In December 2006, 153 governments voted at the United Nations to begin the development of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) aimed to regulate the trade and transfer of conventional weapons. In 2009, the UN General Assembly launched a time frame for the negotiations of the ATT, which included one preparatory meeting (PrepCom) in July 2010, two in 2011 (February and July), and one in February 2012. The ATT has also been a point of discussion at UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security meetings, which are held annually in October. The final negotiating conference, where the treaty was created, took place in July 2012.
For more information about the process that began the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, please visit the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs website, here.
Fourth PrepCom (13-17 February, 2012)
Despite the intention of including substantive debate, the fourth and final PrepCom focused almost entirely on procedural issues, such as the organization of the July 2012 Diplomatic Conference and what background documents will be considered.
Prior to the PrepCom, Control Arms released a Briefing Paper that outlined its positions on three key issues that were discussed during the PrepCom – NGO access, the rule of consensus, and the status of the Chair’s non-paper.
During the meeting, conflict arose between States around the rule of consensus. The main sticking point was between those countries who interpreted consensus as giving every country the right to veto the end result, and those who interpreted it to mean broad agreement amongst a large majority. After lengthy informal and closed door sessions, the delegates were able to adopt a revised Rules of Procedure document late in the final day of the Prep Com. The new Rules of Procedure were amended to allow a mix of consensus and majority voting. They also provided for NGO access to the July negotiations, including access not only to plenaries but also to main committees, where much of the discussion will take place. Regarding the Chair’s non-paper, Control Arms hoped that this would be recognized as the basis for the July negotiations. Instead, it was included as a ‘Background paper’, as explained in the Chair’s Draft Report of the Prep Com process. As Control Arms noted in its statement, “In the time that procedural talks have taken place this week, an estimated ten thousand people will have lost their lives to armed violence.”
A partial list of government statements is available here. Reviews and analysis can also be found via the ATT Monitor and the ATT Monitor Blog.
First Committee on Disarmament and International Security (October 2011)
The UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security was in session throughout October, with the Conventional Weapons debate taking place the week of October 18. Control Arms campaigners lobbied states to make positive ATT statements, in particular to get support for the current version of the Chair’s non-papers to be used as the starting point for next year’s negotiation conference. This was largely successful, with most ATT interventions being positive. Over 20 Control Arms campaigners attended the meeting in order to lobby states on key Control Arms messages. In addition, Control Arms members held a presentation for states, organized a number of well-attended side events. Additionally, they hosted a reception with a question and answer session on the Viktor Bout trial that was well attended both by delegates and civil society members. A decision to extend the final ATT PrepCom from three days to five days was passed during the voting sessions, with a vote of 155 votes in favor; none against and 13 abstentions.
Click here for more information on the negotiations during First Committee 2011.
Third PrepCom (July 11-15, 2011)
This PrepCom focused on issues regarding the treaty implementation and its final provisions. It allowed some time for Member States to revisit topics such as, elements, principles, scope, criteria and parameters, which had been discussed more thoroughly in the previous two PrepComs. The Chair of the PrepCom, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán, released a new “non-paper” during the meeting, which built on earlier non-papers, in order to present a more complete vision of how the ATT will look. During the meeting, the five Permanent Member States of the Security Council (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) who collectively account for 88% of the global arms trade, also issued a joint statement, committing their collective support to the process. This was the first such collective statement in the ATT process from the world’s biggest arms exporters.
There was a record level of civil society participation in the PrepCom. The week was marked by pro-ATT statements from global investors with over US$ 1.2 trillion in assets, an international group of armed violence survivors and representatives from the arms industry, all calling for a robust and internationally-binding treaty to be agreed in July 2012.
It was established that member states will come together once more in a fourth and final Prep Com, in February 2012, and convene next summer in a four-week conference to negotiate the Treaty.
Click here for more information on the negotiations during the 3rd ATT PrepCom.
Second PrepCom (February 28-March 4, 2011)
This PrepCom, held in New York between February 28 and March 4, 2011, focused on the scope (which weapons should be included in the Treaty) and the criteria (which transfers should be included in the Treaty), and resulted in a new version of the Chair’s non-paper, released by the Chair of the PrepCom, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán. The draft papers reflected the view of most States that, once the treaty is established, it should regulate the transfers of a wide range of conventional arms, should be explicit in its recognition of the wide-ranging impacts of the arms trade on development and poverty reduction. However, there were also some worrying trends, such as the absence of controls on non-military weapons used by internal security forces, which were highlighted by the Control Arms coalition.
Around 100 civil society members attended the meeting and lobbied for Control Arms objectives, with the result that many states delivered positive pro-ATT statements.
Click here for more information on the negotiations during the 2nd ATT PrepCom.
First Committee on Disarmament and International Security (October 2010)
Many states highlighted their support for an Arms Trade Treaty and a number of delegations made direct references to the need for continued support for the ATT process. Positive statements came from the Africa group, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Luxembourg and the EU, to name a few.
India and Pakistan, among others, continued to voice their concerns regarding an Arms Trade Treaty, while in contrast, several other delegations including the Holy See and Palestine highlighted the link between poverty and disarmament, and called for a treaty that would take into account international humanitarian law.
The increasing attention that was paid to conventional arms, and in particular the negotiation of an Arms Trade Treaty, was likely due to the initiation of preparatory work toward a 2012 negotiating conference on the subject.
For more information on the activities during First Committee, please see the weekly summaries in the 1st Committee Monitor here.
First PrepCom (July 12-23 2010)
Delegates and civil society members met in New York in July 2010 to begin the preparatory work for the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations. Statements focused on the need for engagement and discussion at both national and international levels, though there was some disagreement about the ultimate purpose of the potential treaty. While some delegations saw the treaty solely as a trade treaty and sought to limit its scope, others pushed for a strong, comprehensive treaty that would include obligations regarding human rights, international humanitarian law and development.
The negotiations included debates on various subjects, such as the scope, cooperation, assistance, implementation, regulation, reporting, marking and tracing.
For more information regarding the content of the First PrepCom, please see the resources available at Reaching Critical Will, here.