The #ArmsTreaty: International Cooperation and Assistance

March 2 2011, 9:27 PM by Øistein Thorsen

The value of human life continues to be the basis for efforts to be made to protect it. States are convening this week, at the most important international body, the United Nations, to prepare to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Among the key topics being given priority consideration is the subject of international cooperation and assistance. The importance of this element for the Treaty can be viewed from several angles. Notably, the goal of this section is to enable poorer States to shoulder the burden of implementing their obligations under the ATT as well as provide for mutual cooperation and sharing.

Posted by Baffour Amoa, WAANSA | IANSA

We can take an example from the UN Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA) process. Sarah de Zoeten, of the Australian delegation, emphasized the difference between ”international cooperation” and “international assistance” while highlighting their importance for the full and effective implementation of the UNPoA.

In examining the issue, she offered definitions of the two concepts, explaining that the term “international assistance” is often used to denote the transfer of resources and expertise, including financial and technical resources, from one country to another with a view to building national capacity for effective implementation of the Programme…..”.

“International cooperation’ is a broader term, covering all forms of joint or coordinated action between two or more States, including the sharing of information and experience, in support of Programme …. implementation.”

In the context of the ATT, it is fair to observe that common standards for the international transfer of conventional arms and ammunition set by a legally-binding ATT would significantly contribute to the reduction of armed violence.

Evidence abounds to show that many States, especially those which are developing, have huge challenges with resources to be able to elaborate and institute comprehensive control mechanisms and systems. For example, maintaining an arms registry to monitor civilian arms possession has proven to be a challenge. In some cases, laws on arms and ammunition are outdated and do not meet modern legal requirements.

In order for an ATT to function effectively, specialist knowledge on conventional arms regulation will be needed by several countries in the South. The question is: How easy will it be when it comes to conventional arms? For instance, many importing countries are likely to need assistance in controlling imports of small arms and light weapons, and related material. It is a fact that exporting countries have many years of experience in controlling conventional weapons and less experienced States will definitely gain from such experience under international cooperation and assistance.

Today Burkina Faso made a passionate appeal for support under International cooperation and assistance for States parties that will require assistance to fulfill their obligations under the Treaty.

Therefore, for effective implementation, the Control Arms campaign has indicated that the issue of capacity building is necessary and negotiations should consider the following four key areas:

  1. Technical assistance and capacity building: This will facilitate compliance as States can consult and cooperate with each other regarding treat implementation and can request information and assistance to meet their obligations.
  2. Victims’ assistance: Steps taken by States or through international assistance and cooperation, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure the provision of age, gender and culturally-sensitive assistance for the care and rehabilitation, medical aid and assistance and psychological support, and social and economic inclusion to those negatively affected by the misuse of conventional arms in areas under its jurisdiction or control.
  3. National Point of Contact/National authority: To serve as the national focal point for liaison with the Secretariat and with other States Parties on matters relating to this Convention.
  4. Mutual legal assistance and cooperation

For the Second PrepCom February 28 – March 2011, Ambassador Moritan, Chair of the ATT PrepCom, issued a non-paper dated 16 February 2011 for consideration by States. It is encouraging to see that the Chair believes that States should have the right under the Treaty to seek and receive assistance as the demands of a legally binding instrument can be quite overbearing for economically challenged States. Moreover, a well regulated conventional arms transfer ought to be viewed as a shared responsibility.

For the Treaty to be effective, we agree with the Chair that States should provide technical, legal, material and financial assistance to States Parties, if they are able to do so. This would facilitate the implementation of this Treaty. Obviously, the United Nations, international, regional, sub-regional or national organisations, non-governmental organisations have a role to play in the process and obviously this can also happen on a bilateral basis.

We hope a process will be articulated to enhance the system of international cooperation and assistance under the Treaty, in particular in the international community’s approach to matching needs and resources. More critically and borrowing ideas from the UNPoA process, the outcome document should:

  • Increase understanding of how needs can be identified, prioritized and communicated, and how resources can be requested from donors;
  • Define procedures States must follow to submit needs for discussion, consideration and possible support;
  • Consider ways in which the international community could follow-up on assistance requests in order to match donors and recipients;
  • Endorse the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs to assist states (upon request) to complete a project outline for outlining their assistance needs and to present all of these requests to regular informal meetings of interested states, international organizations, and civil society in order to identify possible matches;
  • Support consideration of further measures to facilitate strategic dialogue and follow-up on the question of assistance, such as by highlighting the need to address challenges and effectiveness of assistance from recipient and donor perspectives;
  • Highlight the need to build linkages across existing projects that achieve multiple objectives—such as measures that help implement the Treaty;
  • Identify the different forms of cooperation which exist (South-South, North-South and North-North frameworks);
  • Highlight the need for enhanced inter-agency coordination, on the national and international levels, by utilizing existing organizations and structures;
  • Highlight particular areas where information exchange could be enhanced.

Matching needs and resources requires that the capacity of recipient countries be improved while donor countries coordinate to identify specific assistance needs and offers. In the scheme of international cooperation, South-South, North-South, and Triangular cooperation should be made to function to the benefit of all parties.

Posted by Baffour Amoa, WAANSA | IANSA