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Third informal consultation on Arms Trade Treaty CSP2

Jessica Lawson
20 May 2016

On 18 May 2016, states parties and signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) met in Geneva for the third and final informal preparatory meeting for the second ATT Conference of States Parties (CSP2) to be held in Geneva 22-26 August 2016.

This meeting focused on two important aspects remaining from the previous informal consultations, namely treaty implementation and treaty universalisation. The main state party delegations to take the floor on these issues were the United States, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, El Salvador and the United Kingdom.

Treaty implementation

Costa Rica and Finland presented their joint draft paper on Treaty Implementation that had been circulated as guidance for this discussion on treaty implementation.

The paper recalls the ATT’s aim to “reduce human suffering caused by illegal arms transfers, improve regional security and stability, as well as to promote accountability and transparency by states parties concerning the transfer of these conventional arms.”  The co-drafters of this paper emphasized the need for information sharing and dialogue between states parties, and coordination of assistance for effective implementation. The paper recognized the varying challenges for different states parties, but underlined that all states parties are required to adopt certain national implementation measures, including “relevant control lists, laws, regulations, administrative procedures, and enforcement capabilities that enable fulfillment of all Treaty obligations”.

The draft paper encourages states to share their experiences of national implementation, including export assessments, and to make recommendations to the CSP2.

Treaty Universalisation

The President, Ambassador Emmanuel E. Imohe of Nigeria, circulated a draft discussion paper on Promotion of Treaty Universalisation, which stressed the need to broaden membership. By the end of May 2016, there will be 82 state parties to the ATT, and 51 Signatories that have not yet ratified. But with 193 member states to the United Nations, this leaves 60 states that remain completely outside of the ATT. 

The President’s draft paper outlines a number of suggested measures to promote Treaty universalisation, including advocacy by state parties and civil society, having a rotating regional focus, establishing a working group on universalisation, and making materials more accessible by translating them into multiple languages – including consideration of languages beyond the six official UN languages.

There was concern from the United States on the cost and resources involved in considering translating to languages outside of the six official languages.

Other states took issue with the idea of regional focus areas. El Salvador made the suggestion that focus for promoting Treaty universalization should begin with the states that have signed but not yet ratified and other delegations, including Norway, agreed.

Sponsorship Program and Voluntary Trust Fund

It was decided that the Sponsorship program, as facilitated through the UN Development Programme (UNDP), would remain as it is currently and the issue could be reopened for discussion at the CSP2.

Regarding the Voluntary Trust Fund, the two main concerns that emerged were the diverging views regarding eligibility and the number and make up of the selection committee. Some states believe that only states parties should be able to apply for funding, others argue that it should also be open to signatories as this would increase universalisation of the Treaty, and others still believe that non-state parties that show commitments to the ATT should also be able to access funding.

The Chair of the Voluntary Trust Fund, Ambassador Biontino from Germany, suggested a compromise; opening up access to funding for non-state parties and signatories in the case of excess funds not sought by states parties. Alternatively, donor states could essentially earmark their funding so that those who want it to go only to states parties can do so, while also allowing for those who are flexible regarding how their funding could be distributed. The Chair will include these scenarios in the re-draft of this paper.

The second main area of concern was regarding the selection committee. Many state delegations argued that the selection committee should be comprised of donor countries, rather than based on geographical representation. The United Kingdom suggested that every donor state should be on the selection committee because they should be allowed to have a say in how their money is spent. New Zealand raised its concern about excluding non-donor states and suggested that opening up the selection committee to any country that has donated to the trust fund could make the committee unworkable. By way of compromise, the Chair suggested the selection committee be made up of a limited number of state parties, comprising states that have made relevant contributions to the Trust Fund and ensuring diverse representation.

Reflections

As this final preparatory meeting ended, still some questions for CSP2 remain, in particular how implementation, as well as the question of potential violations of the Treaty by states parties and signatories, will be dealt with at the upcoming meeting. 

Costa Rica and Finland in their paper rightly recalled the aims of the ATT to save lives on the ground, which will be the bar against which implementation efforts will be measured. Without effective and strong implementation of all articles and commitments therein, all that we have is lip service paid to the ideal of combating the illicit trade in arms.

While many states parties talked about the need to promote national implementation, very few practical ideas on how to ensure states comply with their obligations were shared at this meeting.

Transparency in reporting is one measure that will help to keep state parties accountable. Sweden, as facilitator on reporting, presented on the work that has been done to date by the working group on reporting. The meeting on 29 April, which was attended by 36 delegates including civil society, discussed the terms of reference for the working group, as well as deadlines and reporting templates. The working group on reporting also adopted this timeline to guide its work. The working group will meet twice more before the CSP2, on 3 June and 8 July. Tangible results in the form of reporting templates will have to be the result of the work of this group. 

These informal preparatory meetings have been helpful in guiding the discussion in the lead up to CSP2, especially in relation to decisions on the Voluntary Trust Fund and the matter of reporting formats. However it is important that state parties avoid getting lost in the details and remember the purpose of the Treaty: to prevent human suffering from the effects of the international arms trade.

We hope that at the CSP2 in August will allow an honest assessment of the Treaty implementation so far and identify concrete measures to improve the current track record of states parties. With over a year into force the probationary period is over and states must not risk the Treaty’s credibility.