Worry on many fronts

February 17 2012, 7:52 AM by Ray Acheson

With each passing day, there seems to be more urgency and anxiety
around completing the preparatory process of the ATT—making state
positions clearly known, gathering and approving the necessary
background documents, and adopting some semblance of rules of
procedure. Also prevalent in the undertones of many statements and
interventions on Thursday was an air of worry over tackling too much
or too little in the months remaining until the negotiating
conference.

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

Some delegations are focusing this angst on completion of a
comprehensive compendium of views from all four of the previous
preparatory committee sessions. Cuba’s delegate made the case that
national experts—military, trade, and legal—would benefit from this
sort of document in their deliberations back in capital prior to the
negotiations in July. The European Union and Swiss delegations
expressed doubt over the usefulness of this burdensome task for the
Secretariat, claiming that statements and positions are already
available on the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) website.
Algeria’s representative, whose delegation first brought up the idea
of a compendium during the last PrepCom, disagreed, stating that such
statements on the UNODA website were incomplete and member states
should have access to alternatives not reflected in the Chair’s Paper
from 14 July 2011. Likewise, the Nicaraguan representative reiterated
support for a compendium document reflecting updated states’ views.
Belize’s delegation stated that any document, including such a
compilation, would have to be reviewed and approved by member states
before its inclusion in background documentation for the negotiating
conference. The Iranian delegation reiterated the need to have all
documents related to the conference—the UN Secretary General’s report
on states’ views, the report from the Group of Governmental Experts,
and the Draft Report of the PrepCom among others—to be available to
all member states in the interim.

Other delegations focused intently on completing and adopting rules of
procedure before close of discussions tomorrow for fear that
negotiations will seriously be hindered without clear and agreed upon
provisions. The Costa Rican delegation noted that the rules of
procedure must facilitate negotiations rather than hinder them. The
Indonesia delegate referred to a certain level of awkwardness that may
come about if during the July negotiations the rules of procedure
would need to be amended. As such, the delegate called for including a
stipulation in the rules of procedure that they could be changed by
consensus. More generally, Morocco implored all member states to stay
focused on the rules of procedure and the Chairman’s report.

Some delegations focused their worry on particular substantive aspects
of the treaty. Sweden’s delegation cautioned against an outright ban
against arms transfers to non-state actors as industry would fall
under this category and such cross-border industry cooperation is
important and likely to increase among states. The delegation of
Malaysia focused on the overall goal of the ATT and stated that
reference to corruption, as well as legal and victims’ assistance,
would serve to detract from the main objective of an ATT—completion of
a trade and security agreement. Contrastingly, the Chilean and Sierra
Leonean delegation claimed that there is an undeniable humanitarian
element to the ATT in addition to the legal regulations negotiated.
Nigeria’s delegate took the opportunity to reiterate the necessity of
including ammunition in the treaty’s scope.

It comes as no surprise that there is much anxiety still remaining on
many fronts. As this final PrepCom concludes, delegations continue to
make those anxieties known in the waning days of official
preparations. The task at hand is complex and wrought with substantive
and procedural challenges. However, the important thing to bear in
mind is that the lack of international standards for the transfer of
conventional arms is a severe blight on the world community and needs
remedying. Furthermore, the distinct air of anxiety among diplomats
illustrates just how important filling this crack in international law
truly is.

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