From 29 January – 01 February, ATT States Parties engaged in productive discussions during the ATT Working Group Meetings and 1st Informal Preparatory Meeting for the 2019 Conference of States Parties (CSP 2019). After years of focus on procedural discussions, these meetings saw a pivot towards more substantive matters, despite a steady silence over glaring Treaty violations from some ATT States Parties and signatories.
The Working Group on Effective Treaty Implementation, which focuses on the implementation of the core provisions outlined under Articles 5, 6, 7 and 11, discussed the development of practical tools that can enable States Parties to reach these obligations such as the draft Basic Guide to Establishing a National Control System. This working group also examined case studies and discussed potential challenges to the Treaty’s implementation, with Benin, Liberia and Serbia sharing their national experiences in implementing the ATT. Control Arms presented its Practical Guide on how to use the ATT to Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV), adding to the thematic focus for the CSP 2019 on “gender and GBV”. The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) presented research on strengthening end-use and end-user controls to prevent diversion, which was complemented by a case study on Bulgaria’s experience in managing import documentation.
Following a presentation from the ATT Secretariat on the status of the Treaty’s universalization, the Working Group on Treaty Universalisation focused on the development of a proposed Universalisation toolkit and Welcome Pack for prospective and new States Parties. Members of the Control Arms Coalition gave examples of civil society’s efforts in promoting the Treaty’s universalisation, along with the EU and other stakeholders who provided updates on their universalisation activities. The session was followed by remarks from Latvia, Japan, Mozambique, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Control Arms, in celebration of Mozambique’s ratification as the 100th ATT States Party.
A report by the Secretariat highlighted the status of ATT initial and annual reports during the Working Group on Transparency and Reporting. Following a presentation by Serbia on its challenges in reporting, States deliberated on an array of reasons why reporting rates remain stagnant (and, in fact, are decreasing), including institutional barriers, lack of inter-agency cooperation and difficulties in obtaining accurate data on imports.
The first CSP 2019 Informal Preparatory Meeting, held on 01 February, kicked off with an engaging and lengthy discussion around the President’s paper on Gender in the Arms Trade Treaty. The genuine engagement by States Parties was an encouraging sign of goodwill in addressing GBV, and will provide a first step towards concrete outcomes on the ground. The Preparatory Meeting continued with a report-back by the Co-Chairs of the three Working Groups, followed by discussions surrounding issues of financial liquidity, administration of the ATT sponsorship program by the Secretariat, and expansion of the Management Committee.
States Parties once again failed to formally address egregious violations of the ATT, such as the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, fueled by arms transfers to both warring parties. Such lack of attention greatly undermines the credibility of the ATT. While there has been some progress in implementation and universalisation efforts, States continue to hold lengthy discussions on administrative issues rather than focusing on using the Treaty to hold those accountable for supplying arms to human rights abusers.
The Control Arms delegation made tremendous contributions to the success of these meetings, including by participating in 4 plenary panels, delivering 6 interventions from the floor, co-hosting, along with Japan and Latvia, a reception celebrating the 100th ATT State Party, organizing 3 side events, holding multiple bilateral meetings and ensuring a good social media coverage of the discussions.