Archive | February, 2013

GGI Policy Brief: Anticipating the “Final” ATT Conference: Proposals for Moving Forward

25 Feb

From 2 – 27 July 2012 the member states of the United Nations (UN) gathered in New York to participate in the UN Conference on the ATT. These four weeks of negotiations produced a draft treaty text, but no consensus could be reached on a final text for adoption. In this GGI Analysis, Katherine Prizeman and Niels van Willigen provide essential background and concrete recommendation for a last effort to negotiate a consensus treaty during the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, scheduled to take place 18 – 28 March 2013.

To download the GGI Analysis,  please click here.



Cross-Cutting Discussion in UNSC on Protection of Civilians

16 Feb

On Tuesday, 12 February, the Security Council held an open debate on the issue of “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.” Currently holding the presidency of the Council, the Republic of Korea’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted the debate, while both Council members and non-members weighed in on the international community’s responsibility to protect unarmed populations victimized by parties to a conflict either intentionally or as an unintended consequences of fighting. The Secretary-General addressed the Council highlighting Afghanistan, Mali, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and South Sudan as examples of instances where civilians in large numbers continue to suffer. He also called out the conflict in Syria as a stark case of the “searing reminder of the human cost of war.” The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, also briefed the Council and took the opportunity to highlight the dire situation for civilians in Syria calling on the Security Council to act immediately and refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. The Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also addressed the Council and chose to focus on three priorities in the context of protection of civilians (PoC)—threats to access to healthcare; the availability and use of arms; and the lack of compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) by state and non-state actors.

Many delegates underscored the importance of the role of the Security Council in protecting civilians in conflict, in particular ensuring that peacekeeping operations, “where appropriate,” were mandated to play a part in prioritizing PoC and allocating resources commensurate with the circumstances. The discourse among the more than 70 speakers revealed that there remains a myriad of obstacles in conflict-affected communities as the international community seeks to address the difficult challenge of the responsibility to protect civilians when governments and parties cannot meet those obligations. The primary responsibility for the protection of civilians, it was reasserted, does lie with states, although, as the Secretary-General noted in his remarks, the obligation to protect civilians in conflict “does not rest solely with warring parties: we all have a responsibility to protect.” There was, as expected, some concern expressed over the potential manipulation of PoC mandates for purposes of ‘regime’ change or military intervention. The Iranian delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), pointed out this danger, while the Nicaraguan delegation called PoC a “lofty” concept that has been manipulated in Libya and now in Syria. Moreover, the delegate of Pakistan noted that any conflation of the concepts of PoC and the Responsibility to Protect norm (RtoP) was likewise dangerous especially from the standpoint of preserving the integrity of peacekeeping operations The discomfort with, and even opposition to, application of PoC by stakeholders external to national authorities continues to be an ongoing challenge as politicization of the concept must find balance with the humanitarian concerns on the ground.

The importance of addressing the issue of PoC in conflict is, in and of itself, a significant part of the work  of the Security Council given its mandate to maintain international peace and security as well as its responsibility in formulating the mandate and renewals for robust peacekeeping operations. Nevertheless, the cross-cutting nature of PoC also grants the issue particular importance within the often siloed landscape of the UN system and its varied stakeholders. As noted by the delegate of Costa Rica, options for response to complex obligations with protection mandates must also become more diverse, including establishing early alert mechanisms, providing support for national authorities in protecting civilians, and providing assistance for the functioning of security-related and rule of law bodies. Related issues, including but not limited to the illicit trade and movement of small arms, violence against women and other gender-based violence, were also highlighted as key components of a comprehensive and effective PoC strategy. In light of the upcoming 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), some delegations chose to highlight the importance of this session’s thematic priority in this PoC context—violence against women and girls. Other security-related priorities such as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), application of the RtoP norm, as well as the use of explosive weapons in populated areas all were made manifest during the discussion underscoring that any robust and effective human security agenda requires recognition of the linkages among different priorities.

As already noted, the forthcoming “Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty” set for 18-28 March received some attention during the debate beginning with the Secretary-General who referenced the poorly regulated trade in arms calling the free flow of weapons a significant contributor to violence against civilians. Likewise, the delegations of the ICRC, Australia, Egypt, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Uruguay, Sweden, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Lithuania, Mexico, Guatemala, and Montenegro were among those delegations that referenced the upcoming ATT negotiations in the context of PoC. Most of these delegations chose to highlight the importance of incorporating the concept of protecting civilians in the future ATT codifying circumstances where arms transfers should be denied should there be a risk that such weapons would be used to violate human rights, IHL, or otherwise harm civilians. The ICRC rightly called for an instrument that incorporates strict transfer criteria covering all categories of conventional weapons.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas was also an issue raised by several delegations in the context of PoC as the indiscriminate humanitarian consequences of such weapons cause extensive harm to civilians. As noted by a study from UNIDIR’s Maya Brehm, explosive weapons have been shown to be a key threat to health care access, contributor to destruction of houses and assets as well as have long-term impacts on socio-economic and human development. In 2009, the Secretary-General identified the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a core challenge to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and also called for more systematic data collection and estimation of associated human costs. At this debate, the delegations of Australia, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Germany, Chile, Qatar, and Spain were among those delegations that identified the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a threat to PoC. In particular, the delegate of Germany noted that the indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Syria “…often caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide impact in densely populated areas, remains the most appalling aspect of the Syrian conflict.”

