Collapsed buildings and destroyed cities, people fleeing their countries and most tragically the faces of frightened children from Syria, Yemen or South Sudan has become the norm on TV and social media. That is why this year, Control Arms has attempted to shift the focus of First Committee discussions around the Arms Trade Treaty from procedural and administrative issues, towards more substantive matters, particularly around problematic arms transfers from ATT states parties.
To this end, Control Arms hosted an event called Bombs, starvation, and war: the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, co-hosted by the BBC, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and Saferworld. The event provided detailed reports on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and highlighted the role of arms in fueling human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated by both conflicting parties. The powerful documentary BBC “Starving Yemen”, produced by Nawal Al-Maghafi, was screened during this event to illustrate these reports and stress to need for urgent action and the immediate halt of arms transfers to the Saudi-led coalition. Following this event, references were made to “Starving Yemen” on October 31st, in the UN Security Council briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Yemen by both the US (Amb. Power) and Malaysia.
Throughout the month Control Arms hosted ten other side events ranging from movie screenings, roundtable discussions, panels and presentations of our research. At the Report from the ATT Conference of States Parties 2016 and prospects for CSP 2017 hosted on 24 October with Finland and Nigeria, and chaired by New Zealand, Finland shared initial plans towards more substantive work during the third conference, scheduled for 11-15 September 2017 in Geneva while Mexico noted the role of the ATT in ensuring the successful achievement of UN core priorities for disarmament and development, including SDG 16 “which aims to significantly reduce illicit arms flows by 2030”. Control Arms shared “Achieving ATT Universalization in Africa” research paper, which revealed six main reasons why some States in Africa have not yet signed up the Treaty.
Voting on resolution L.29: The Arms Trade Treaty at UN First CommitteeThis year’s “the Arms Treaty Treaty” resolution although focused mostly on procedural issues, it does welcome decisions adopted at the second Conference of States Parties (CSP2016) which will facilitate the Treaty’s implementation. In particular the resolution welcomes the establishment of the working groups on implementation, universalisation, reporting and transparency, the consolidation of the ATT institutional framework, the establishment of the ATT Voluntary Trust Fund and its endorsement of reporting templates. The resolution, introduced by Finland, Mexico and Nigeria and co-sponsored by 93 member states, was adopted this year with 152 votes in favor, no votes against and 28 abstentions.
References to the ATT were made in eleven additional resolutions, most notably in resolution L.37 on “Women, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Control” which seeks to promote the inclusion of women in disarmament and arms control decision-making processes. Trinidad and Tobago introduced this resolution, and noted that as the first legally binding instrument to recognize the link between disarmament and gender-based violence (GBV), it was essential for the Arms Trade Treaty’s entry into force to be noted in the resolution. The resolution was adopted by consensus after a vote (146-0-24) on preambular paragraph 10.
Positive updates were also provided by ATT States Parties including, Bosnia, Israel, Jamaica, El Salvador, Liberia, Zambia, Ghana and Senegal who developed “appropriate national legislation, capacity building” and regulatory frameworks towards the effective implementation of the ATT at the national level. Importantly, a few governments referenced arms transfers that constitute violations of the ATT. Costa Rica for instance, raised this concern referencing their “impact on civilians particularly in the Middle East and North Africa”. Canada, Turkey and Malaysia reviewed plans to join to the Treaty while Colombia noted the passing of the Treaty’s provisions through Congress, signaling its potential ratification soon.