Monday, July 23, 2012

Don't blink ... or you may miss it

© Jesper Waldersten
After a weekend of talks--it would be a cruel misnomer to call them negotiations--we are not much further forward. On Saturday morning, delegations came into the Indonesia Lounge beside the UN General Assembly to discuss scope and implementation under the auspices of the Diplomatic Conference's President. The session ended at 1.30 in the morning of Sunday without agreement. A few hours later, delegations re-assembled in the same venue (no interpretation, no tables, just chairs that seemed designed to inflict the greatest possible lumbago in the swiftest possible time on their unfortunate temporary residents). The day ended "early" at 6.30pm, having reviewed the final provisions and criteria, again without narrowing of differences.

In his statement to the plenary this morning, President Moritan acknowledged as much, while trying to remain upbeat (although we have been delayed "to a certain extent", in his words). He noted that differences on criteria/parameters were "more complicated" and would demand "additional consultations". A session was then scheduled on the preamble and principles, once again held behind closed doors (were there any doors to the Indonesia Lounge, that is).

So who will blink first? The 70 plus States that joined Malawi's call on Friday for a strong treaty that would prevent transfers where there is a substantial risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law is a line in the sand that needs to be defended. Cohesion and courage will be pre-requisites for this. Better no treaty this week, than one that undermines what little substantive restrictions we have in this area under existing international law. And in contrast to Lyndon Johnson's famous view about where to place difficult individuals, it's surely better to have the contras outside the tent than in. At least we can then make the tent waterproof...

By the way, the Indonesia Lounge where we discussed how to limit an arms trade worth tens of billions of dollars each year was apparently named after two Balinese sculptures offered by the Government of Indonesia and which represent "peace and prosperity". How ironic is that?

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