Last week, multiple organizations came together in Paris, France to call on the government of France to strengthen its commitment to disarmament and humanitarian arms control. The event took place as part of the 20th anniversary of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and there was also much discussion about the on-going and changing role of civil society the field of arms control and disarmament. It opened with a presentation from Nobel Peace Laureate and ICBL Ambassador Jody Williams, who spoke about the new and multi-stakeholder model for diplomacy that has emerged in recent years.
Control Arms was represented by Nicolas Vercken of Oxfam France, who spoke as part of a round table focusing on the role of France in protecting civilians from the consequences of weapons. An official from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted that France has high expectations that the upcoming diplomatic conference (18 – 28 March) will deliver an ambitious ATT that includes the major arms exporters and importers. At the end of the day, a joint statement from more than 20 organizations and organizations was presented to the government of France. This included Oxfam France as well as CCFD Terre Solidaire, another member of the coalition.
Diplomats voted on 7 November to hold a final UN Conference on the ATT in March 2013. The vote came on the last day of the UN’s First Committee and was passed with an unprecedented 157 votes in favour, 18 abstentions and 0 votes against.
The resolution does include the ccontroversial stipulation that the text must be agreed under the “consensus” rule. Following intense lobbying by civil society, the resolution contains a provision that notes if all states are not able to agree to a deal in March, the UN will keep the treaty on its current agenda. This would allow the text to be sent for a final vote at the UN General Assembly later in 2013.
Simply achieving agreement on holding a final negotiating conference agreed upon is a positive step and an impressive number of countries expressed significant optimism and political will for finishing the job in early 2013. However, much work is still needed to fill in the missing pieces that will help the Arms Trade Treaty have a meaningful impact once adopted.
“It is the voices of the overwhelming majority of states that want a strong treaty which must now be heard. While a treaty which includes the greatest number of states remains the core objective, a robust text will prove far more effective in the future than a compromise text that states subscribe to, but subsequently ignore. The agreement next year must be one that will ultimately make the greatest difference for victims of armed violence,” said Anna McDonald, Head of arms control at Oxfam.
As the world embarks on a second chance to save lives and protect livelihoods, we are reminded that over half a million people die each year from armed violence. In March, we will get another opportunity to change that. The world cannot wait.
During the second week of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee session, Control Arms sponsored “Finishing the Job: Delivering a Bullet-Proof Arms Trade Treaty”. This focused on the substance and future of the ATT. The event was co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Trinidad and Tobago to the UN and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN and featured high-level representatives from both countries. It was an opportunity for the coalition to present a new report that outlines how states can “close the loopholes” in the draft treaty text in future negotiations.
Dr. Roberto Dondisch, the Government of Mexico’s chief negotiator on the ATT ,delivered the opening remarks noting that progress has been made in the negotiating process, but more remains to be done. The world must proceed carefully to ensure that a robust treaty is agreed upon in the near future. His counterpart from Trinidad and Tobago, Ambassador Eden Charles, agreed with Dr. Dondisch’s assessment. He also made strong remarks on the need to incorporate ammunition in the Arms Trade Treaty in a more impactful way, noting the current status of ammo in the draft treaty is “deficient.” The lack of mention of ammunition under the treaty’s scope is one of the largest “missing pieces” identified by a large majority of countries as well as civil society.
Representatives from non-governmental organizations also made presentations specific ways in which the draft treaty text can be strengthened in order to finish the job and conclude an ATT that saves lives and protects livelihoods. Deepayan Basu Ray (Oxfam), Natalie Weizman (International Committee of the Red Cross), and Roy Isbister (Saferworld) spoke about the need to strengthen the substance of the treaty, covering topics such as language surrounding genocide, strengthening scope and criteria, and improving reporting mechanisms on the text.
Read the new report “Finishing the job: Delivering a bullet-proof ATT,”