Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The President scrubs up pretty well

Today, discussions in plenary were essentially devoted to criteria, implementation, and the final clauses (before time ran out). On criteria, a large number of states supported the proposal to replace the term 'overriding' (risk) with 'substantial' or 'clear'. In response, the United States stated that the "overriding" risk criteria "must" remain. It justified its position on the basis that the arms trade is, and can be, a legitimate activity, noting that all states buy and sell arms with the justification that this serves peace and security (e.g. by assisting a state to withstand aggression and tackle armed non-state actors, gangs, and drug traffickers). The US held that changing it to “substantial” would equate to an explicit statement that arms exports can never make a positive contribution to peace and security. As such, the US would be unable to join the ATT since it would depart from the balancing that was in line with its own domestic legislation.
A minority of important States, notably Russia, India, and Brazil, requested the deletion of the criteria of corruption and adverse impact on development in Article 4, paragraph 6 as being "not relevant" to the ATT.

On the final clauses, the European Union and a number of European states again argued strongly for the inclusion of a 'regional integration organisation' clause -- the so-called RIO clause -- stressing that membership of international organizations in international instruments is now accepted practice. Once again, China displayed its rapidly growing diplomatic skills, delivering another hard-nosed message to the European Union but with a degree of humour, noting with irony that China supports all integration organizations, "in fact China supports the Euro currency as it invests billions in it". China even remarked that it would support a RIO Clause if the EU were specifically excluded.

Of greater import, the President of the Conference distributed, as promised, the first of three revised drafts of the treaty, entitled the "President's Non Paper". It proved a little more than the infamous legal scrub that had been promised, as there were at least two (welcome) substantive changes:
  • Munitions were added to the provision on ammunition, which is a very good step forward as it brings bombs and shells within the scope of the treaty; and
  • Article 23 (Relations with States not party to this Treaty) was deleted. This is similarly welcome as the provision had implied that the ATT would generally only apply between States Parties. Therefore, to escape the reach of its provisions, a state that wished to misuse arms was almost encouraged not to ratify the treaty.
The Non Paper will be discussed tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday morning with a revised--and hopefully even stronger--draft to be issued by the President on Friday evening. The provisions on prohibited transfers (now Article 4(3)) and on other instruments/defence cooperation agreements are now the two biggest stumbling blocks to a meaningful treaty. The former needs strengthening, while the latter needs deleting. If these two goals could be met, states would have something worthy of the name to adopt next week. As Alexandre Dumas famously said, "The sum of all human wisdom is contained in these two words: Wait and Hope."

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