Monday, July 30, 2012

A pause for reflection

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
On Friday afternoon, the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiation conference closed without adopting a treaty. During the morning plenary, the United States, followed by Cuba, DPRK, Russia, and Venezuela, declared that negotiations needed to be extended. Thus the six year process to develop an ATT failed to achieve its goal. Furthermore, the draft treaty that would have been adopted was much weaker than the one envisaged by those who initiated the process in the first place. And so while this particular course has ended without a treaty, it is by no means the end of the road for an ATT altogether. The discussions over the past month have further demonstrated the need to develop such a treaty, and the need to do though a non-consensus based process.

Moving on and forward

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
As the mandate for the arms trade treaty (ATT) Diplomatic Conference expired on Friday afternoon, delegates and civil society alike were disappointed at the failure to adopt a treaty after four weeks of negotiations and, perhaps more importantly, the inability to address the lack of internationally-adopted common standards for the unregulated trade in conventional arms. 

Summer reading

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
The UN General Assembly’s mandate for an arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiating conference expired at 6PM Friday with a whimper more than a bang. Many of us in the room wondered whether or not Ambassador Moritán had one more trick up his proverbial sleeve, or one more attempt to transform wariness from some delegations into adopted language.   

Friday, July 27, 2012

Demanding more from an arms trade treaty

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
On Thursday afternoon, the president of the arms trade treaty (ATT) conference released a new draft text. After two days of nearly round-the-clock negotiations, however, the new text is still full of potential loopholes. Several areas of the text need to be amended before this treaty could be considered as a step toward plugging holes in the poorly regulated arms trade.

Accommodating the major 'sceptical' states in the ATT

by Owen Greene, Saferworld

In the final days of the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiations, difficult compromises are being discussed to accommodate the concerns of states in the hopes of still achieving a worthwhile treaty text. Several highly sceptical states have been very vocal in the negotiating sessions. Behind the scenes, there have been concerted efforts to address the key concerns of some major arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, India, and the USA. Even if it is not widely expected that such ‘reluctant’ states will quickly ratify an ATT, it is important to try to gain their acceptance of a treaty text, especially if it is forwarded to the General Assembly First Committee. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The ATT is needed for saving lives, not profits

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

As delegations negotiating the arms trade treaty (ATT) met behind closed doors on Wednesday, civil society was busy advocating for key changes in the draft text distributed on Tuesday. As it stands, the text is unacceptable to those governments and NGOs demanding a robust treaty that would be an effective tool for preventing the deadly consequences of the poorly regulated international arms trade.

Trade and transfers: getting to the goals

by Maj Rørdam Nielsen, Global Action to Prevent War

As everyone who has followed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) process will know, the devil is in the detail. Five small letters differentiate “trade” from “transfer”. The ATT negotiating conference started out with the Chair’s 3 July 2012 paper, which stated that the treaty should apply to “all international transfers of conventional arms,” including “the transfer of title or control over conventional arms.” The definition of covered activities has since been continuously narrowed. The President’s most recent compilation text stipulates in paragraph 2.B.1 that the covered activities are limited to export, import, brokering, and transit and transhipment.

Not losing sight of objectivity and purpose

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

The compilation text offered by the president of the arms trade treaty (ATT) conference on Tuesday offers unfortunate gaps in objectivity and makes for a treaty that will provide far too much cover for irresponsible and diverted transfers. The question that has continuously plagued these negotiations is how much and how meaningfully the treaty will change national assessment practice in order to prevent the illicit and irresponsible trade in conventional arms. The lack of common international standards for regulating the international trade in conventional arms must be rectified, but it is not in and of itself enough to warrant adoption of a treaty that does not sufficiently address the humanitarian consequences of the illicit and poorly regulated trade. 

Prescription for global health: a strong ATT

by Andrew Kanter, MD, MPH, President, Physicians for Social Responsibility, US; and Robert Mtonga, MD, Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Unregulated transfer of conventional weapons undermines socioeconomic development, including global health. Each year, hundreds of thousands are killed and millions more maimed from armed violence. Annually, resources and funding that could be spent on public health, poverty reduction, expansion of primary education, the promotion of and equality of women, and environmental sustainability are diverted to manage the care of armed violence victims.  

