Worry on Many Fronts for the #Armstreaty

22 Feb

The ATT preparatory committee completed its work last week during the fourth and final session of its series of meetings. Diplomats were able to adopt rules of procedure and a report on its work during all four preparatory meeting.

With each passing day, there seemed to be more urgency and anxiety around completing the preparatory process of the ATT—making state positions clearly known on substance, 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 was an air of worry over tackling too much or too little in the months remaining until the negotiating conference.

Some delegations focused 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 UNODA website. Algeria’s representative, whose delegation first brought up the idea of a compendium during the last Prep Com, 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 SG’s report on states’ views, the Report from the GGE, and the Draft Report on the Prep Com 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 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, legal and victims’ assistance would serve to detract from the main objective of an ATT– completion of a legal and trade 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 Prep Com concluded, delegations continued 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.

For more reporting, analysis and documents from the Prep Com, please see Reaching Critical Will.

–Katherine Prizeman

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