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6 July 2015: Vol. 7, No. 1

The final PrepCom—what’s at stake 
Anna Macdonald | Control Arms


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After the long years of work toward achieving an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the time since its historic adoption seem to have flown by. In the little over two years since, the ATT has entered into force, and there have been four major meetings in preparation for the first Conference of States Parties (CSP). Now the final preparatory committee for the first CSP is about to start, and there’s a lot of stake.

While it is clearly not the only factor affecting the quality of Treaty implementation, the CSP matters. This is particularly true of the first one, which will set the standard, and agree on many keys aspects of Treaty infrastructure.

State parties and signatories have some big issues to discuss over the next three days.

The rules of procedure are perhaps the most urgent, since without agreed rules, the CSP itself will not be able to move forward. They have also been the most contentious aspect of discussions and negotiations so far, with decision-making procedures and participation among the most difficult to resolve.

Financing is crucial of course, since having in place adequate assistance mechanisms will make the difference between less resourced states being able to fully implement the Treaty or not.

Reporting is also essential, as the main mechanism by which Treaty progress can be assessed, and by which states parties can be held to account.

And then there is the significant question of the ATT Secretariat, which will be the only formal body dedicated to support the implementation of the ATT, and as such its remit and functions are critical. There are benefits to all three locations proposed as the site of the Secretariat, but just as important will be how this decision is made, in order to ensure that the politics of location do not become a distraction from having a positive CSP.

The Control Arms Coalition, representing international civil society from all continents that support the object and purpose of the Treaty, believes that effective implementation of the Treaty is the most important aspect for the world to now focus on. It is about ensuring that this is a Treaty that lives up to the aspirations that so many governments here articulated when they signed it: to save lives and protect people.

Applied effectively, the ATT can result in less weapons flooding into conflict zones and the hands of those who would abuse them. Therefore, implementing the ATT effectively means applying the articles robustly and stopping arms transfers that violate its criteria. This will be the real test of how effective the Treaty is.

Therefore the key question for this preparatory committee is what CSP processes will lead to the most effective Treaty regime, where its provisions are robustly applied and the humanitarian aims of protecting people and contributing to a reduction in armed violence and conflict are realised.

Here are some proposals of what needs to be delivered over the next few days:

1. Rules of procedure

  • Ensure there is an effective majority-based decision-making process established for all procedural and substantive issues, with no deferral mechanisms and no potential for veto.
  • Ensure that all NGOs working to support effective ATT implementation and universalisation are able to fully participate as observers.
  • Maintain transparency with open, not closed, plenary and subsidiary meetings.

2. Reporting

  • Ensure comprehensive and fully transparent reporting.

3. ATT Secretariat

  • Establish an independent ATT Secretariat, adequately resourced to enable support for robust ATT implementation, with staff appointments based on merit.

4. Financial rules

  • Agree on a fundraising mechanism that is sustainable, will allow for effective implementation and is fair for everyone, especially less-resourced states parties.

5. Strong standard:

  • Apply the ATT consistently and robustly to prevent human suffering caused by irresponsible arms transfers.

Much has been said by almost every state that has signed or ratified the ATT about its potential for positive humanitarian impact. Now we are at one of the first real tests. It will be crucial that governments work together over the next three days to try to find agreement on the strongest possible mechanisms and rules for the CSP, and avoid the temptation of settling for the lowest common denominator.

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