The ATT gender debate: out of step with the global community?

by Lily Gardener, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

The conventional wisdom that war and peace are of men’s domain is no longer valid. It never was true, but as the world witnesses evidence of the contribution of women to practical disarmament and arms control measures carried out at the local, national, regional, and sub-regional levels in the prevention and reduction of armed violence and armed conflict, the role of women becomes more concrete. Women will continue to play a stronger role in promoting disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control; therefore it is only logical that an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) includes the dimension of gender. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Options versus obligations

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
On Tuesday morning, the president of the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiating conference released the first draft consolidated text. Debate on the text ensued in the afternoon. As most delegations argued, the text is much too weak to achieve the goal that motivated this process in the first place: preventing and reducing human suffering caused by armed violence and conflict.

Why the term “gender-based violence” must be used

by Rebecca Gerome, IANSA Women's Network; Vanessa Farr, WILPF; with inputs from Maria Butler, PeaceWomen/WILPF
The Holy See and a few other states have questioned the use of the terms “gender” and “gender-based violence” and claimed that there is no agreed legal definition of the term. However, as France stated on Friday, the terms “gender,” “gender-based violence,” and “gender-based discrimination” have become very well established within the UN and within national and international legal instruments within the last decade. The examples are numerous. They include UN Security Council resolutions and UN General Assembly resolutions, such as the 2008 General Assembly resolution (A/RES/62/134), which urges states “to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, in particular rape and other forms of sexual violence.” 

Statement of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the need for a gender perspective in the text of the Arms Trade Treaty

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the “Committee”) recalls that the Preamble of the Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“the Convention”) emphasizes the specific factors relating to armed conflict which hinder the enjoyment of substantive equality for women and reiterates the necessity for general and complete disarmament.

Why we need a legally-binding, gender-responsive ATT

by Michèle Pepe, IANSA Women’s Network, Ivorian section of the West African Action Network on small arms (WAANSA)

I would like to share with you how small arms are affecting women in Côte d’Ivoire and to tell you what we are doing about the problem. I will tell you how an Arms Trade Treaty can support the implementation of CEDAW and UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security.

Implementation and an ISU worthy of resources

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

The latest compilation draft text offered by the President of the arms trade treaty (ATT) conference is an attempt to incorporate the various proposals from the previous three weeks of deliberations into treaty language and lead the way to final adoption this Friday. The sections on implementation are of particular importance given the structure of the ATT, as implementation will be driven primarily by national responsibilities. Closing gaps in the implementation provisions is thus vitally important to the success of the treaty. 

Great escape

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

One of the significant concerns of Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW), as well as of many other NGOs and delegations, is the desire by some states for a treaty with numerous 'escape clauses' by which governments can claim national interest as a rationale for suspending otherwise binding criteria that sanction—or deny—arms transfers. 

Why would states leave ammunition out of the ATT?

by Hector Guerra, IANSA’s Survivors Network coordinator
It is hard to believe that anyone, with the knowledge that of the 12 billion pieces of ammunition that are produced every year, large amounts of them feed all forms of armed violence, would not want to regulate the international movement of such items. Regulation of ammunition would undoubtedly have a direct impact on the ways in which the international community works to prevent diversion into the illicit market and the commission of atrocities.

Simple logic in short supply at ATT negotiations

by Dr. Natalie Goldring
Simple logic suggests that ammunition should be treated in the same manner as all other items covered by the prospective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Ammunition is not a separate case; it’s what makes these weapons deadly in the first place.  Without ammunition, a weapon can be a club, but its killing capacity is markedly diminished.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Avoiding extremes: the overly-simplified and overly-qualified

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

Informal consultations over the weekend yielded a new set of draft texts related to the various sections of the arms trade treaty (ATT)scope, criteria, international cooperation and assistance, implementation, an Implementation Support Unit (ISU), and final provisions. While the President of the conference, the Main Committee chairs, and delegates have been actively seeking “compromise language,” it is important to not lose sight of what an ATT was intended do—to set legally-binding, comprehensive standards for the trade in conventional arms in order to address the many security risks related to the illicit and irresponsible trade in these weapons.

