Control Arms is highly disappointed with the first ‘substantive’ draft from ATT Final Conference President, Amb. Peter Woolcott of Australia. After extensive and broad consultations—following seven years of deliberations inside the UN—the draft should have clearly reflected the voice of the overwhelming majority of Member States.
Rather, the text closely resembles an ATT wanted by a small number of powerful states—incidentally, the world’s largest arms exporters. For the final draft text, a choice must be made: will the ATT actually be negotiated by 193 countries—or by only a handful? Who makes the rules, the affected and concerned—or those who profit most from the arms trade?
In the March 22 Non-Paper, we were expecting a bold, swift stride, not a minimal incremental step. In addition to dozens of fixes and textual changes necessary, the Non-Paper has kept ALL the major loopholes identified by large groups of governments over the past week.
Though Scope is better structured, the range of weapons covered is arguably narrower—certainly there has been no real movement towards the needed “all conventional arms” (even if the addition of “munitions” is positive).
In addition to no ‘future-proofing’, the Non-Paper actually ‘past-proofs’ the Scope, as Article 5.4 freezes the definitions of the UN Register at the time of entry into force, with no possibility of future evolution. Though now covered in stand-alone articles, ammunition and parts/components are still inadequately covered, with no risk assessment for diversion, gender-based violence and violence against civilians (among others) and absolutely no reporting requirements.
Likewise, the criteria for assessing whether to go ahead with an arms transfer remains very weak.
‘Prohibitions’ has improved marginally, as the draft now prohibits transfers when the exporters have knowledge, rather than intent, that the weapons would be used to commit war crimes. But problems remain: knowledge is restricted to time of authorization, not time of transfer, which can often be months later; and still only applies to obligations that states are explicitly bound by and not customary international law. Moreover, an obligation regarding violations of international human rights law is woefully still missing.
Under Export Assessment, we welcome the essential addition of the criterion on transnational organized crime, though remain extremely concerned that diversion has not followed suit. As a whole, Article 7 is completely inadequate—indeed dangerous—if not strongly amended.
Article 7.3 still has a requirement to assess if arms transfers would contribute to or undermine peace and security, but, incredibly, no explicit consequence for a negative assessment outcome! Article 7.7 has retained the unacceptably high threshold of “overriding” rather than the proper “substantial” or “clear” risk. In 7.8 (in addition to diversion), gender-based violence/violence against civilians, development and corruption are still not grounds for a decision to refuse a license—but must be. Likewise, in light of new information regarding criteria violations, States “shall suspend or revoke” authorizations—not be encouraged to do so.
Finally, through Implementation to Final Provisions, many changes are needed to strengthen the 3rd draft text. At least one amendment, however, is essential to make the draft acceptable: there must be mandated public reporting on transfers under Article 12. The information contained therein must not be open to the current get-out clause that enables States to withhold anything under the guise of “commercially sensitive or national security” information.
There is very little time left, and very little left to say: all the dangerous gaps above must be fixed for the third and final draft to have a chance to become an Arms Trade Treaty that can make a difference in “reducing human suffering”—as has always been the clear intention of the overwhelming majority of the 193 UN member states.