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.
As the assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, rightly reminds diplomats with regards to reporting under existing human rights treaty obligations, the point of producing reports is not to generate paper, but to change conditions on the ground.
Likewise, the point of an ATT is not to generate lofty phrases, but to change conditions on the ground.
This I suspect would adequately describe the sense of many people worldwide who have watched this process unfold from a distance, who have high expectations for the final result, but who have been disappointed many times by the promise that the UN still makes and promotes, a promise grounded in a security framework which seeks to become less and less dependent upon weapons and weapons systems.
It probably is the case that this treaty was oversold in diverse global regions from the start – the UN is generally more skilled at ‘norm setting,’ but urgency on policy is rarely rewarded at least in the initial iterations of treaty processes. An ATT will hardly set the standard for a new security framework, nor will it on its own eliminate a single weapon system and possibly not even capture a single illicit weapon now in circulation. But given certain levels of robustness on both structure and independence of criteria, it can certainly contribute to bringing that framework about. As such a complementary capacity, the ATT would be worth all the trouble that it has caused, all the labor it has consumed, all the patience it has exhausted.
Hopefully, it will also seem worth it to the millions of people seeking relief from the threats and aftermath of armed violence. My best guess though is that, regardless of the final disposition of this month of negotiations, people worldwide will likely still call out expectations for healing the wounds of their families and communities, and doing more at both policy and practical levels to prevent the spread of arms.