ATT 4th PrepCom: Day 4: The how and the what

February 16 2012, 7:52 PM  by Ray Acheson

Discussion on Thursday morning was less focused than previous meetings of this PrepCom. While some delegations continued to comment on the Chair’s draft report from the PrepCom or on the provisional rules of procedure, others reiterated their positions from previous PrepComs on matters of the arms trade treaty (ATT)’s substance. The morning meeting ended early so that the Chair could continue informal consultations with member states.

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and FreedomConsensus

A few delegations continued discussing the issue of consensus. The Costa Rican delegation agreed that consensus should be pursued but expressed concern that it could also be vulnerable to manipulation. It and several other delegations asked the Arab League to issue its specific proposal on consensus for the PrepCom to consider.

The European Union, Indonesia, and Norway said that procedural matters should not have to be decided upon by consensus. The decision on the final text, however, should be taken by consensus, the EU argued. Norway indicated that consensus as written in operative paragraph 5 of UN General Assembly resolution 64/48 means that every effort to reach consensus must be exhausted.

The EU also called for the deletion of rule 52b, which states, “Decisions of committees, subcommittees and working groups shall be taken by a majority of the representatives present and voting, except that the reconsideration of a proposal or an amendment shall require the majority established by rule 32.”

Malaysia called for “simple” language on the question of decision-making. Brazil called for a compromise on the varying proposals and argued that it would be “painful and disruptive” if the PrepCom had to vote on the rules of procedure.

NGO access and participation
The European Union and Norway indicated their support for active civil society participation and agreed that NGOs should be able to address the conference in more than one meeting. Both also agreed with the suggestion that NGOs have full access to plenary and main committee meetings, though without prejudging the possibility of having closed meetings “when appropriate”. 

Draft report: Chair’s text and compilation of views
The European Union, Switzerland, and Tanzania supported the proposal made on Wednesday by the Russian Federation that the second part of the second sentence of paragraph 20 be deleted, so that the sentence would simply read, “Nothing within the Chair’s non-paper has been agreed.” The Swiss delegation also suggested the merger of paragraphs 20 and 21, the latter of which says that the Chair’s non-paper “was submitted without prejudice to the views and positions of Member States and their right to put forward additional proposals in the Conference.” Norway said it was pleased the Chair’s text would be annexed to the report from the PrepCom.

The Swiss delegation expressed doubts about the utility of a compilation of states’ views, which was originally suggested by Algeria. The Algerian delegation again argued that such a compilation is necessary because not all views have been incorporated into the Chair’s draft text. Cuba and Viet Nam expressed support for the compilation of views. Cuba’s delegation noted that the documents from the PrepCom process will be reviewed by military, trade, legal experts back in capitals in preparation for the negotiations and argued that they should have access to the different positions that delegations have held. Cuba also noted that if this document is prepared by the Secretariat, it would have advantage of being translated into all UN languages, which would also help experts in capitals.

Morocco suggested that since the Secretariat is concerned about the effort creating such a compilation would entail, the draft report could add a paragraph stating that any views to be included in such a document would have to be submitted to the Secretariat by 30 March following a template created by the Secretariat. This way, the Secretariat would just have to copy and paste the submissions into a document.

Belize said that if the compilation of views is going to be attached to the draft report, all states should have a chance to review it before it is submitted to the negotiating conference.

Treaty substance
The divergence between those states that fear the ATT will infringe upon their “trade and security” rights and those who demand that the treaty address the horrific humanitarian consequences of the illegal or misuse of conventional weapons remains stark.

The delegations of Malaysia and Viet Nam firmly expressed their opposition to including any reference to human rights, international humanitarian law (IHL), corruption, poverty, development, etc. in the treaty text. The Malaysian delegation suggested that such references could be contained in a separate declaration annexed to the treaty.

However, several other delegations defended the inclusion of such issues in the core of the treaty text. The Chilean delegation said that an ATT “cannot avoid” the humanitarian dimension, that they “must inform the principles and parameters” of the treaty. Similarly, the Norwegian delegation insisted that the treaty confront and reduce armed violence and violations of human rights and IHL, while the UK delegation said the ATT is an important vehicle for human rights law and IHL.

Sierra Leone’s parliamentary representative argued that the ATT “must be heavy” on human rights and IHL. She asked, if the treaty is only a matter of trade law, then why do member states extensively justify their positions on the enormous suffering and destabilization of countries due to illicit trade or irresponsible use of weapons? She emphasized that the ATT should contribute to human development and dignified living.

On scope, Malaysia and Viet Nam argued that the treaty should be limited and in particular not include technology transfers, which could “inhibit development” of importing countries.

However, other delegations such as Chile, Sweden, and Switzerland insisted that technology be included in the treaty. Sweden and Switzerland argued that if technology is not included in the scope of an ATT, then the denial of export of the finished product could be circumvented by a transfer of corresponding technology.

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