Governments, members of civil society, and UN officials have gathered in Geneva for the final preparatory meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty. The event is the final in a series of informal and formal meetings, meant to agree on the details of how the Arms Trade Treaty is implemented and how the Treaty’s First Conference of States Parties (CSP) will operate. These discussions will focus on four specific elements of the ATT: rules of procedure for the CSP, financing mechanisms, reporting obligations, and the ATT’s Secretariat and will run from 6 July through 8 July.
Previous meetings in Vienna, Port of Spain, Germany, and Mexico City have led the process to a point where governments can take appropriate decisions that enable the ATT to be implemented in a way that achieves its original purpose: to protect human rights and save lives. Control Arms will have an active presence in Geneva and will be calling on governments to take common sense decisions that will put the ATT in a position to deliver results for the millions on the ground that depend on a change in the “business as usual approach” to the irresponsible arms trade.
Perhaps the most important decision that must be taken regards the rules of procedure for the First CSP. For some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, strong rules can literally be the difference between life and death. Certain proposals have been issued that could see decisions delayed for up to a year. Other proposals feature a step backward toward consensus-based decision making. Governments took a principled stand against positions like these to agree on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013. In order for the instrument to succeed, they must continue to show leadership by giving the ATT the tools it needs to be effective.
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Five decisions governments can take to help ensure an effective ATT:
1. Decision Making:
Ensure there is an effective majority-based decision making process established for all procedural, substantive, and financial issues, and with no deferral mechanisms.
Ensure comprehensive, regular, and transparent reporting that enables the highest possible standard, not the lowest common denominator.
Guarantee that NGOs working to ensure effective ATT implementation are able to participate fully as observers in the CSPs.
4. ATT Secretariat
Establish an independent and proactive ATT Secretariat, adequately resourced to enable support for ATT implementation, with staff appointments based on merit.
5. Strong standard
Apply the provisions of the ATT consistently and robustly to prevent human suffering caused by irresponsible arms transfers.
Peru signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on September 24, 2013. Although this was a monumental step for the Treaty, ratification is critical in order to integrate the goals of the ATT into widespread practice. The Institute of Security and Human Rights (ISDH) with support from Control Arms, implemented the “In the Final Stretch,” program to encourage Peru to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.
In order to raise awareness within the nation, ISDH held the National Initiative Group on the rights of the child (GIN) on 29 May 2015 which integrated help and training from other organizations whose missions are to teach the importance of access prevention and arms control to children and teenagers.
In addition, ISDH organized a press conference as part of a media and awareness campaign to gain momentum for ATT support in Peru. The conference consisted of field experts and important leaders, such as the president of the National Congress, and it called upon the congress to include the plenary ratification as part of the congressional agenda.
The success of the press conference was evident in the immediate positive response from the media; the relevance of the ATT is evident in the rise in fire arms related crimes being presented in the daily news. Currently, there is support for ratification of the ATT in four of the parties in Peru- Unión Parlamentaria, Fuerza Popular, Gana Perú, and Perú Posible. With the continued work of partners like ISDH and the widespread support of government officials, the possibility of ratification in the near future remains promising.
As the last preparatory meeting is coming up in Geneva in July 2015, Control Arms, joined efforts with Permanent Peace Movement/ Lebanon (PPM) to promote the ATT in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region during the month of May. So far, six countries belonging to the League of Arab States have signed ATT, but none have ratified. Tunisia and Jordan, two Arab states that have shown a positive interest in the treaty, have not yet signed it.
For this reason, Control Arms supported an ATT advocacy project in Tunisia and Jordan implemented by Permanent Peace Movement. In Tunis, cooperating partner, the Free Tunisia Association, presided by Hazem Ksouri organized a round table conference on 28 May 2015 as part of a media and advocacy campaign for ATT. Approximately 50 persons from the media, civil society, research centers, law, business and government attended the round table conference on 28 May 2015.
In Jordan, Permanent Peace Movement met with Jordanian officials from the Ministry of Interior (Human Rights Department), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (International organizations department) and the parliament (Committee of Legal Affairs ).
Those met with in both countries consider the instability that the MENA region is witnessing at this time, as a big threat to their national as well as regional security, not to mention that both countries are fighting extremism within their own borders. Due to these national and regional security challenges, both Tunisia and Jordan are currently reluctant to sign the treaty.
However, in Tunisia there are possibilities to cooperate with members of parliament and civil society for future arms control projects and advocacy activities. In Jordan, the parliament seems to be ready to sign ATT, but lobbying efforts have to be directed towards the government.
“As you take to the vote, think of the mothers who live in continuous fear that rebels, terrorists, or militant gangs will attack their homes and steal, abuse, rape, kidnap their children, and sell into slavery their daughters. Think of the displaced, of religious minorities running for their lives; of the elderly and the disabled who simply can’t run. Think of the children, as young as six or eight, barely able to hold a gun, scared, brainwashed, and forced to maim, torture, and kill in order to live.”
Lithuanian Ambassador Murmokaitė introduced the voting for a resolution on the impact of small arms and light weapons (SALW) on the morning of 22 May 2015 with this passionate plea. After months of agenda setting, debate, and negotiations, the United Nations Security Council adopted the resolution with 9 votes in favor, zero opposed, and 6 abstentions. The resolution is the second thematic agreement of its kind, building on a resolution passed in 2013 led by Australia.
The weeks before the resolution featured debates on several key issue areas around the impact of the proliferation and misuse of small arms. The result of these discussions were advancements in language on the Arms Trade Treaty, gender, integrations with peacekeeping operations, and responsibility to protect. However, at the time of the vote, disagreements remained on the issue of non-state actors. This was the reason for abstentions by the three African members of the council, Nigeria, Chad, and Angola, who argued that the supply of arms to non-state actors is a threat to international security, and highlighted arms flows to forces like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and Al Shabab. However, among the Permanent Members of the Security Council, the US, UK and France would not accept the specific term “non-state actors,” arguing that references to terrorists and criminal networks was sufficient. New Zealand lamented that “the issue had become a victim of a politicized debate” and felt that delegations on both sides could have focused more on finding a compromise.
It is commendable that in their role as Security Council President, Lithuania chose to make the devastating impact of small arms and light weapons a priority. They worked to move forward with this resolution, ultimately cosponsored by 56 governments, that raises the bar in the bar in the ongoing effort to reduce the human cost of small arms and light weapons.
Control Arms welcomes the adoption of the resolution and calls on all governments to act on its provisions, renewing their efforts to reduce the misuse and illicit trade in small arms.
Barbados and Dominica have become the 68th and 69th countries to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty. Their ratifications guarantee them full decision making powers at the First Conference of States Parties and will bring the total number of CARICOM States Parties to 12. All CARICOM governments have signed the Treaty. With the deadline to become a State Party before the First Conference of States Parties passing today, the stage is now set for the CSP where critical ATT decisions will be made.
Folade Mutota of the Caribbean Coalition for Development and Reduction of Armed Violence welcomed the strong support from her region, saying “we are proud that now all 14 members of Caricom have joined the ATT, and 12 have ratified.”
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