Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Once more into the breach? Or once more into the violation?

So, at last, we have negotiations underway once more. The UN Secretary-General formally opened the Diplomatic Conference at 10.50am on Day 1 and the Australian Ambassador Peter Woolcott was appointed by acclamation as the President of the Conference. In accepting his position, the President stated that although the last six years since the adoption of the GA Resolution 61/89 have been somehow productive, "Disappointment has to give way to determination, the world is ready for an ATT; it is time to finish the job." He stated that the July 2012 draft treaty text could prove valuable and asked the delegates to be engaged and focused so that the ATT could be made a reality.
(c) Jesper Waldersten
The UN Secretary-General then delivered his opening address, remarking that after a very long journey, the final destination is in sight. He said that the absence of international legal rules governing the arms trade "defies any explanation", noting that even tomatoes, T-shirts, or toys are better regulated. Among the many questions surrounding the problem of irresponsible arms transfers are: where are they produced; How have they been licensed; what standards have been applied to assess the legality of proposed transfers? The biggest question was, though, "what to do about it?" The Secretary-General concluded his opening address with the clarion call that the international community owed a treaty "to all the victims and those risking their lives to build peace".
The President of the Conference indicated that three revised drafts of the treaty would be produced during the UN Conference.  The first will be released on Wednesday, 20 March, seeking to improve the legal wording (the infamous and mystical "legal scrub") and correct inconsistencies in the draft text of 26 July 2012. The preparatory work for this will be conducted over the next three plenary sessions. A second revised draft will be circulated on Friday, 22 March, that will try to capture as many of the substantive suggestions of the delegates as possible. (Why this couldn't be attempted in the first draft is not quite clear.) The second revised draft will be discussed in the following four sessions of the plenary and a drafting committee will be appointed at the end of Tuesday, 26 March. The third, and theoretically final, draft will be distributed on Wednesday, 27 March. Questions remain, though, as to how and where an ATT is ultimately adopted. If consensus is not reached at the end of the negotiations, it is conceivable that the adoption of the text could be put to a vote (by simple majority, reputedly) at the UN General Assembly. A special session may be held the week following the end of the conference.
After the (commendably swift!) adoption of the Rule of Procedure and the agenda, more than 50 delegations expressed the desire to take the floor, despite the call from the President to refrain from general statements. This meant that discussions on the Preamble, Principles, and Goals & Objectives in the July 2012 draft only began  at 5pm.
There were many calls for the "principles" section to be either deleted or subsumed within the preamble (either or which makes much more sense than leaving them where they are). Switzerland, supported by several other states from the floor (e.g. Nigeria, Sweden, the United Kingdom), called for the term "armed violence" to be included in the preamble. India called for a clear reference of the need to eradicate the illicit trade in arms and to prevent transfers to non-state actors. There was a disagreement as to whether the twelfth preambular paragraph (on the "right" to adopt more stringent measures to control the arms trade) was the appropriate formulation.

In sum, a decent business-like start, at least from the Conference President. The issue of Palestine was not allowed to derail the negotiations as it did in July 2012. There is a decent road map to a treaty and the willingness of many, probably most, to achieve it. But many substantive (and procedural) obstacles remain. So when the blast of war blows in our ears, imitate the action of the tiger. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. And for you diplomats in whose hands so many hopes abide, show us here the mettle of your pasture. Let us swear that you are worth your breeding, which we doubt not. At least, not yet.


  1. If any foreign troop or UN steps on My property given orders will become my BITCH Our country doesnt stand for Tyranny or foreigners telling us we have to do something. Not even our electors that we put into office can step on our Constitution for the people if so they would be tried for treason.

    1. Perhaps you should read the ATT draft text to easily understand that the scope of the treaty does not infringe upon rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

    2. The issue with the Second Amendment is not a scope issue. There are many sections to the treaty. Read the Bromund critique, which somebody cited in the prior day's post.

      There are other parts of the treaty that seem to imply a requirement for the the tracking of transfers within national borders, not just internationally. The American State Secretary Kerry made specific reference to this in the statement submitted because of this issue area.

      The problem with tracking transfers is that it implies implementing national legislation that would create a registry of gun owners. Such a registry would be a violation of current American federal law, and is a hot button for American privacy and arms rights libertarians. And rightly so I believe.

      The contemporary concern about registration and ownership tracking is based on the recent case example with the UK. In the 1990s they created a national registry of pistol owners. Shortly after this, the ruling elite passed a ban the private ownership of pistols. The ownership records were used to track down pistol owners and threaten them with arrest charges. It wasn't an outright confiscation because a token fee was given to gun owners in exchange. But it was theft if you owned valuable item.

      The result...gun deaths went down, but violent crime (including stabbings, rapes, beating) skyrocketed. The perception to Americans is that life became much less secure precisely because criminals knew law abiding people didn't have handguns and they could get away with thuggery. I personally think this perspective has merit. I've seen UK news reports that violent crime there has been systematically under reported too. Over time, it appears the violent crime rate(as opposed to gun death rate)has actually risen, and is now reported to be 5 times higher in the UK than it is in the US. I don't think any American would trade in handguns or any kind of gun if it meant higher risks of rape, beatings, and armed and violent robberies and such.

      If you look globally and into history, gun registration rules tend to be followed by forms of confiscation. I don't think there is a formal academic study on this, but history does seem to an apparent correlation with such policies growing fear among governing elites about lower classes becoming agitated and rising up in a political or social movement.

      I know its tiring to hear this, but it is a fact Nazi Germany used registrations followed by confiscations as an integral part of there conquest of Europe. First in Germany proper, then in annexed Austria, and so on. I've read accounts of this going on in Russia under Stalin, and in Asia, and in Latin America.

      Some of us Americans are still alive who remember those days in Germany and Austria. Kitty Werthmann is one such person. She is at least 85 years old, and was naturalized as an American citizen in 1950. Born and raised in Austria. She is libertarian activist who has been involved in state politics for some time. You can google her, she's out there, and real...and quite reasonable when you get to know her and what she lived through.

      To say "oh no, nothing like that could happen again" is foolish and ignorant of history and human nature. You can't predict the future. For example, nobody thought Glasnost would have resulted in what we have today in Russia...a corrupt autocracy/oligarchy where members of the press are killed with impunity, where businessmen are bullied and locked up and their wealth seized, etc. If one isn't skeptical and wary of the State, and ruling elites, you will find you may find yourself self poor, marginalized, and powerless to fight back once you realize you've been had.

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