Extraordinary Meeting of States Parties
29 February 2016
It may have been called the Extraordinary Meeting of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, but the only extraordinary thing about the meeting was the refusal of States to actually discuss arms transfers.
Over 75 governments – including 52 States parties, 22 signatories, and 3 observers – attended the Geneva meeting, along with more than 30 NGO and UN representatives.
The meeting did make progress on some procedural issues, including administrative and budget arrangements for the ATT Secretariat, and arrangements for the second Conference of States Parties (CSP), to be held in August later this year. The meeting also agreed to the re-establishment an Informal Working Group on Reporting, with the aim of making progress on templates for States Parties official reports.
Despite irrefutable evidence of serious violations of international law in a conflict that has killed more than 35,000 people, several States Parties and Signatories to the ATT have continued sending weapons to Saudi Arabia, in violation of the Treaty’s obligations. Control Arms therefore made a request to the meeting for an Agenda item to discus the issue. This request was rejected by the President on the grounds that it would be “fraught with danger” to discuss the topic without sufficient time.
Nawal al-maghafi, a Yemeni researcher, addressed the meeting on behalf of Control Arms with the following call to action:
We understand that there is no time to discuss the situation in my own homeland of Yemen today, but states must not wait until the CSP in August to take action. All States should cease arms transfers to any of the warring parties in Yemen immediately. States Parties have an especial legal obligation to do this. There is irrefutable evidence – from the UN and many other credible sources – of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being committed in the conflict in Yemen, and we urge you to read our report on this issue.
The report – part of Control Arms’ ATT Monitor Project – was the most publicised component of the meeting in the media, despite not being part of the official agenda. See some of the media coverage here.
Note: A full, detailed summary of the Extraordinary Meeting is available here.
Policy Paper: Looking Ahead – Making the ATT Work