Implementation issues

July 11 2011, 7:19 AM  by Ray Acheson

One of the primary focal points of this week’s preparatory committee will be modes of implementation for the anticipated arms trade treaty (ATT). The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) believes that an ATT should be a strong tool with the primary purpose of preventing armed conflict, preventing the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, and seriously reducing the culture and economy of militarism. In this context, WILPF agrees with the Control Arms Campaign that states parties will need comprehensive national legislation and systems that criminalize non-compliance and define sanctions and penalties; administrative systems and capacity for implementing and monitoring compliance of the treaty; end-user documentation, follow-up, and record-keeping procedures; and more.

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

To help facilitate implementation of the treaty, ATT states parties should establish an independent implementation support unit (ISU) that could serve as a repository for national reports; review and analyze data in these reports; provide administrative and technical support to states parties’ in their efforts to implement the treaty, report, and convene meetings to review implementation; assist with peer review of national implementation systems; and help match assistance needs and resources. If this ISU is to be housed in the United Nations, its mandate to facilitate implementation of the ATT should by no means limit or restrict the UN from promoting and contributing to other principles and tools to regulate the arms trade and advance disarmament.

 An important aspect of ensuring compliance with the treaty is transparency.  As Amnesty International notes in its 2011 report Our right to know: transparent reporting under an arms trade treaty, the ATT provides an opportunity to address the lack of transparency in the arms trade by improving the quality and quantity of national reports and providing a comprehensive framework for standardized reporting. Among other things, Amnesty notes, transparency around arms transfer decisions will build confidence and security among states; encourage democratic accountability by national legislatures; allow for public scrutiny of the application and implementation of the ATT; and help prevent diversion of arms to illicit markets. To ensure effective transparent implementation, WILPF urges that the ATT require that all states parties keep records of arms transfers that their national authorities have authorized and that have cleared customs; of all of the information required to issue authorizations or customs clearance; of brokering, transport, and finance; of licenses, permits, or other authorizations; and all information regarding the description of the arms, quantity, value, final destination and end-user, the importing, exporting, and transit states involved, and the names of other companies and individuals involved. The treaty should also provide for a schedule of public reporting through which states parties are required to provide accurate, comprehensive, and timely information on exports, imports, and other transfers of the weapons systems covered by the treaty, as well as on their implementation of the treaty through national laws and procedures.

The treaty could provide for or encourage the establishment of multilateral and bilateral mechanisms for information sharing and consultations among states parties; provide for a review of the quality and quantity of reporting and a venue for states parties, UN bodies, and civil society to make proposals to improve standards of public reporting; provide for the convening of periodic meetings of states parties to review the treaty’s effectiveness and to address specific concerns of states parties; and affirm the role of civil society in monitoring implementation of the treaty.