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CSP preparatory committee: Berlin

Report by Gabriella Irsten, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
27–28 November 2014, Berlin

From 27–28 November 2014 states parties and signatories of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) met in Berlin for the second round of informal consultations for the first Conference of States Parties (CSP1) to discuss and set up procedural processes. The entry into force of the ATT on the 24 December 2014 means that procedural matters need to be determined so that states and other actors are prepared for CSP1. The Berlin meeting focused on the set up of the ATT Secretariat, its rules of procedure, participation in preparatory process and CSP1, financial rules, and states annual reporting on their arms transfer activities.

Participating states also agreed to set up three more preparatory committees (PrepComs) before CSP1, including one formal preparatory meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 23–24 February 2015, an informal PrepCom in Vienna, Austria in March/April 2015, and a final PrepCom in Geneva, Switzerland in June 2015. CSP1 will take place in Mexico City in Aug/Sep 2015.

Holding of CSP1

According to Article 17 of the ATT, states parties are obliged to hold CSP1 at the latest one year after entry in to force. Among the states participating in the informal consultations, views differed extensively on what timing would allow for the most effective CSP1, ranging from the first possible opportunity in the international disarmament calendar to waiting until one year after entry into force.

In the meantime, participants decided that the upcoming preparatory committees will focus on rules of procedure, the Secretariat, and finance. As some states pointed out that many of the decisions that need to be taken before the CSP1 are interlinked, states decided that the upcoming PrepComs will each have a primary topic but will also include time for interlinked elements.

Rules of Procedure (RoP)

The main focus of discussion on the RoP was whether or not all decisions would have to be made by consensus or if voting could be used in some circumstances. All states agreed that voting should be a last resort after all efforts to reach consensus have been exhausted. the Chair’s final proposal suggested that if no consensus could be reached, substantive decisions should be made by 2/3-majority vote and procedural ones by simple majority. This proposal was accepted.

Provisional Secretariat

Article 18 of the ATT provides for the establishment of a provisional Secretariat to carry out administrative functions of the Treaty until CSP1. At the first round of informal consultation in Mexico City this year, Mexico volunteered to host the provisional Secretariat. This proposal was accepted at the Berlin meeting. Participants also decided that financial implications of hosting the provisional Secretariat will need to be addressed through voluntary contributions.

With regard to the transition period until the permanent Secretariat is fully functional, Guatemala and Costa Rica encouraged a stronger role and participation from the UN Development Programme and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. States agreed that Mexico will revise the draft paper on the provisional Secretariat in line with these comments and will circulate a new draft before the Port of Spain meeting.

Permanent Secretariat

Article 18 of the ATT outlines that the Secretariat should be adequately staffed, including staff with necessary expertise in order to maintain a minimal structure that can effectively undertake relevant responsibilities including collection and communication of reports, maintaining the list of national points of contacts, facilitating assistance for Treaty implementation, and facilitating the work of the CSPs.

The main discussion around the Secretariat focused on whether or not the Secretariat should be linked to the UN system and where it should be established. So far, offers to host the Secretariat have been put forward by Austria for Vienna, Switzerland for Geneva, and Trinidad and Tobago for Port of Spain. During the discussions, participants voiced support for different options for both location and role of the Secretariat. No decision was reached on either issue, but they will be the main focus of the PrepCom in Port of Spain in February 2015.

The African Group, Bangladesh, and Guatemala stressed the importance of regional representation and composition of Secretariat’s staffing. In that connection Guatemala also highlighted the need for gender balance in staffing. CARICOM also stressed the need to include expertise in international humanitarian law, human rights, and legal competence in order to give efficient support and advice.

Australia, Romania, Japan and the UK want to restrict the role of the Secretariat to administrative functions, meaning the Secretariat staff should not give legal advice and interpretation of the treaty. CARICOM and Guatemala supported a wider role for the Secretariat.

With regard to funding, most states supported a hybrid funding model in which the core funding of the Secretariat would be based on an adjusted UN scale and voluntary contributions will go to the trust fund. Australia suggested the trust fund could be managed via a committee of states parties or a subsidiary body. CSP participants should contribute to CSP funding. Some suggested that state parties contributions will be mandatory regardless if they attend or not, while non-state parties would only contribute if they attend.

In summarising, the Chair recognised that there is strong agreement that the creation of the Secretariat is closely linked to the funding issue and therefore needs to be dealt with closely. France was appointed facilitator of the Secretariat and Ghana the facilitator on finance issues.

