In many ways, this was a surprisingly positive Second PrepCom. The Chair's non-paper, submitted to governments in advance of the prepcom, was quite poorly drafted in sections and contained some major potential loopholes. The revised paper Ambassador Moritan issued on Thursday (Day Four) was much more skilfully drafted (the definition(s) of transfer notwithstanding), clearer, and far more solid in its provisions. In particular, the section on criteria--the heart of the future Arms Trade Treaty--was a great improvement on its predecessor. As Adlai Stevenson once said, "All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions." Credit is thus due to Ambassador Moritan for his second draft paper this week.
For no one should be under any illusions about the task ahead. The ill-fated decision to require the adoption of the treaty by consensus may yet scupper a serious agreement, at least within the auspices of the United Nations. Cuba, Egypt, Iran, and Syria, along with the Russian Federation, all seem opposed to an Arms Trade Treaty, at least in any meaningful sense. More positively, China and India appeared to demonstrate a more mature reflection on an ATT during this Second PrepCom, although both clearly still harbour significant concerns. Algeria and Brazil had little positive input into the process.
A new Chair's paper is expected for the Third PrepCom, which takes place in mid-July, again in New York. This paper is likely to set out the Chair's take on possible implementation measures, as well as revisions to his existing work on the preamble/principles, the goals and objectives of the treaty, scope, criteria, and cooperation and assistance. Look out for the details of a national regulatory mechanism, the national legislative framework sought, as well as provision for an international secretariat/clearing mechanism, presumably within the UN itself.
Given the potential future role of the UN in the implementation of the ATT (whose agencies and bodies have otherwise been eerily silent this week), our final thoughts on this PrepCom should justly go to a former UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjld. He suggested that one should: "Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step. Only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road." Great and heart-warming advice ... except, perhaps, when you're entering a minefield...