Future #ArmsTreaty Negotiations Hinge on General Assembly Debate

October 10 2012, 1:54 PM  by Lorey Campese

Diplomats gather at the UN this week to begin First Committee, which deals with arms control and disarmament. An important question for them is how to move forward with an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) after the United States blocked adoption of a draft treaty at the Diplomatic Conference (DipCon) charged with its negotiation in July.

Discussion this Autumn revolves around the rules under which the ATT will be negotiated. The UK, as a leading ‘co-author’ of the ATT process, is lobbying for a resolution under which negotiations would resume in 2013 at the point they left off in 2012, discussing the final Chair’s draft treaty called CRP.1. Crucially the negotiation would be held under the same ‘consensus’ rule as before – something many States feel is deeply problematic due to the failure of that rule in July.

Negotiation of a Treaty to regulate the global arms trade was mandated by the General Assembly in 2009. The United States, which under President Bush had opposed the idea of an ATT, agreed to support the negotiation as long as it was held on the basis of consensus – thereby allowing the US to strongly protect its interests. At the insistence of the US, in the ATT the strictest version of consensus was applied, meaning any one country could veto the entire process by blocking adoption of the draft treaty. On July 27 as the DipCon was coming to an end, the United States did just that, despite overwhelming support for a draft treaty text.

The Control Arms Coalition is worried that to run a second DipCon on the same rules as the first risks failure again, or a weak treaty.  Supporters of the ATT need to ensure that it is the views of the vast majority of states that want a strong treaty that win out, not the few who seek to block or delay an outcome.

Control Arms and millions of people around the world, are looking for the quickest, surest route to negotiate a robust humanitarian ATT that will curb the irresponsible trade in arms, save countless lives and contribute to the socio-economic  development of nations blighted by conflict.

Written by Martin Butcher, Policy Adviser – Arms Trade Treaty, Oxfam

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