Are States Party ready to engage in substantive discussions around ATT implementation?

For over three years Control Arms has urged States Parties to shift their focus from procedural to substantive issues (see: CSP 2017, CSP 2016, ATT Extraordinary Meeting) and address the problems the ATT was meant to prevent: arms transfers that fuel atrocities.

Some positive progress was made in discussing the effective implementation of the ATT as well as measures to improve transparency and reporting at the first set of Working Group Meetings and Preparatory Meetings in advance of the fourth Conference of States parties (CSP 2018).

Substantive discussion in the Working Group on Effective Treaty Implementation outlined concrete and practical steps towards meeting the obligations set out in Articles 5, 6, 7 and 11. States shared national perspectives, challenges and approaches to addressing the risk of diversion both pre- and post- transfer in line with Article 11. They discussed sources of information towards preparing the risk assessments and shared concrete prevention and mitigation measures. Discussions around the implementation of core Treaty Articles 5, 6 and 7 highlighted that States Parties are at different baselines, both in terms engagement with in the arms trade (as exporters, importers, transit or transhippment, or no engagement at all) as well as in terms of experience in developing necessary structures and mandates to implement these obligations (long established systems and norms vs. states currently developing those systems). As such, the importance of information sharing was recurring theme during all the discussions. A proposal that received wide support was the development of a welcome pack for new States Parties on how to implement the Treaty’s provisions, including links to existing guidelines, model legislations, and other toolkits.

A number of challenges emerged from the discussions in the Working Group on Transparency and Reporting including lack of understanding of the reporting obligations and proper management of reporting schedules, lack of inter-agency cooperation and obtaining accurate data on imports. Acknowledging the tremendous contribution made by civil society in the area of reporting, States agreed to work towards establishing more practical guidelines to ease and facilitate reporting obligations. This also aims to enable more accurate analysis and comparison of data provided by States Parties in their initial and annual reports.

The first Informal Preparatory Meeting (PrepCom) for CSP 2018, held on 09 March, offered a report-back by the Co-Chairs of the three Working Groups and a cursory discussion of the agenda for CSP 2018. Japan took this opportunity to pledge a $3 million contribution to the Voluntary Trust Fund, part of which will be earmarked towards universalization efforts in Asia-Pacific.

But as governments, including the UK, were carrying out these discussions in support of the effective implementation of the ATT in Geneva, Britain was laying out the red carpet to help secure more trade with Saudi Arabia, a country accused of using the “threat of starvation as an instrument of war” by the UN Panel of experts. The UK’s irresponsible arms transfers to the Saudi-led coalition are in sharp contrast with it’s values as one to the champions of the ATT as well as with an increasing number of European governments – including Germany, Norway and the Walloon region of Belgium – all of whom announced recently that they will halt arms transfers to the Saudi coalition.

Control Arms frequently addressed the meetings, including to remind States Parties about the human suffering caused by armed violence and conflicts around the world. It commended those governments who have changed their arms export policies to the Saudi-led coalition and urged them to share the risk assessments that they undertook in reaching these decisions in order to build good practices. Control Arms also renewed its call for all States Parties, particularly the UK and France and the US as a Signatories, to live up to their ATT obligations and immediately cease arms exports to the Saudi-led coalition for use in Yemen.