Keeping focus: a personal perspective

by Natalie Goldring
Early in my career, I had the good fortune to work with Frank Blackaby, a former director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He rarely spoke much at the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) board meetings at which we interactede Hhh, but his interventions were always insightful. At one meeting, we had become mired in administrative details and disputes. Frank sat quietly in the back of the room as we argued our positions; it seemed as though he might even be sleeping. After allowing the conversation to continue for a while, Frank raised his head and asked, “But what will this do to reduce the killing?”

Vulnerable victims or survivors and agents for change?

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
After a round of negotiations over the weekend, which resulted in several new draft texts on various sections of the treaty, delegations met in closed meetings all day Monday in order to continue negotiations. In the morning the Chair of Main Committee I introduced a new draft preamble and principles section, which delegates were to continue debating throughout the day. While the text is largely positive, some troubling concepts remain. In particular, the language around women, gender, and victims is especially disconcerting, as it fails to adequately address the realities of the impact of the arms trade on these groups and instead perpetuates the myth that women are vulnerable and victims are powerless.

The ATT: the missing piece of the puzzle

by Gabriella Irsten, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
As Ghana pointed out on 10 July, the arms trade treaty (ATT) is not a treaty like any other. It is not specifically or only a humanitarian treaty, a disarmament treaty, nor a trade treaty. While the views on what this treaty should cover differ between UN member states, we can surely say that many countries agree with Ghana's statement. The argument has been reiterated in different ways by several delegations, such as by the Italian Ambassador on 11 July, who stated that ending human suffering is the fundamental ethical goal of the ATT. In addition, referring back to the launch of this treaty, the UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/89, “Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms" stated that the ATT should recognize “that arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation are essential for the maintenance of international peace and security” and reaffirm “respect for international law, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and the Charter.”

Customer satisfaction

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

As delegates to the ATT work out remaining barriers to treaty language informally, we are left to wonder what will emerge as final text as well as how that text will likely be interpreted by a large number of people worldwide who are anticipating more robustness on weapons transfers than this process might in the end be able to achieve. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The risks of balancing acts

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

After closed negotiations Thursday night on the arms trade treaty (ATT)’s goals and objectives, Friday’s open meetings returned to the issue of criteria and parameters for arms transfers. The criteria and the related decision-making process through which arms transfers will be authorized or denied are arguably the most important aspects of the treaty. They, along with the scope, will determine whether the treaty makes a difference in reducing the consequences of the unregulated trade in weapons or whether it permits the status quo to continue, but with an international treaty providing cover for irresponsible transfers. This is why delegations participating in the debate either sought to ensure the strongest or the weakest possible standards in this section. 

Remembering Norway, Colorado, and Hammurabi’s Code

by Jonathan Frerichs, World Council of Churches
A nightmare in Norway last July, a ‘live’ horror show in Colorado last week—these domestic tragedies are not the business of the ATT. Yet, no camera pointed at the crime scenes could tell the difference between such tragedies and the abuses that an ATT is mandated to address. Neither can the human heart.

The rule of law in criteria

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
Thursday saw lively debate over the status and nature of the parameters section of the arms trade treaty (ATT) with two draft texts from the Chair of Main Committee I, one of which moved the specific risk assessment criteria to the national implementation section. While the positions of delegations varied from those that supported the move to a large number of countries that did not, the question still remains how robust and comprehensive the list of criterion will be whether or not they are placed under implementation (while noting that such a move would be very detrimental to the effectiveness of the treaty).

Mitigating circumstances

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
The term ‘mitigation’ has been raised often in the past few days of the ATT negotiations, specifically referring to the means by which exporting states might help bring questionable recipient states ‘up to code’ in order to legitimate a decision to transfer weapons.  Can an exporting state actually be encouraged within a treaty framework to work with a potential state customer to ensure that weapons sold by a company under its jurisdiction will not be diverted to uses inconsistent with treaty criteria, including international human rights law? This week, it will be up to diplomats to decide the form by which and the extent to which mitigation can and should constitute a treaty obligation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rule of law or rule of “interests”?

