regional development, the representative emphasized that a treaty establishing international standards is of the utmost importance.

New Zealand began its statement by underlining that this treaty should be concerned with setting “minimum, not maximum” standards to all states. In noting the necessity of establishing implementation mechanisms, of safeguarding national arms ownership systems, and of considering the principles of IHL and human rights, New Zealand was in the company of several other states speaking at the session. Lastly, the representative stated that smaller states, such as some of New Zealand’s neighboring states, should be given capacity-building assistance to implement the provisions of a future ATT effectively.

In the most distinct statement of the session, Pakistan questioned why the feasibility of an ATT has been understood as a “foregone conclusion” and recommended avoiding this assumption. Pakistan stated that though the discussion thus far had demonstrated a desire to “universalize certain UN mechanisms,” it was important to remember that those mechanisms can not currently claim universal membership. The representative expressed disapproval of a tendency to advocate that the ATT make up for the deficiencies of other UN forums, specifically the call for a provision on the sale of arms to terrorists. Stating that certainly no states could be transferring arms to terrorist actors, Pakistan wondered about the reasons for the call for the inclusion of this nuance in a future ATT. The South Asian country recommended against an “intrusive mechanism,” doubted that the UN has the funding for a monitoring agency, and asserted that the defense needs of a state should not be left to third-party deciders. Pakistan concluded by noting the lack of universal agreement on defining human rights violations.

Mexico expressed the sentiment that manufacturers and consumers share responsibility in regards to the illegal use of weapons. Noting that “this is not an exporter’s agreement,” Mexico recommended that the ATT take into consideration not simply the “holders of arms, but the potential users of arms.”

Zunaira Choudhary is an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. Martin P. Slawek, an intern with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, contributed additional reporting.

Report – Tuesday, 2010-07-12 Afternoon Session
By Ben Karsai

On the second day of the 2010 ATT Preparatory Committee, the delegates discussed the “elements and principles” which states hoped to include in a binding Arms Trade Treaty. The secretariat defined “elements” as components of the treaty that states found particularly salient and the “principles” as the foundation and reasons for these “elements”.

Some states stressed the importance of a preamble in the ATT, which would clearly lay out the purpose, definitions, goals, and objectives of the treaty. Morocco, Jamaica and Indonesia advocated a strong preamble which would strictly define terms in order to avoid ambiguity in meaning. Australia stated that they would support a document that defines terms in the “broadest range possible,” and covers an extensive variety of arms trade activities in order to establish comprehensive international law without loopholes. This contrasted with the statement of the United States, who advocated definitions that excluded training equipment, defensive services and repair, as well as combat support equipment such as radar, bullet-proof vests, and radios. The US stressed the importance of limiting information exchange amongst member states to exclude the items listed above. The United States also sought a document that did not cover “dual-use” goods, which are items that could be used for domestic or military purposes, because the US considered such items as too complex and out of the scope of the committee.

States such as Jamaica, the United States, Australia, and China stressed that implementation of the treaty should take place on the national level, taking into account the sanctity of national sovereignty. Indonesia placed special emphasis on the right to self defense in terms of interstate conflict, citing Article 51 of the UN Charter. Indonesia also cited UNGA resolution 64/48, which reaffirms a state’s right to territorial integrity. Mongolia, Australia and China all stressed the importance of multilateralism in implementing the treaty. Through communication and cooperation, these states suggested that states party to the ATT could share best practices, in order to establish a safe, secure and legally monitored arms trade network. Australia and the Pacific island states agreed and suggested cooperation and development on a regional level. A wide range of states, including Mongolia, the United States, Costa Rica, and China supported the use of existing international mechanisms for implementation of the ATT

The states present also discussed enforcement of the treaty. Jamaica, the United States, Australia, and Costa Rica stressed transparency. Jamaica advocated for a strict obligation to the ATT by its states party, with sanctions as a penalty for violating the treaty. Morocco disagreed with Jamaica, and noted the importance of distinguishing between ATT provisions and Security Council sanctions. Indonesia and Australia both advocated for mechanisms for settling state disputes in order to avoid conflict and maintain the treaty’s integrity for future years.

The delegations also had discussed including international humanitarian law into the treaty. Indonesia, Morocco, Mongolia, and Costa Rica all stressed the importance of including humanitarian provisions such as efforts to curb human trafficking, sexual slavery, and human rights abuses in the treaty. India and China put special emphasis on addressing proliferation of arms to non-state groups and establishing criteria in the treaty that considers how arms deals will affect the recipient country’s security and governmental stability.

Ben Karsai 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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