Every day our TV screens are full of images of the horror of Homs and other cities in Syria where civilians are being abused and killed. Despite worldwide condemnation, the abuse continues, and appallingly, arms and ammunition that are being used to commit human rights abuses continue to be supplied. Syria is only one chilling live example of why a robust ATT is urgently needed, and tragically there are many more such examples every day around the world.
Last month at the final Preparatory Committee for the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, states were invited to submit their views on what should be in the treaty, with a 1500 word limit, and by the 31 March.
Here’s our take on what must be in the Treaty for it to be effective in protecting human rights, lives and livelihoods.
The suffering must end. An effective, robust ATT is needed now to stop irresponsible arms transfers from fuelling poverty, conflict and human rights abuses. It must be strong. It must be unambiguous. It must look like this:
The treaty must have clear goals and objectives:
This is a treaty designed to address the humanitarian and human rights catastrophe caused by the poorly regulated and irresponsible arms trade. It is essential therefore that the goals and objectives clearly articulate this core purpose, so that the rest of the treaty is appropriately designed to achieve it.
The treaty must be all-inclusive:
It must include all arms, ammunition and equipment
–Including all military, security and police arms, related equipment and ammunition, components, expertise, production equipment and technology.
It must include all types of transfers
–Import, export, re-export, temporary transfer, transit and transshipment
-By the state and by companies
-Sales, leases, loans, gifts and aid.
And it must include all kinds of intermediary and supporting actors and activities:
–Including by dealers/brokers and agents and those providing technical assistance, training, transport, storage, finance and security.
The treaty must hold governments to account:
It must have strong criteria against which governments must assess authorisation or denial of an arms transfer. The criteria must ensure that no transfer is permitted if there is substantial risk that it:
1. Will be used to violate UN Charter obligations, including UN arms embargoes
2. Is likely to be diverted to an unauthorised user/users
3. Will be used:
—In serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law;
—To commit acts of genocide or crimes against humanity;
—To facilitate terrorist attacks;
—To facilitate a pattern of gender-based violence, violent crime or organised crime;
—To adversely affect regional security, including through the excessive or destabilising stockpiling of arms;
—To seriously impair poverty reduction or socio- economic development;
4. Contravene other international, regional, or sub-regional commitments or decisions made, or agreements on non-proliferation, small arms, arms control, and disarmament;
5. Involves corrupt practices.
The treaty must be workable and enforceable
It must provide guidelines for full, clear implementation. It must ensure transparency – including full, publicly available national reports. It must have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance. It must ensure accountability – with provisions for adjudication, and dispute settlement.
The Treaty will need an Implementation Support Unit, with the authority and capacity to analyse and use data from reports to promote and assist Treaty implementation.
It must include a comprehensive framework for international cooperation and assistance so that States can request and receive assistance from other States and from relevant international, regional, and sub-regional organisations, in order to facilitate full implementation of Treaty obligations.
The Treaty must reinforce existing responsibilities to assist survivors of armed violence, providing a framework for assistance to individuals and communities who have suffered due to armed conflict and violence..
It must have simple final provisions
The Treaty should enter into force – ie become international law – at the earliest opportunity. In order for this to happen, the number of ratifications required for entry-into-force should be low (30), and all states should be treated equally for ratification purposes.