Talent pool

July 12 2011, 6:03 PM by Ray Acheson

While significant differences continue to exist on the structure that
will be available to help guide national response and build national
capacity to implement an ATT, it is clear that delegations have taken
their PrepCom duties with the utmost seriousness. Delegates have read
the Chair’s non-paper carefully and the suggestions for amendment that
have been made, while daunting in their own right, have reflected a
high level of state investment and a willingness of diplomats to do
some very challenging homework.

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

While there have been many suggestions for strengthening national
capacity to implement treaty provisions, only the Mexican delegation
has raised the possibility of adding a roster of experts to the
resources available to interested states in their efforts to regulate
licit transfers and eliminate illicit ones.

From our standpoint, there is much merit to this suggestion. We recall
only two months ago that a meeting of government experts (MGE),
chaired by Ambassador McLay of New Zealand, engaged delegates from
diverse global regions in a spirited and learned discussion of
preferred options for marking, tracing and record keeping in
accordance with the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms (UNPoA). The
balance in the room between diplomats and technical experts helped
generate one of the more effective discussions in the disarmament
field that we have witnessed in some time, a discussion that not only
accomplished considerable progress, but generated optimism regarding
prospects for future progress on the UNPoA.

We are not recommending an MGE-style process for the ATT, which would
be neither necessary nor workable. The ‘balance’ in conference room 1
this week is already generating good amounts of cooperation. However,
we believe a roster of diversely-situated, regionally-focused, rapidly
accessible experts on the technical and legislative requirements for
an ATT would greatly contribute to the implementation process in the
short and long term. There is both precedence for and experience with
such a roster within the UN system.

We recognize that many larger delegations come to meetings, such as
this ATT PrepCom, with national colleagues who can provide expertise
on key issues and many of these states continue to make expertise
available to smaller states to help them solve their own compliance
challenges. But we also recognize that there is significant
regionally-based talent—from government and non-government
sources—that cannot easily be accessed in New York for PrepCom
meetings, but that could be made available to provide regional
consultation of a high level with member states.

Indeed, we have had direct experience with some of these
regionally-based experts and we believe that they would offer much
both within and outside their host regions to help states address the
potentially ‘excessive burdens’ of legislation, reporting, and other
demands that would accompany treaty compliance. Moreover, we believe
that such experts would have a particularly sensitive eye for both
‘best practices’ and state-specific implementation challenges that
would add considerable value to efforts to promote common treaty
protocols and address illicit transfers.

The challenges of ATT implementation are formidable, with or without
the implementation support unit (ISU) structure proposed by the Chair.
There is certainly much to work out in terms of authorizing,
‘housing,’ and utilizing an experts roster. But with many technical
obstacles to identifying illicit transfers remaining—national
legislation to be brought into harmony with international expectations
and a myriad of potential reporting and information sharing
obligations—a set of regionally-based experts would surely prove
beneficial to both a future ISU and to the negotiating and longer-term
implementation needs of many member states.