Saturday, July 14, 2012

Shadow boxing against the clock

On Day 10 of the negotiations, the Chair of the main committee dealing with treaty goals and objectives circulated only a compilation of state submissions and then adjourned the meeting. He finally circulated an additional document--his own rolling text--on goals and objectives in the afternoon. Subsequent discussions were split between the No-No delegations (e.g. Russia and friends) that wanted the treaty only to focus on illicit trade, and the Enlightened, which wanted it to save lives and limbs. 

© Jesper Waldersten
Meanwhile, the Chair of the main committee dealing with scope presented his own take on the status of negotiations. His draft scope provision had three parts, addressing items to be covered by the treaty (i.e. weapons and related devices); activities; and a non-circumvention clause. All the written proposals submitted to the Secretariat by states were annexed to his draft. The scope was potentially quite broad (one version covered "all conventional arms ... including ..."), but he also provided narrower alternatives. Small arms were only covered when they were for "military use" (several states opposed this limiting clause in the debate that followed).

As could be predicted, the room was also split on whether to include a non-circumvention clause. France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK supported the structure of the chair's paper and the inclusion of the non-circumvention clause and accepted the Chair’s text as a starting point. India claimed it was unprecedented in terms of its placement in such treaties. Iran, Malaysia, and Pakistan were not in favour of such a clause. China was doubtful. USA stated its support for a non-circumvention clause but not necessarily in the scope provision. Singapore suggested it could be moved to the implementation section.

Syria stated that the UN register does not include most modern weaponry. It suggested including modern weapons, particularly “electromagnetic weapons” (including missiles and projectiles), as a separate distinct category. Iraq also wanted to cover modern weapons.

Also during the debate, Cuba and Russia called for definitions of the items included in the scope provision. This is surely another attempt to mire the negotiations in detail, since, in all likelihood, there is insufficient time to agree on definitions for each of the items referred to. Indeed, the bigger--and central--question is now whether there is sufficient negotiating time to conclude a treaty. Only ten days (ostensibly 60 hours of active, open negotiations) remain, of which 7.5 days are only supposed to be in single, not parallel, sessions.

To quote Frank Bruno, "Boxing is just show business with blood." Shadow boxing, in contrast, is defined as "making a show of tackling a problem or opponent while avoiding any direct engagement." Which paradigm are we in? It's not yet clear. What is probable is that on Monday, it's "seconds out, round 11".


  1. I apologize, this may be a bit basic, but could you please clarify what a "non circumvention clause" might look like? What does this mean and how is the current proposal worded? Thanks a lot.

  2. No problem. The intent of the clause is to prevent an exporting state providing, for example, blueprints, disassembled parts, technology, and even technical assistance, to another state whose actions would otherwise deny them the possibility to obtain certain weapons. The importing state would nonetheless ultimately get their weapons as they could build them in their own territory and the exporting state could claim that they had not acctually exported a weapon and therefore not violated the treaty. It's an advanced "good faith" clause to try to make sure there is not a huge loophole in the treaty.

  3. .thanks for sharing