Questions of scope

February 28 2011, 7:39 PM by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

As laid out in the Chair’s provisional programme of work, Monday morning’s opening plenary meeting of the second arms tread treaty preparatory committee focused on the scope of the treaty: what types of weapons and types of activities should the treaty cover?

(This brief report focuses on the Monday morning meeting. Additional contributions on this discussion can be found in other reports and through the arms trade treaty Twitter feed, #armstreaty.)

Types of weapons
The number of delegations supporting an extremely comprehensive scope in terms of both types of weapons and activities seems to be increasing. Interest in expanding the categories of weapons included to those beyond the UN Register of Conventional Arms and/or expanding the definitions of those categories in order to incorporate additional weapon systems or calibers of weapons is growing. However, several key states are still concerned about expanding the scope too much and there continues to be some resistance to even including small arms and light weapons and their ammunitions in any future treaty.

The Norwegian delegation argued that everything should be included unless specifically excluded, and that any exclusions “should be linked to the goal of the ATT and be based on humanitarian arguments.” In Norway’s perspective, the goal of the ATT should be preventing of arms trading that causes human suffering or violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Several delegations, including those of Costa Rica and the European Union called for the treaty to include the seven categories of the UN Register, small arms and light weapons, ammunition (7+1+1), as well as munitions and components, knowledge, and equipment essential to the manufacture and use of these weapons. Tanzania’s delegation emphasized that the treaty must include SALW, while the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) argued that an ATT must include ammunition and SALW components, noting that without bullets, SALW are useless. Likewise, the Norwegian delegation stressed that “ammunition is at the core of global armed violence”. While some delegations, such as Egypt’s, argued that it would be difficult to implement provisions on marking and tracing ammunition, Trinidad and Tobago pointed out that the technology for this already exists.

The European Union and Norway also called for the inclusion of military explosives and noted that weapon parts and components should be an included category as well. The EU elaborated that this category could include electronics, computers, telecommunications, info security, sensors and lasers, and transportation and training devises designed for military use.

Norway, the EU, and the UK also argued for all calibers of weapons to be included, though others, including Japan and Egypt, argued that only the calibers specifically mentioned in the UN Register categories should be included.

The UK delegation called for inclusion of sporting and hunting rifles, which are currently listed as “exemptions” in the Chair’s paper, to be included in the treaty in some form, arguing that while exports of 10 hunting rifles is one thing, exports of 1000 of the same rifles is a different matter. The delegations of Cuba and Brazil agreed that antique, sporting, and hunting weapons should be included in the treaty as these weapons can and have been misused in armed conflict.

Making the strongest statement of the morning against a comprehensive scope, the Egyptian delegation argued that the treaty should be strictly limited to the seven categories of weapons in the UN Register and that the definitions of these categories should not be amended at this time. Egypt also argued that SALW should not be included in the treaty as the UN Programme of Action on SALW takes care of this issue. Egypt’s delegate also argued against inclusion of ammunition, munitions, parts, and components; he stressed that since some parts and components used in weapons are dual-use, their inclusion in an ATT could result in extensive hurdles to civil industry and contradict with industrial and developmental aims of many developing states. Cuba and Brazil’s delegations agreed that dual-use items should not be restricted by the treaty.

Brazil’s delegation expressed support for the 7+1+1 formulation, but cautioned against expanding the definitions of the UN Register’s categories. It argued that the definitions of the seven categories in the Chair’s paper include weapons designed for “defence” purposes, whereas the UN Register only includes “offensive” weapons. The delegations of India, Indonesia, and Japan agreed the treaty should include the weapons in the Register and SALW (7+1), but India’s delegation argued that since the GGE on the UN Register could not agree on expanding the definitions or categories of weapons, the ATT process should not attempt to do so.

Types of activities
Many delegations welcomed the comprehensive list of activities supplied in the Chair’s informal paper on scope. Costa Rica’s delegation argued that an ATT that is limited merely to imports and exports cannot effectively regulate an arms trade where materials, technology, and knowledge passes through many hands, each of which constitutes a potential for diversion or misuse. It, along with several other delegations, urged the treaty to cover all international transfers between states and other entities, including transit, transshipment, brokering, transfer of technology, manufacturing under foreign license, gifts, loans, leases, research and development, and financing. Norway’s delegation agreed these activities “should be subject to national licensing and subject to the same criteria as export.” Japan’s delegation said these activities would need to be “carefully considered”.

CARICOM’s representative noted that there is no agreed definition of brokering but the one supplied by the GGE that the Chair uses in his informal paper “represents a solid foundation on which to commence discussion.” CARICOM also suggested that in order to remain a “living document,” the scope of the ATT should be considered at subsequent review conferences once the treaty is adopted.

The European Union welcomed the comprehensive list of activities proposed by the Chair and agreed that transfers within states and domestic gun ownership should not be covered by the treaty. The EU also argued that activities such as research and development (R&D) and financing would “hardly be controllable by the state parties of the treaty” and argued against its inclusion in the treaty. In a separate statement, the UK delegation also argued that R&D and financing should be removed.

The Egyptian delegation called for only “illicit” brokering to be covered by the treaty; argued that technology transfers should not be included at all and rather should be encouraged, not restricted, by the ATT; and urged that any implications for contracts of foreign licenses should only refer to future, not current, arrangements. The Indonesian delegation argued that the possible inclusion of manufacturing licenses and technological transfer signals that the treaty could be “misused” and argued that the scope should be limited only to arms and activities “that directly result in human suffering”. Cuba’s delegation also expressed concern over proposals to include R&D, financing, and technical assistance in the treaty, arguing that these activities “do not fall in any way within a reasonable and practical scope”.

India’s delegation stated that the UN General Assembly on the ATT only referred to import and export of conventional arms and therefore the definitions of other activities, such as transit, transshipment, retransfer, and brokering should be considered very carefully. It argued that technical assistance, R&D, and technology transfers should not be included in the scope of the treaty because implementation would be difficult and subject to interpretation. Brazil’s delegation argued that including such activities would serve to discriminate against countries seeking technological development.

Other issues
Some delegations continued to express concern about the ATT’s potential to be misused and politicized. The Arab Group stressed that the ATT has to be based on and not conflict with principles in the UN Charter, including the right of states to attain conventional weapons for self-defence, their right to self-determination, the prohibition of use of arms against unarmed civilians, etc. For an ATT to be universal, the Arab Group stated, it should be nondiscriminatory and implemented in manner that does not allow its exploitation for political or commercial objectives. The Arab Group also emphasized that the ATT must take into account the different responsibilities of producers and importers of arms and must not substitute the logical duties of major arms producing states with discriminatory rights. Costa Rica’s delegation tried to quell some of these concerns by emphasizing that the arms trade treaty is a reaffirmation of state responsibility, not a weakening of state sovereignty.