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
On Thursday morning, a battle broke out during negotiations of the arms trade treaty (ATT) over whether or not the criteria for assessing the risk of arms transfers should be buried in the national implementation section of the treaty, and, whether or not identification of a substantial risk should result in an automatic denial of the transfer. These debates are central to determining whether the ATT will be a document that strengthens or undermines the rule of law. If it is the latter, the whole point of developing an ATT will be lost.

Preamble, principles, objectives, and goals?

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
As the negotiations for an arms trade treaty (ATT) continue for a third straight week, the urgency for compiling and agreeing on treaty text intensifies. Delegations have been busy discussing the various proposed sections of the treaty (including an intense discussion around criteria throughout Thursday’s open meetings) and attempting to solidify each section so that a full text will be possible by the conclusion of next week. The discussion over the preamble and principles as well as the goals and objectives has been particularly difficult given the complexity of this treaty process. As has often been noted by delegations and civil society alike, the ATT is of a unique nature in that it is not merely a trade treaty nor is it purely a humanitarian instrument. Unlike the Cluster Munitions Convention of 2008 and the Anti-Personnel Landmines Treaty of 1997, the ATT will not ban one individual category of weapons nor will it disallow the trade in conventional weapons. Therefore, the ATT represents a fusion of dual goals: arms control through regulation as well as humanitarianism related to human suffering caused by the unregulated trade in conventional arms. This duality presents a particular challenge in drafting the beginning sections of the treaty, which will ultimately present the lens through which to interpret the remaining articles, most importantly the criteria and implementation sections.

Criteria creep

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
My original intention today was to prepare an essay on 'curbing our enthusiasm' regarding the introduction of proposals that create new structures or introduce language that is not consistent with these negotiations or with established practice in other treaty bodies or international legal obligations.  There are several ways to undermine a treaty, only one of which involves a direct assault on the treaty itself. The others involve an assault on consensus through the introduction of concepts, structural recommendations, or placement of treaty elements that jeopardize consensus and timely progress. But we had a change of focus early on Thursday.

Negotiation by exhaustion: the mad dash to the finish

by Dan Lee, Control Arms
From yesterday onwards the Conference has started to extend its hours into the night, with negotiations also taking up the delegates’ upcoming weekend before the final allocated week of negotiation time. The commitment by governments to use this extra time to ensure they reach an agreed arms trade treaty (ATT) is admirable, but it comes with certain risks. The most obvious of these is that delegates will begin to tire, burn out, and exhaust themselves from long and increasingly tense days of negotiating. These days will almost certainly get increasingly longer as the week goes on.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

At the heart of it all

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
On Wednesday morning, the Chair of Main Committee I released a new draft text on the goals and objectives of the arms trade treaty (ATT). The most glaring change to the text was the removal of language stating that preventing violations international humanitarian and human rights law is an objective of the treaty. Leaving this out will have serious repercussions for the negotiation of other sections of the treaty and for the treaty’s implementation. It is an absolute necessity that this be corrected.

Suffering servant

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
The Wednesday morning open meeting of the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiations focused on goals and objectives and was a fair, balanced, and respectful discussion. Among the many points of contention was the reference to 'human suffering' in bullet point 4 of the Chairman’s text. GAPW does believe that some reference to humanitarian and international human rights law is imperative, and such reference was reinforced in many delegate statements. We are not, however, as convinced about the need for a 'suffering' reference.

Final provisions with long-term effects

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
Tuesday afternoon’s discussion of final provisions illustrated just how important these seemingly ‘organizational’ and ‘technical’ matters are to a successful ATT process. Allowances for reservations and amendments will undoubtedly have a significant impact on how robustly and uniformly the Treaty will be implemented and, in turn, how effective it will be in preventing the irresponsible and illicit trade in conventional arms. Moreover, reservations related to scope and criteria would be particularly alarming given the nature and intent of the ATT’s obligations. Likewise, provisions for Review Conferences are essential to the long-term success of the Treaty. Incorporating a concrete review process is imperative in order to establish regular meetings of states parties that can assess and adjust the ATT to better reflect evolving security circumstances. Such a process would provide opportunities to make the treaty stronger both in its provisions and implementation. 

