Summary of #Armstreaty Discussions at #UNGA last week

October 24 2011, 8:27 AM  by Øistein Thorsen
The debate on conventional weapons included a robust discussion of next year’s arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiating conference as well as a review of the preparatory process thus far. Ambassador Roberto García Moritán addressed First Committee in his capacity as Chair of the ATT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom). He offered a briefing of the three previous sessions of the PrepCom and, in particular, the current proposals regarding scope, criteria, and parameters, international cooperation and assistance, and implementation. Final preparations for next year were also taken up as the UK delegation put forward a resolution, A/C.1/66/L.50, seeking to extend the final PrepCom in February from three to five days.

Article written by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War, for the 1st Committee Monitor

Ambassador Moritán recognized the divergent views that surround the ATT, stating, “it is clear that there is a wide variety of perspectives and priorities among delegations, including in that range those who highlight the importance of a robust, comprehensive effective instrument with regards to its purposes and provisions and those who still consider that it would not be necessary to adopt a legally-binding instrument.” This lack of consensus is seen by many as the main challenge of the ATT process. Identification of common ground on the ultimate purpose of an ATT is critical and requires vigorous attention during the final PrepCom. The Spanish delegation encouraged member states to recognize a “two-level approach”—a treaty regulating the legal business of trade in conventional weapons, but also combating illegal weapons transfers that find their way into the illicit market prompting devastating insecurity across nations and regions. The Uruguayan and Liberian delegations noted the latter in their general comments, expressing concern over the negative effects on the socio-economic well-being of regions due to illicit transfers. Panama’s delegate also rightly underscored the danger of diversion.An encouraging trend was the reference by several delegations to the utility and importance of the Chair’s papers as a “reference guide,” as noted by New Zealand’s delegate. The Georgian, Costa Rican, and Japanese delegates expressed support for the draft papers as a useful launch of discussions. Germany’s delegation stated that although the Chair’s papers have been subject to continued improvements and development for the sake of cohesion, they must be further refined over the course of the next year.

In stark contrast to supporters of an expansive humanitarian instrument, the US delegation indicated that the United States does not view the ATT as a disarmament or arms control treaty, but rather, a trade treaty regulating a legitimate industry. Furthermore, the US delegation noted that national implementation of such a treaty should not be subject to international regulation, a view also reiterated by India. The US delegation explained such decisions are strictly a national prerogative, although a legal requirement of all member states to regulate transfers at the national level is appropriate and welcome. Other delegations emphasized state sovereignty issues, including Pakistan and Eritrea, whose delegations both referenced the oft-noted UN Charter article 51 right of self-defense. The Non-Aligned Movement called for a “step-by-step” process that is transparent and non-discriminatory.

Detailed discussions of elements of the future ATT were limited, with a focus instead on the negotiating process as a whole. Nonetheless, the delegations of LiechtensteinSenegalDemocratic Republic of the CongoJamaica, and CARICOM expressed support for the 7+1+1 formula for the scope of the treaty, which includes SALWs and ammunition in addition to the seven categories in the UN Register. Likewise, thePhilippines’ delegation also expressed support for a scope that includes the seven categories and SALWs, while also encouraging an ATT provision that prevents arms transfers to those states under UN Security Council embargoes. Iran called for the entry-into-force of the ATT to be conditional on the ratification of ten major producer states.

As Australia noted, there is near universal recognition for the need to better regulate the arms trade. Despite conflicting objectives and perspectives, the intensity with which delegations have expressed their views on the ATT is indicative of what will be a rich negotiating process next year. Many states made it clear that they hope everyone will continue to commit to an ATT process that takes into account the many elements included in the Chair’s latest draft paper in a broad international security context. Although all the elements presented in the paper will likely not be included in the final text due to the consensus provision, it is widely hoped that delegations will be as comprehensive as possible, especially regarding the dangers of diversion and the need for sufficient implementation capacity. As Slovenia’s delegation noted, an ATT that demands evaluation of diversion risk in light of human rights, in addition to proper transparency and reporting requirements, is possible. It’s time to clearly define the arms trade and close legal loopholes that allow illicit trade to continue.