In addition to verbal debate, the Council adopted a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2013/2) that recognizes the importance of strict compliance with IHL, human rights law, and refugee law, supports strengthened work of the International Criminal Court and related mechanisms for fighting impunity and increasing accountability, promotes systematic monitoring of PoC in conflict situations, and protects the unhindered access of humanitarian workers in situations of armed conflict. It is clear that such a discussion is useful not only for a better understanding of the concept of PoC and its practical application in situations of conflict, but also in allowing the international community to reflect on the multi-faceted nature of security and the need to effectively tackle multiple agenda items in an integrated and mutually-reinforcing manner. It is essential that issues such as violence against women and the use and availability of illicit arms are thought of as related aspects of the same security agenda, rather than concepts to always be taken up in isolated diplomatic fora.


–Katherine Prizeman

Security Council Open Debate on the Rule of Law: Challenges and Solutions

5 Feb

On Wednesday, 30 January, a brief “Open Debate on the Rule of Law” was held in the Security Council. There was not an extensive conversation by Council members or non-members of the Security Council. The meeting was called to order by the Pakistani Ambassador who currently holds the presidency this month, while UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, was invited to present a statement on the rule of law.

Rule of law is essentially meant to decrease conflict as well as decrease the probability of relapse into further conflict thereby directly contributing to both conflict resolution and recidivism prevention.

As a general theme, Mr. Eliasson reinforced the importance of promoting rule of law in international peace and security, as well as in conflict and post-conflict situations. By promoting and implementing international norms and standards, exemplary in 18 of the 23 current peacekeeping missions adopting provisions for the rule of law in their mandates, Mr. Eliasson reiterated the UN’s commitment to the advancing of the rule of law as formal international law.

The statement from the Deputy Secretary-General highlighted the Security Council’s approach, which compliments the mandates of the UNDP, UNHCR, and individual governments, in increasing the legitimacy of the rule of law.


The Security Council recognizes the challenges of broad acceptance and implementation of the rule of law within peacekeeping operations, as well as the difficulties in measuring, collecting and analyzing data in areas of intervention. Better collection of baseline data also proves to be a challenge, especially in an environment where impact and change is difficult to measure, and where impact tends to be uneven. It can also be difficult to identify which factors can be credited in situations of success.

The UN Security Council believes that enhancing field leadership can be used to carry out, and measure programs in respective areas, through continued systematic collection and analyzing of data.

Solutions Identified by the Security Council

• Coordinate support to the field through UNDP and UNHCR area programs.
• Evaluate the impact of work already done and create baseline data to measure progress.
• Recognize and place more importance on national ownership.
• Increase data collection in conflict and post-conflict states to strengthen the rule of law.
• Increase planning and prioritize in order to mitigate future risks.

Examples of Progress Made Using Data Collected

• Thus far, UNDP has been working in Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan to incorporate rule of law indicators such as, law enforcement and transformation measures.
• In Malawi, UNDP supported a baseline study, which has been used to shape the Government’s Democratic Governance Reform Strategy.
• In Bosnia and Herzegovina, data collected through public surveys have been used to develop National Transitional Justice Strategies.
• UNDP is expected to publish a “Users Guide to Measuring Rule of Law, Justice and Security Programs,” next year.
• The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the UNHCR has developed the UN Rule of Law Indicators Project, which allows governments to gather information on law enforcement, the prison system and to measure and track changes over time.

Examples of Progress Made Through the United Nations, Individual Country and NGO Collaboration

• In Côte d’Ivoire, the Ministry of Justice, in conjunction with the UN peacekeeping mission, has reopened 17 courts and 22 prisons.
• The UN stabilization mission in Haiti has opened 18 legal aid offices.
• The Serbian government, in conjunction with local NGOs, has provided 20, 000 Roma with official documents to prevent them from becoming stateless. Furthermore, 250 individuals have been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and more than 120 individuals have been convicted.

Overall, the United Nations Security Council has taken a holistic approach to development, justice and security by including rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations, and by developing tools and systems to help states advance in this area. Continued collection of data will support national policymaking efforts as well as increase country responsibility, ownership and accountability. Current field initiatives are helping to deliver justice, and keep countries on track to building and achieving stability.

