Thursday, March 28, 2013

Secretarial pool

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War
The Arms Trade Treaty is now in the hands of states that will adopt the text, block the text, or send it on to the General Assembly or Secretary General to be disposed of in other ways.

While there remains much to fuss over and some outstanding issues remain unchanged, we were pleasantly surprised that the text took into account, at least rhetorically, several of the concerns of progressive states and many NGOs. We send our thanks to Ambassador Woolcott and his team for elevating the text rather than diminishing it further.

While resolving the remaining substantive problems is now out of grasp for this conference, there is a concern arising from Article 18, specifically the ability of the Secretariat to establish the conditions for the development of a viable culture that can build on Treaty text, accept its inherent invitations to response, and get about the business of ending diverted transfers.

There is sufficient ambiguity in terms of the Secretariat's 'starting point' and its list of approved functions prior to any intervention by the Conference of State Parties. Moreover, it is not clear whether 'adequately staffed' or 'within a minimized structure' will carry the day as an operative organizing principle. However, the fact that there is an established structure that, over time, can assume more and more of the burdens of developing this viable culture on transfers is welcome news at several levels. As states develop their own focal points, this Treaty process has a clear (if interim) focal point of its own.

Throughout this long Treaty process, we have urged delegations to develop and engage in cooperative practices that can help inform Treaty text and help test the most effective ways for exporting and importing countries to address diversion. Somewhat wistfully, we now have a Treaty bereft of a culture. It is past time to turn our attention to the business which the Treaty was meant to codify but not create.

Given all of the work of missions and organizations that has been diverted for the sake of these negotiations, the sobering news is that we have a lot of diversion-related work to make up. It's past time to move beyond paper, pool available resources, and develop a culture worthy of the time, energy, and resources that this Treaty process has absorbed. Once we all catch our breath and catch up with email, many diversion-related responsibilities will beckon.