Last week, from 26-30 August 2019, Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) States Parties, signatories and observers gathered at the International Conference Center in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss progress made over the last year in Treaty implementation and universalisation. The final report was adopted unanimously. 

The focus for this year’s CSP was gender & gender-based violence, a theme championed by CSP5 President Ambassador Janis Kārkliņš in his non-paper that was unanimously adopted by the conference. In the year leading up to CSP5 as well as throughout last week, fruitful discussions on the gendered impact of armed conflict and gender-based violence considerations in arms transfer risk assessments, as well as issues surrounding equal representation in disarmament fora, were held through various panels, side-events, workshops and more. This momentum must be maintained in years to come to successfully convert words to actions. 

 

The Control Arms Coalition was out in full force last week, with a delegation of over 70 members contributing to CSP5 with 10 interventions, a press release, a campaign action, 3 side events, and numerous bilateral meetings with governments, including a sit-down with next year’s President to the 6th Conference of States Parties (CSP6), Ambassador Carlos Foradori of Argentina. More information regarding the coalition’s work can be found here including statements, daily summaries, our press release and more. 

NGOs during Control Arms’ Civil Society Briefing day in preparation for CSP5

While the conference failed yet again to discuss Treaty compliance, a few states, such as the Netherlands, stressed the importance of holding detailed, substantive discussions on how the provisions of Art 6 & 7 are applied in specific circumstances based on actual cases of arms transfers. Civil society has been pushing for compliance with core articles 6 & 7 of the ATT, which outline circumstances in which arms export licenses be denied if, for example, there is a risk they will be used to commit serious violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. Serious discussion on violations of articles 6 & 7, violations which can be described as the large elephant in the room, have yet to enter the formal setting, and it is not until they do that the Treaty can begin to make a meaningful difference on the ground in places like Yemen, South Sudan, and the DRC. Control Arms agrees that financial contributions must be paid in full and on time, but several states who accuse others of not meeting these financial obligations have little ground to stand on as violations to Articles 6 & 7 continue unabated. Read our full statement here, delivered by Cesar Jaramillo of Project Ploughshares in Canada. 

Control Arms held three well-attended and engaging side events. The first launched the ATT Monitor Report 2019, which has for years been a trusted source of information on the implementation of and compliance to the ATT as it monitors transfer data from annual reports, tracking implementation measures to embed the Treaty’s obligations into national practice. 

Control Arms also held a side event exploring the Central and Eastern European Regional Training on the Gender-based Violence (GBV) Criteria in the ATT held in May of this year. The event was chaired by Irish Ambassador Michael Gaffey, and featured remarks by Verity Coyle from Control Arms, Netta Goussac from the ICRC, Sarma Gintere from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Iulia Vladescu from the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latter two participated in the training event and shared their experiences and learning outcomes, while Ms. Coyle and Ms. Goussac spoke from their perspective as organizers and presenters at the training event.

The third side event, chaired by Mr. Martin Kruger of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, discussed the Arms Trade Treaty’s legal review of arms transfers decisions in the context of the ongoing conflict in Yemen — and of ATT States Parties’ continued sales of weapons to countries involved in that conflict. Panelists discussed legal challenges to arms transfers to the Saudi-led coalition — challenges that have taken place in Belgium, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Kristine Beckerle of Mwatana Organization for Human Rights outlined the clear violations of international humanitarian law and debunked myths which served to justify the continuation of arms transfer to the Saudi-led coalition. She reminded states present in the room that halting arms sales can be a particularly effective way of exercising leverage on warring parties in order to stop violations of IHL. Read more about this side event in our daily summary.

Conference venue – Geneva International Conference Center

CSP5 was a success. States held meaningful discussions on the progress made in the three Working Groups (Treaty Implementation, Treaty Universalisation, Transparency & Reporting), and overall the sentiment that the ATT is a tool that can contribute to peace and security and reduce human suffering was shared throughout the plenary. On the last day, states were able to reach an agreement on the issue of financial contributions that would establish the creation of a reserve fund. Nevertheless, Control Arms will continue to advocate for states to comply with the core obligations of the ATT, to cease all arms exports that are at risk of being used to commit acts of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law violations. Only then will the ATT serve as an effective legal instrument that can contribute meaningfully to reduce human suffering.