How the Arms Trade Treaty can strengthen international control over small arms and light weapons proliferation

by Nathan A. Sears
Since the late 1990s, global concern for the death, damage, and destruction wrought by the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) has appropriately led to another type of proliferation: the spread of multilateral legally and non-legally binding agreements concerning SALW proliferation, both licit and illicit. Nevertheless, the problems caused by SALW proliferation, particularly armed violence, have continued despite growing international attention. Today, many people see the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) as a new beacon of hope for mitigating the effects of SALW proliferation. This begs the question of how exactly the ATT could strengthen existing multilateral frameworks of SALW control.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Not just “one of those instruments”

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
Throughout Monday afternoon’s meeting on implementation and Tuesday morning’s meeting on the preamble and principles of the future arms trade treaty (ATT), tensions between what are perceived as “state” interests and “humanitarian” interests remained high. This tension needs to be dismantled. The UN Charter outlines the rights and obligations of member states, but it does so in order to prevent armed conflict and protect humans from the consequences of conflict and violence. This primary objective must be the ultimate guiding principle during negotiation and implementation of an ATT.

“Gender-based violence” vs. “violence against women and children” in the preamble

by Rebecca Gerome, IANSA Women's Network and Maria Butler, PeaceWomen of WILPF
Yesterday, in discussions on the preamble text, a few delegations (the Holy See and CARICOM) suggested that the inclusion of previously supported language on “gender-based violence” should be deleted and replaced by different language on “violence against women and children” or “vulnerability of women and children”. Other delegations (Australia and Liechtenstein) disagreed with the deletion of the wording on gender-based violence and proposed as a compromise to keep both. What is the difference between these various formulations? What implications do they have?

Reinforcing the role of criteria through national implementation

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
The text issued by the Chair of Main Committee II on implementation on Monday morning continues to be discussed as member states are grappling with issues such as national authorization systems, enforcement, and record-keeping. While the paper addresses many important components such as inspections and seizures (paragraph 16), criminal and civil penalties for breaches of national legislation regarding implementation (paragraph 17), and diversion (paragraphs 19–20), perhaps the most critical part of this section is that which deals with export and import, as these are the primary means of transfer that an ATT would cover.

Deciding on criteria: achieving the greatest impact on human suffering

by Maj Rørdam Nielsen, Global Action to Prevent War
The Chair of Main Committee II on Monday morning handed out his paper on Criteria/Parameters for the arms trade treaty (ATT). This paper features some of the main ideas of the President’s 3 July 2012 paper, to which states seeking an ATT with a strong humanitarian focus should be alerted. At the same time, the paper incorporates some new ideas that can potentially enhance the treaty’s ability to set universal standards for the arms trade.

Running interference

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
In response to the Chair's new paper on the preamble and principles distributed on Tuesday in Main Committee I, delegations were still largely making statements about 'what they want' and 'what they won't accept' rather than 'what they can live with' with a view towards a consensus treaty with only 8 scheduled days of negotiating sessions remaining.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Negotiating an ATT with teeth

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
The criteria for decisions to transfer arms are among the most important elements of the arms trade treaty (ATT). They provide the basis upon which transfers will be regulated. They are also among the most contentious elements, as many governments fear that if the criteria are comprehensive and the requirements for denial are strict, the treaty will inhibit their ability to either sell or import arms. Some exporters and importers have economic and political interests in ensuring that the criteria and resulting obligations are neither comprehensive nor strict.

Criteria and mitigation measures

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
As negotiations continue on the criteria and parameters for the arms trade treaty (ATT), the Chair of Main Committee I issued a paper on Monday morning with suggested text for this section. As has been noted by several delegations, this section is critical for the ATT to be effective. The strength of the criteria, along with the consistency and robustness of their application (limiting loopholes and inconsistency in national risk assessment), will ultimately determine whether or not the ATT will accomplish its goal of preventing, combating, and eradicating the illicit and irresponsible arms trade.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Defining the scope, defining the purpose

