From 2-5 April 2019, the second and final round of Arms Trade Treaty Working Group & Informal Preparatory Meetings convened in Geneva, allowing ATT States Parties, signatories and observer states, civil society and industry to meet and discuss plans for the Fifth Conference of States Parties (CSP5) scheduled for 26 – 30 August this year. Highlights from the week include positive engagement surrounding the CSP5 theme of “gender and gender-based violence (GBV)”, three well attended side events, substantive discussions on diversion in the Working Group on Effective Treaty Implementation, and the announcement that Argentina is seeking to become the President of the 6th Conference of States Parties in 2020.

The week began with the Working Group on Effective Treaty Implementation (WGETI) which reviewed a new section on record keeping within the Basic Guide to Establishing a National Control System, and heard presentations from  the UK and Australia on their experiences with record-keeping on exports and imports. Control Arms emphasized that record-keeping is an essential internal requirement of a state’s arms transfer control system, and as alluded to in the Guide, is essential to the compilation of timely and accurate reports.

The discussions in the sub-working group on Articles 6 & 7 (prohibitions & export assessment) were initiated by an overview of  South Africa’s conventional arms control system with a particular focus on licensing processes and risk assessment. The Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) shared findings from it’s analysis of ATT initial reports ,  highlighting commonalities and differences in States Parties’ implementation of Articles 6 & 7. In line with the gender and GBV theme of CSP5, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) introduced  a new working-paper on International Humanitarian Law and GBV in the context of the ATT. This presentation highlighted acts which amount to violations of IHL, reiterating that not all acts are of a sexual nature and may be perpetuated against both men and women. Following these presentations, Control Arms introduced a similar paper, produced in cooperation with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, which provides guidance on key terms under Article 7 with a focus on how they relate to International Human Rights Law, the Women Peace and Security Agenda, and GBV. The sub-working group on diversion, in a four and a half hour session,  revised the proposed draft multi-year work plan, which was well received by States Parties and will be put forward for  consideration at CSP5.

WGETI concluded with a special session which explored:

  1. Ways in which gender can be mainstreamed throughout the Treaty’s provisions beyond Article 7.4
  2. Future work plan for WGETI. States Parties analysed the progress made thus far in this working group, and showed strong support for a new dedicated sub-working group on Article 9 (transit and transshipment).

The Working Group on Treaty Universalisation reviewed the state of accessions and signatures, with no changes from January’s meetings but with positive development in some regions. The co-chairs, Latvia and Japan, provided an overview of  their universalisation efforts. Time was allocated to discuss the proposed Universalisation Toolkit and Welcome Pack, designed for prospective and new States Parties respectively. Emphasis was placed on the importance of translating these documents, into non-UN languages, on a voluntary basis,  in order to ensure their widest availability. Chile and Cameroon, as new States Parties to the ATT, spoke about key challenges citing domestic resistance to change, lack of brokering and trans-shipment legislation and measures, lack of interagency coordination, and the need for sub-regional, regional and international cooperation.

General overview of state of accessions to the ATT – ATT Secretariat

The Working Group on Transparency & Reporting welcomed the news that States Parties will be submitting updates to their  initial report. Sweden is the first State Party to submit one, while New Zealand announced that it will do so shortly.  Nonetheless, a presentation by the ATT Secretariat on the status of reporting highlighted the decreasing rates in reporting both for initial and annual reports. The Chairs call on all stakeholders to emphasize the importance of reporting and provide assistance to States Parties. The Stimson Center, who spoke to the role of industry in reporting, stressed that while the ATT does not place any obligations on industry, it can still contribute to reporting by supplementing nationally collected information as well as by offering good practice on record-keeping to governments. The Working Group also heard from the ATT Secretariat on its IT platform, meant to facilitate online reporting and exchange of information between States Parties.

Amb. Karklins of Latvia & Dumisani Dladla of the ATT Secretariat opening the Second CSP5 Informal Preparatory Meeting

The second CSP 5 Informal Preparatory Meeting took place on 05 April, offering an opportunity for the Chairs of each Working Group to report back from the week’s deliberations. The revised version of the President’s working paper on gender and GBV received widespread support. The debate became contentious when discussions pivoted to issues of financial liquidity and assessed contributions. Opinions were divided following the ATT President, Amb. Karklins announcement that States who have not  yet to fulfill their Treaty financial obligations will be stripped of their voting rights at CSP5.

The effectiveness of the Treaty indeed depends on the availability of resources to carry out its mandated activities. But it is also dependent on States Parties’ ability to comply with their Treaty obligations, particularly under Articles 6 and 7.