Participation in the preparatory process and CSP1

Participation in the preparatory process and the CSP was a crucial issue discussed. While all states agreed that in addition to states parties and signatories the CSP should also be open for non-signatories, regional organisations, civil society, and industry, most states argued that rules of participation of civil society, industry, and non-signatories should be different from those for states parties. The main disagreement among delegations revolved around finding a model that is both “inclusive” and that serves the goal and objective of the Treaty regarding civil society and industry participation.

CARICOM, Argentina, Costa Rica, Lesotho, and New Zealand, as well as the Control Arms coalition, supported participation from civil society and industry that are supportive of the overall objective and goal of the ATT. During the discussions, reference was made to other treaties such as the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention Cluster Munitions as well as UN bodies such as the Tobacco Convention as examples for civil society and industry engagement. Differing views were also expressed on participation in the preparatory meetings.

Sweden and Finland stressed that non-signatories should be able to participate as observers in the formal CSP and that the RoP need to make a distinction between signatory and non-signatory states. Nigeria agreed and also suggested that civil society and industry should participate as observers.

Control Arms stressed that we are no longer in a negotiation phase of the Treaty but have moved to the implementation phase, which requires participation of those who support the aims, purposes, and spirit of the Treaty and its work. In order to promote transparency, the coalition suggested that all meetings should be live streamed and that as few closed meeting as possible should be held. 

Since no consensus was reached on the issue of participation, Mexico, as the acting Chair, will continue to work on an outline for participation for the rules of procedure that can be further discussed during the next PrepCom in Port of Spain.

Reporting

The Chair had circulated a working paper on the Establishment of an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) to work on reporting templates during the preparatory process. Based on this working paper, Sweden volunteered to take the lead together with all interested states to establish the OEWG and draw up a reporting template in the intercessional process in time for further discussions at the CSP1. The OEWG will also be open for civil society’s proposals and ideas.

Reporting was the last item on the agenda of the informal meeting. According to article 13 of the ATT, “Each State Party shall, within the first year after entry into force of this Treaty for that State Party, in accordance with Article 22, provide an initial report to the Secretariat of measures undertaken in order to implement this Treaty.”. Furthermore,“Each State Party shall submit annually to the Secretariat by 31 May a report for the preceding calendar year concerning authorized or actual exports and imports of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1).”

While some states believed that language in the Treaty is clear that the first reports are due 1 May 2015, others believe that as the Treaty will only enter in to force on 24 December 2014 the reports would only cover 8 days of activities in 2014. Therefore, Sweden, Norway, Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Argentina, and Austria suggested that first report should be postponed in order to benefit from templates that will be decided upon at CSP1.

With regard the scope of the reports, Costa Rica also stressed that the reporting needs to include small arms and light weapons. CARICOM supported a reporting model based on the UN Register and UN Programme of Action. Argentina highlighted that the reporting template should be simple in order to not scare off states that haven’t become state parties yet. Slovenia preferred a simplified template to not create more administrative tasks for smaller states. The UK, Slovenia, and Austria promoted the template from the ATT-Baseline Assessment Project (ATT-BAP), launched by the Stimson Center in July 2013, which has been used to enable governments to identify necessary guidance.

Due to the different interpretations of article 13, the Chair asked all states to seek legal advice in order to have an informed debate at the next meeting in February in Port of Spain.

Conclusion

The Berlin meeting set up the road map up until to CSP1 and identified many of the issues for further discussion. The first CSP is important, as this is where states will set the standard for ensuing work. As the entry into force of the ATT is only the first step in a long process towards regulating the international arms trade, the standards of the CSP will have a direct effect on the implementation of the Treaty.

The main issues that will require more active discussion is participation, location of the permanent Secretariat, and finance. Officially, these issue cannot be decided upon until CSP1. However, the more agreement that can be reached during the preparatory process the more time will be available for substantive issues during CSP1.

For most civil society, participation is a key issue, as this will decide whether or not we will be able to fully engage with the CSPs. Mexico has previously indicated that it supports a comprehensive role for civil society at the CSP in accordance with treaties such as Mine Ban Treaty. As it seems from the Berlin meeting that many, if not all, states support strong civil society participation in the CSP, the critical question is what this will involve. Some states arguing for open participation also support the participation of pro-gun lobby groups.

Further exploration of these issues will take place during the remaining PrepComs. With effective engagement, states and other actors can help facilitate the achievement of the objectives and goals of the Treaty to regulate the international arms trade in order to safe life and prevent human suffering.