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
Friday’s meetings marked the first concrete negotiations of the arms trade treaty (ATT) process. In the open meetings on scope, delegates had before them a draft text put together by Ambassador IJssel of the Netherlands, the Chair of Main Committee II. While the draft text was intended to be a step beyond the President’s 3 July 2012 paper in synthesizing states’ views, and while the negotiations were supposed to advance the process even further, by the end of the day the waters were as muddy as ever. Many delegations felt the scope was too broad and comprehensive while others felt it was too limited. Two issues proved particularly contentious: limiting the inclusion of small arms to those intended “for military use”, and deciding whether states should be able to come up with their own unique control lists. The resolution of both issues will have serious implications for the ability of the treaty to achieve its goals and must thus be resolved in a manner that gives highest priority to reducing human suffering.

Strengthening international parameters for the arms trade

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
On Thursday afternoon, the delegate of the United Kingdom presented a statement on behalf of the five permanent UN Security Council members (P5) calling for  reorganization of the treaty text, in particular regarding the implementation section. This statement represents an unfortunate movement backwards in the path towards a robust and strong ATT that provides for clear international parameters for arms transfers. 

Alex Gálvez, sobreviviente de la violencia armada en Guatemala a la edad de 14 años

by Alex Gálvez

Después de una semana escuchando a los gobiernos hablar sobre el Tratado de Comercio de Armas ATT, aquí en Naciones Unidas, veo que es de vital importancia que los estados de  nuestra región mantengan su posición progresista en las negociaciones de este mismo. Sin embargo siento que muchos de los estados de nuestra región no han expresado la gran importancia de un tratado robusto, dejando que otros decidan por nosotros. Debemos de adoptar la posición de los estados quienes no aceptan un tratado débil  y que no vele por las normas de derecho internacional incluyendo todas las transferencias. Los criterios deben ser claros y objetivos.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Accountability, liability, and enforcement

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will
In a video message on Thursday afternoon, President Sirleaf of Liberia highlighted her country’s suffering from “the terrible effects of more than 14 years of a devastating war with itself.” The experience of Liberia and countless other countries and their citizens demonstrates the absolute necessity for the arms trade treaty (ATT) to prohibit exporters from authorizing arms transfers where they are likely to be diverted or to be used to facilitate armed conflict, violate human rights, international humanitarian law, or commit gender-based violence. If the treaty merely requires states to “consider” such criteria in a risk assessment process that is not backed up by a rigorous accountability mechanism, the ATT will not be a treaty but a mere list of suggestions.

An historic opportunity to prevent gender-based violence at gunpoint

by Rebecca Gerome, IANSA Women's Network
You may have noticed women dressed in black handing out pins, postcards, and leaflets at the entrance of the conference room yesterday. IANSA Women, members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), women from Amnesty International, and the Control Arms coalition wore black to remind all those participating in Arms Trade Treaty negotiations that the arms trade is not just any trade. They wore black to remind those present that the arms trade is about militarism, violence, and war. And it has specific gender dimensions.

Women's participation in the diplomatic negotiations on an ATT

by Jasmin Nario-Galace, IANSA Women’s Network
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for increased women’s participation in decision-making processes that relate to peace. The negotiation of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is one such process as its goal, in the perspective of many, is to save lives.

Avoiding an ‘export-only’ treaty

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
During Thursday morning’s Main Committee I meeting on criteria and parameters, several delegations referred to the paper co-sponsored by Australia, Japan, Sweden, and Switzerland, “Proposal on Criteria for Exports,” as a good basis for discussions on the formulation of this section of the treaty. The paper does indeed provide helpful guidance on criteria that should be included in the ATT. Most importantly, the paper improves greatly on the President’s 3 July 2012 paper insofar as the phrase “shall assess whether” is replaced with the phrase “shall not authorize … where substantial risk exists.” As has been suggested by many civil society colleagues and delegates alike, the provision “shall assess” is simply not sufficient; it is essential that some level of accountability exists beyond requiring states to conduct entirely private “assessments”.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

12 billion reasons to include ammunition in the ATT

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
“It takes two to tango,” noted Peru’s delegation during Tuesday morning’s plenary meeting. The Peruvian delegate was arguing that the arms trade treaty (ATT) needs balance between the rights and obligations of importing and exporting states. But these are not the only two elements tangoing in these treaty negotiations. The relationship between weapons and ammunition must also be taken into account in order to ensure that for any weapon included in the treaty, its ammunition is included as well.

