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Arms Trade Treaty states parties meet for first informal consultation on next conference

Jessica Lawson
5 April 2016

On Monday, 4 April 2016, states parties and signatories of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) met in Geneva for the first informal consultation for the second ATT Conference of States Parties (CSP2). The meeting focused on seeking delegates’ views on the draft agenda for CSP2, which is scheduled to be held 22–26 August 2016 in Geneva.

The Chair began by running through the proposed agenda items. The main issues raised by states parties were the timely appointment of the head of the secretariat, the implementation of a voluntary trust fund, and the establishment of a sponsorship programme. Other issues raised were the inclusion of discussions on gender-based violence and the ATT, implementation and universalisation of the ATT, and the pertinence of agenda items.

Agenda item issues

Mexico and the United Kingdom agreed that items 4 and 5 should be removed from the draft agenda because they did not see any need to confirm the rules of procedure and argued that the secretariat for the meeting should be the permanent head of the secretariat.

A number of states parties took issue with agenda item 10, “Consideration of issues arising from the interpretation of this Treaty.” Brazil and Norway questioned whether there are particular items that states want to discuss under this topic, suggesting that otherwise, this item should be deleted. Nigeria argued that agenda item 10 should remain.

The UK raised concern with what it called repetition with some agenda items, arguing that 14D should be covered under 14C; 15D should be covered under 15A; and 15C should be removed completely because there is no need for an agenda item to discuss intersessional meetings. France agreed with the UK on this last point.

Implementation and universalisation of the ATT

Following the exchange of views, the Chair focused on implementation and universalisation of the Treaty. In regards to implementation, he suggested the establishment of a panel to deal with “best practices” and challenges to implementation. He suggested that this be dealt with at this meeting.

While there was some expression of support for the general idea of a panel to deal with implementation, namely from Finland, Costa Rica, and Germany, many states parties expressed confusion over the definition and function of the proposed panel. France, the UK, and the USA questioned whether a panel would be the best environment to discuss implementation and argued that this should instead be discussed at CSP2.

The Chair was eager to settle this matter by the close of this informal consultation but Mexico and Germany suggested that the Chair further develop the idea and present it at the next informal consultation on 28 April, in written format so that states parties can consider the proposal in more detail.

On the issue of universalisation, the Chair mentioned the work that the European Union (EU) has been doing on promoting universalisation of the Treaty. He asked if the EU could report on how the ATT process can benefit from this work. A delegate from the EU responded that this matter must be discussed with the 28 member states of the EU and they would report back at a later date.

The Control Arms Coalition intervened with a statement including a suggestion that the agenda include a thematic panel to focus on the issue of diversion and terrorism, especially in reference to the flow of small arms and light weapons.

Gender-based violence (GBV) and the ATT

Ireland intervened on the broader issue of gender and disarmament, suggesting that states parties should ensure that this is discussed at the CSP2, in particular gender-based violence and the ATT. The delegation suggested that this take place under agenda item 8, but perhaps also elsewhere.

To this, the Chair responded that the bureau and management committee will consider the relevance, but said that if GBV is to be addressed it is doubtful that the platform of the CSP is the best place for this to take place. 

Appointment of the head of the secretariat

A number of delegations expressed concern about the timely appointment of the permanent head of the secretariat. The Chair responded that the issue is noted and will be passed to the bureau and the management committee. He assured states parties that a subcommittee on this issue will be formed by the next meeting at the end of April.

Voluntary trust fund/sponsorship programme

A number of states raised the issue of establishing a voluntary trust fund for ATT implementation. The Chair noted Germany’s work in this area and asked Germany to lead the process, calling for states parties volunteers to agree to co-facilitate. The Chair urged Germany to choose a co-facilitator from outside of Europe, for geographical balance. The Chair also suggested that this process could address the establishment of a sponsorship programme.

Reflections

As we move towards CSP2, it’s useful to have states parties and signatories meeting to discuss agenda items. However, a few points remain unclear, such as the scope at CSP2 for engagement with broader issues—for example, the question of potential violations of the Treaty by states parties, as raised by civil society at the ATT extraordinary meeting in February 2016, or issues of gender and gender-based violence, as raised by Ireland at this meeting. It is vitally important the CSPs address critical issues related to the Treaty’s implementation and not just go through the motions of issuing support for the Treaty’s universalisation or establishing parameters for future meetings.