Liberia, a strong and vocal champion for a robust ATT has officially joined the ranks of countries that have ratified the Treaty when Ambassador Marjon Kamara, Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations, deposited the instrument of ratification on 21 April 2015. The West African State, whose citizens have firsthand experienced with the negative effects of the irresponsible arms trade, is the 10th country from Africa and the 67th overall to join the ATT.
The Liberian government has been a longtime supporter of the ATT and fought hard to make sure that the Treaty would be strong enough to make a difference on the ground. After the ATT entered into force, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf illustrated the importance of the Treaty for her country. “I lead a country which is experiencing the terrible effects of more than 14 years of a devastating war with itself, one which destroyed tens of thousands of lives, and hundreds of millions of dollars in social and economic infrastructure. Our experience and that of other countries in Africa and other parts of the world showed that the ATT was needed to help reduce armed violence and wars that are fueled by irresponsible arms transfers. Even now, with the terrible health crisis affecting our country, we are still suffering the affects of a destroyed infrastructure,” she said. President Sirleaf also gave an impassioned plea for governments during negotiations to “be bold in our work toward the ATT,” calling it a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Watch the full video of President Sirleaf’s call to action.
With their latest action, Liberia is set to fully participate in the First Conference of States Parties (CSP) to be held in Mexico City in August. The conference will be critical in determining the future of the ATT. African voices played a vital role during negotiations of the ATT, and their contributions at the CSP will be just as important.
Preparations for the Arms Trade Treaty’s First Conference of States Parties (CSP) took another step forward with an international meeting in Vienna, Austria this week (20-21 April. The informal meeting was attended by over 300 representatives of government, international organizations, and civil society from 90 countries. NGOs gave presentations as part of two plenary panels which focused on best practice in Treaty implementation, and which afforded an opportunity to emphasize the importance of effective ATT implementation, as well as the continued drive for universalization.
Rules of procedure, reporting, financing, and the permanent ATT Secretariat were also on the agenda of the two day meeting.
Control Arms Coalition representatives included 40 campaigners, policy experts, and advocates from all regions. Abjata Khalif, a journalist and grassroots activist from Kenya, who was one of the first on the scene after the massacre of students at Garissa University in northern Kenya in early April, gave the opening intervention on behalf of Control Arms. He urged diplomats from around the world to agree Rules of Procedure for Treaty implementation which would help to save lives.
“ In Kenya, we say “147 is not just a number”. Because each one murdered in Garissa was a young man or a young woman with hopes, dreams and aspirations. Just like your sons and daughters. But those hopes are over, and those bright young lives destroyed.
Where do these guns from, that kill our brothers and sisters? Our sons and daughters? Our mothers and fathers? They are not made in Africa. They come from overseas, and they are too easily getting into the wrong hands. Too easily purchased, and too easily diverted.
Effective implementation, which actually stop arms transfers that fuel poverty, human rights abuses and suffering. We need the highest possible international norm to be established, not the lowest common denominator. “
WATCH ABJATA’S FULL SPEECH HERE
While some progress was made at the meeting, some governments insist on relying heavily on consensus-based decision making, and want decisions to be deferred where this is not achieved. This effort, risks placing the ATT on the long list of global bodies where delay, deferment, and inaction are all commonplace. Additional recommendations like requiring civil society to pay to attend Conferences of States Parties meetings and watered down reporting measures were also put forward, although by a small number of countries.
Representatives from Control Arms also met with Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, and urged him to ensure Austria remains a progressive leader in the ATT process, and to use his leadership to push other European States in particular to support effective Treaty implementation. Control Arms wants to see Rules of Procedure which enable decisions to be taken swiftly and effectively, with no potential for any one country or small group of countries to veto; financial rules which are fair and do not disadvantage smaller economies, open and transparent meetings and comprehensive public reporting.
On 9 April, Paraguay officially ratified the Arms Trade Treaty, becoming the 66th country to do so. Their ratification guarantees them a spot at the First Conference of States parties, to be held in late August. Their commitment to arms control measures was further shown just weeks earlier when they also ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Paraguay has been a longtime supporter of the ATT and signed the landmark agreement during the first month the Treaty was opened for signature.
With consultations, preparatory meetings, and workshops continuing throughout the world on the ATT, momentum for the lifesaving instrument has never been higher. Since the last official meeting on the ATT was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, four countries have deposited their instruments of ratification: Ivory Coast, Belize, Chad, and Paraguay.
Control Arms welcomes the steps that each of these governments are taking in an effort to save lives and encourages all States who have not done so to follow suit and ratify or accede to the ATT.
On 2 April, Kenya experienced its worst terrorist attack in nearly 20 years. The needless killing carried out by members of Al Shabaab clearly demonstrates the need for continued efforts to control arms flows and reduce armed violence.
“The Garissa attacks show once again that armed violence isn’t simply a word we use in speeches at the UN to spur governments into action. 147 people died in a matter of hours on Thursday. 147 stories that will not unfold. Their memories will be kept close as we continue to work to prevent armed violence around the world,” said Ms Amran Abdundi, Executive Director, Frontier Indigenous Network based in northern part of Kenya. She continued, “a person dies from armed violence every minute, but when you see those minutes tick by as quick as they did on the campus of Garissa University, it becomes even more real. Those who lost lives remain in our thoughts.”
It is widely thought that Al Shabab aquires weapons through diversion A confidential report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group leaked to Reuters last year indicated “systematic abuses” that have allowed for the diversion. The report states that there were “a number of issues and concerns over current management of weapons and ammunition stockpiles by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), which point to high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution.”
Scenarios like this are precisely why provisions on diversion were incorporated into the Arms Trade Treaty. The provision requires States Parties to take steps to prevent diversion. Exporters must assess the risk of diversion as well as consider measures to mitigate against it, while importer and transit states are obligated to, share pertinent information and give assurances about who will receive weapons and how they will be used.
However, at this point, Djibouti remains the only country in the East Africa region to have signed the ATT. None have ratified or acceded despite Kenya having played a leadership role during the negotiation process at the United Nations.
Control Arms is partnering with PAX and CPS-AVIP to host a meeting in Nairobi this week to promote universalization in the sub-region. The meeting will focus on informing key government stakeholders of the value of the ATT and indicate practical steps to tackle the irresponsible arms trade at its core. In the wake of the tragedy at Garissa University, Kenya will be an obvious focus of the meeting.
Control Arms hopes the upcoming meeting will be a rallying call for the governments of the Horn of Africa and will renew their sense of purpose in combating the irresponsible arms trade.
“Kenya was a leader throughout the ATT process. Without them, the Treaty might have looked very different. Now that we have it, they’ve been silent for over two years. Atrocities like Garissa, Mandera and Westgate show that the time to delay is long over,” said Abjata Khalif, Network Chair Pajan Kenya and a journalist who covered the Garissa terrorist attack.
Belize became the 64th country to join the Arms Trade Treaty when they deposited their instrument of ratification on 19 March 2015 at UN Headquarters. Belize joins nine other members of the Caribbean Community in ratifying the ATT and will officially become a State Party to the lifesaving treaty 90 days after their date of deposit.
While Belize is neither a significant arms importer nor exporter, the small country knows the impacts arms and ammunition can have when they fall into the wrong hands. During ATT negotiations a government representative called the diversion of arms to the illegal black market “a devastating impact to which my country bears witness on a daily basis.”
Belize is now set to join the First Conference of States Parties from the 24th to 27th August.
Photo: INSIDER IMAGES/Keith Bedford
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State positions and practices concerning reporting and the Arms Trade Treaty