Sticks and carrots

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
One of the important issues impacting these negotiations is the degree to which punitive sanctions should (or will) have a place in the final treaty.  Among the many relevant interventions made by delegates on Monday, the Indonesian delegation reminded colleagues of its own preference that the ATT be “a confidence-building mechanism and not a sanction mechanism.”

Effective ATT? It's all in the scope

by Oliver Sprague, Amnesty International UK
It is self evident that to control the arms trade you have to control the things that kill, maim and brutalize people. You also have to control the ways that different types of weapons are irresponsibly supplied to governments that commit serious human rights abuses.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dispute settlement and transfer denials

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
During Tuesday’s general debate and open main committee meeting on final provisions of an arms trade treaty (ATT), the issue of dispute settlement mechanisms was brought to the fore. This is an important issue for the treaty negotiations is to consider in order to ensure the treaty’s ultimate goals can be achieved. Despite the political sensitivity that would inevitably accompany transfer denials reached under the auspices of an ATT, a solid dispute settlement process and information exchange mechanism would provide the opportunity to address the circumstances that led to a denial and ultimately better achieve the goals of an ATT—to reduce human suffering caused by the unregulated trade in arms.

Assisted living

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
One of the things that we at Global Action to Prevent War find so encouraging about the UN Programme of Action on small arms and the 'Matching Needs and Resources' initiative through the Group of Interested States process is the emphasis on state-to-state assistance on a wide variety of security tasks that help make the world a safer place. From securing borders and drying up stockpiles to creating complementary technologies that allow countries to trace weapons collaboratively, the many ways in which states have cooperated towards reducing illicit arms flows and protecting populations gives us energy and hope.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Importing trouble

by Maj Rørdam Nielsen and Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

The statement presented at the ATT negotiating conference by the Egyptian Ambassador last Thursday was obscured a bit by participation issues centered on Palestine and the Holy See. But it raised important questions that deserve more attention from diplomats and commentators, including the following: Will the outcome tilt the balance further in favor of major arms producers at the expense of importing states by giving them added tools to further consolidate their practices in the context of exiting export control regimes, often seen as discriminatory and often politicized?” 

Putting human security right where it belongs

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
States? Corporations? Or human beings? Which should the arms trade treaty (ATT) prioritize? For most of civil society—and many governments—there is one correct answer to this question. But some of the delegations participating in the negotiation process appear to have different opinions. By the end of the month, however, we will either have a treaty that has as its primary objective the prevention of human suffering, or we will not have a treaty worth the paper it’s printed on.

Transparency and complimentarity

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
States have continuously called for a transparent and open negotiating process for the arms trade treaty (ATT), noting the importance of openness while deliberating treaty language. While transparency in negotiation is important, promoting consistent and robust transparency in the full ATT architecture is equally essential. Furthermore, robust transparency in implementing treaty obligations is necessary in order to ensure that the ATT will provide for a ‘value-added’ to already existing mechanisms under UN auspices.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Making a real impact? Not for victims!

by Nerina Cevra, Action on Armed Violence
The UN Secretary General in his speech to the Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has made it clear that an ATT must make a real impact on the lives of people suffering from the consequences of armed violence. Those most directly suffering these consequences are victims of armed violence.  

Adding sufficient ambition to the goals and objectives

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War
In the US delegation’s statement to the plenary meeting on Friday morning, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman stated that the US seeks “a treaty that establishes high international standards for controlling the transfer of arms on par with current best practices.” It is important to underscore that with this opportunity to negotiate an ATT, an entirely new instrument of international law, there must be a higher degree of ambition in this process than only endorsing standards reflective of current best practices. While there are examples of ‘good practices’ in arms export controls currently in existence, the forthcoming ATT must do more than improve on national control systems. Improving the quality and functioning of national control systems and encouraging sound national legislation will be essential to successful implementation of an ATT, but attempting to maintain complete sovereign control over the Treaty process in the form of weak language around criteria for transfers and singular focus on “national export control” is not ambitious enough. Furthermore, this strategy has the potential to undermine the meaningfulness of the Treaty itself by providing potential political cover for future dubious transfers. The goals and objectives of the ATT require more of member states.