—Shari Smith

Shari is a new intern with Global Action for the spring semester.

The Twin Problems of the Middle East WMDFZ and Modernization: The Current Precariousness of the NPT regime

4 Feb

As the new review cycle of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) continues this year and the second Preparatory Committee (Prep Com) for the 2015 Review Conference is scheduled to be held in April 2013 in Geneva, the sustainability and robustness of the NPT regime remain uncertain. This is the result of the inability to convene a NPT-mandated conference for the establishment of a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East as well as the continued pursuit of extensive nuclear modernization programs in all the nuclear possessor states.

Concern around the NPT was inevitably heightened when the NPT-mandated Conference on a Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDFZ) for the Middle East was “postponed” in December 2012. The so-called “co-conveners” of the Conference, the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia could not reach agreement on a postponement decision and issued separate statements with the US noting the lack of agreement among the regional states on “conditions for a conference,” the Russian government called for the Conference to be held under the same conditions no later than April 2013 (before the next NPT Prep Com), and the UK issued a statement that called for continued consultations and urged the conference to be convened in 2013.

The Action Plan adopted at the conclusion of the 2010 NPT Review Conference called for the convening of a WMDFZ conference in 2012 in fulfillment of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. The inability to do so undoubtedly has not only damaged the credibility of the NPT regime, but has brought into question future implementation and adherence to cornerstone Treaty provisions among many states parties. In particular, the Arab states, most notably Egypt, have placed much emphasis on this Middle East conference tying it closely to its investment in the NPT writ large. In 1995, Egypt threatened to withhold support for the NPT’s indefinite extension should the United States not support the Resolution on the Middle East, including the paragraph about the need to establish a WMDFZ. It is a serious and valid concern that the NPT regime could be “held hostage” by those states, specifically the Arab Group, who believe that such a failure to fulfill a binding commitment represents reason enough not to fulfill other obligations furthering hindering progress made on the twin pillars of the NPT (in addition to the third pillar regarding ‘peaceful’ uses of nuclear energy)—non-proliferation and disarmament. It is also possible that states parties may interpret these failures as a reason to leave the NPT framework altogether and join those states outside of the regime (India, Pakistan, Israel, and the DPRK) that are not subject to its obligations. These alarming trends would only further increase insecurity and decrease the NPT’s legitimacy.

Moreover, the issue of modernization has not been adequately addressed in the context of the NPT itself. While many delegations called for an end to modernization of nuclear weapons at the 2012 NPT Prep Com, modernization programs continue in China, France,  India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. While it might still be an open question as to whether modernization results in ‘new’ weapons, the continued investment in nuclear weapon arsenals must clearly be understood as incompatible with obligations to non-proliferation and disarmament. By improving and expanding the capabilities of nuclear warheads, even if the number of warheads itself remains the same, the nuclear weapon possessor are engaging in a form of proliferation. Moreover, the disarmament obligations found in Article VI are surely not being met with the appropriate seriousness and resources (both financial and political) where modernization programs are under way. Reaching Critical Will notes in its study “Assuring Destruction Forever” (April 2012) that committing billions of dollars to nuclear arsenal modernization not only drains a large portion of the world’s resources, it sets precedents for pursuing the global nuclear weapon industry indefinitely. As Beatrice Fihn of Reaching Critical Will has rightly stated, “Commitment to nuclear disarmament is not just about quantitative reductions, it must also include a cessation of qualitative improvements, as ‘leaner but meaner’ weapons do little to change the continued reliance by a few states on nuclear weapons to provide security.”

There is much to be done to reinsert confidence and robustness back into the NPT framework. The 2013 NPT Prep Com in Geneva must begin to rebuild the momentum that was first gained with the adoption of the consensus Action Plan from the 2010 Review Conference. The success of this Prep Com will depend, in large part, on whether or not the Conference for a Middle East (WMDFZ) will be convened prior to the start of the Prep Com in April. If not, the stakes of the Prep Com will only be higher and the political difficulties only increased. Patience will wear thin and some states may seek alternate pathways, including pathways outside of the NPT, to achieve security assurances. This would be a dangerous precedent if it were realized.

Likewise, delegations must continue to hammer the point home that modernization of existing nuclear arsenals is incompatible with NPT obligations. The vast majority of states parties to the NPT do not possess nuclear weapons nor are they pursuing such capabilities. It is time for these delegations, representing the overwhelming majority of the global community, to speak strongly against the inherent hypocrisy of committing to disarmament, but engaging in expansive modernization programs. Rather than modernizing the weapons, nuclear weapon possessors should be pursuing the means to safely, verifiably, and transparently reduce the number of warheads in their stockpiles.

Without significant movement on these two threats to the NPT regime, the likelihood of achieving substantial progress towards the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons will be seriously lowered.


—-Katherine Prizeman