Leaving hope for further action on the arms trade

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
On Friday, most delegations made a concerted effort to begin substantive work on the arms trade treaty (ATT) in discussions on goals and objectives and on scope. One cross-cutting theme was the perceived tension between the rights and responsibilities of producers and exporters on the one hand and of importers on the other. Some delegates also highlighted the relationship between the production of weapons and the transfer of weapons, arguing that both should be addressed by a future ATT. However, a separate process is necessary for the regulation of weapons production and the reduction of conventional arms.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Addressing loopholes in “assessing”

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

As noted by the delegate of New Zealand on Thursday morning, success for the arms trade treaty (ATT) means the adoption of standards “high enough for it to be realistic to expect the treaty to contribute meaningfully to global peace, security, and stability” (emphasis added).  Ambassador Dell Higgie noted that in setting an obligation for states to conduct a “risk assessment” before authorizing any export of arms, the ATT must codify circumstances when states should decline arms transfers. These circumstances include situations where arms are likely to provoke or exacerbate regional conflict, contribute to economic or social destabilization, or be used by criminal elements or terrorists. Codifying circumstances that would require the denial of arms transfers, in addition those already required under international law such as arms embargoes, is essential such that the legal framework provided for in the ATT will have a meaningful, measurable impact on international peace and security.

What are the links between gender and the arms trade?

by the IANSA Women’s Network, WILPF, Amnesty International and Religions for Peace

“What does gender have to do with the Arms Trade Treaty?” is a question we often hear. The following extracts of the Joint Policy Paper on Gender and the Arms Trade Treaty by Amnesty International, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), IANSA Women’s Network, and Religions for Peace can provide answers to this question.

Underneath it all

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
Thursday marked the first full day of work at the conference to negotiate an arms trade treaty (ATT). Among dozens of statements by delegations, the conference also attempted to reach agreement on its programme of work for the next week. Both the substantive and procedural debates revealed that some governments have interests other than humanitarian imperatives guiding their positions and behaviour at this conference.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Forsaking the victims?

by Nerina Cevra, Action on Armed Violence

The Chair of the ATT negotiations submitted a Discussion Paper on Tuesday, 3 July, as a reference for this month’s negotiations. Despite stating that the goal of the treaty is to “reduce unnecessary human suffering,” it is very disappointing to see that the only reference to that same human suffering in the entire paper is a preambular provision expressing states’ resolve to assist victims of armed conflict. 

Escaping the downward spiral

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

Disarmament and arms control has been on the UN’s agenda since its inception. Its first resolution in 1946 set up a commission to, among other things, make specific proposals for the elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The UN Charter itself calls for the lowest level of military expenditure and redirection of human and economic resources. The first of the General Assembly’s specialized committees deals with disarmament and international security. And as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening remarks to the arms trade treaty (ATT) conference on Tuesday, 3 July, disarmament and arms control have implications for every other issue the UN covers. “Poorly regulated trade in weaponry,” he argued, “is a major obstacle to everything we do.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Assessement of changes in the Chair's paper

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

On Tuesday, 3 July, the Chair released a new version of his discussion paper. He emphasized that the paper in no way prejudices negotiations but is intended to inject some “spice” into the discussions. This assessment only notes the changes between the 14 July 2011 version and the 3 July 2012 version of the Chair’s paper.

Is there still room for victims’ rights in the ATT?

by Hector Guerra, Coordinator of the IANSA Survivors Network

For many member states,  any reference to the rights of victims or victims’ assistance in the final treaty language of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will be particularly difficult to adopt and it will be unlikely that states in favor of these references will be able to convince their counterparts to include such a provision in the final document. This opposition to adopting victims’ rights language corresponds to both a realpolitik perspective, which would limit the Treaty to such a minimal expression that, if possible, would not even include references to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the instrument, as well as to the perspective of those states that are in favor of basic references to IHL and human rights but believe it is necessary to make concessions, such as foregoing victims’ assistance, for the sake of consensus.