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Home Stretch of ATT Negotiations

July 23, 2012

by Bob Mtonga MD and Don Mellman MD MPH

        “We are on the home stretch. The finish tape is in sight, but it is blurred.”

-Bob Mtonga, MD, Co-President, IPPNW, July 21, 2012

Comments from Bob Mtonga MD

I have been working hard these past weeks including as a member of the Zambian delegation to help successfully conclude the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) next Friday, July 27. (Bob is a true leader in this process, and has brought very favorable recognition to himself and IPPNW. – dlm) Some of what I have done:

  • Worked behind the scenes with Norway and Sweden to mobilize 73 states to issue a common statement that emphasized the three things that must be included in the ATT without negotiation:
    • Small arms and light weapons, and ammunition,
    • “Gender-based violence,” and
    • Specific reference to International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. (N.B. IHL is the law of war that relates to the treatment of those not in the fighting, “hors de combat.” To be “hors de combat,” one must be in the power of an adverse Party, clearly expresses an intention to surrender, has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself; provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape. Human Rights Law is the law of peacetime and refers to the treatment of the citizens of a state by its government or non-states actors. dlm and Wikipedia)

(The actual statement can be found below the comments.)

I want to emphasize the following from that statement:

* We need this treaty to prevent authorization of transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that those weapons would be, inter alia:

– used for, or facilitate, serious  violations of international law, including international humanitarian  law and human rights law

 having a destabilizing effect or exacerbating existing conflicts,

– diverted to unauthorized end users.

At my suggestion, the statement was delivered by the head of the Malawi       delegation, Dan Kuwali. Following the delivery of the statement, there was great applause around the hall. This was the first time we have heard applause in this august setting.

In other work, I:

  • Have been lobbying African States persistently to keep the focus of the ATT as      a humanitarian one, rather than as a pure trade issue.
  • Wrote the Zambian “1500 word” position, which has been adopted by Zambia as a  national briefing paper, and has been used to draft interventions at the      July ATT DipCon.)
  • Was  consulted by Ghana, Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia for positions and clarity on a number of issues.
  •  Have been helping set up meetings between Control Arms colleagues and some African States, as a Sub-Regional Leader
  • Was part of a meeting with Mexico and CariCom (the Caribbean Community) and some  African States to create a common agenda approach. This was before the Mexican ambassador spoke formally to our Control Arms group during one of the Control Arms morning briefings.

Comments from Don Mellman MD MPH:

I returned Thursday to the UN. My learning process has continued.

  • Sitting in on the Committee meetings of the delegates I learned:
    • I  was unaware there was a difference between “Gender-Based Violence” and “Violence Against Women.” The former includes sexual violation of men.  As one Control Arms leader told me: “Think Abu Ghraib.” A few states want “Violence Against Women.” Note Bob’s consensus statement above, which  demands, “without negotiation…“Gender-Based Violence.”
    • The importance of not trading, exporting, or transferring (those three words are not synonymous, and there is much debate about their use) arms to states that are under UN Security Council sanctions.
    • The issues of “Corruption” and “Economic Development” must be appropriately included.
    • ‘Wordsmithing is an art that is politically necessary to have.
  • I  attended the side event Hosted by the Kingdom of Belgium (I did not      realize Belgium is a “Kingdom”) and sponsored by Oxfam: From the Front      Line: Four Perspectives on the Arms Trade Treaty.”
    • One  of the speakers was an extremely articulate former child-soldier. Another  was a former UN Arms Trafficking Inspector.
    • Both spoke to my questions of the feasibility of counting bullets (individual bullets can not reasonably be accounted for, but boxes of ammunition can be) and whether bullet casings are reused in the field (rarely, if ever). They both were emphatic: ammunition must be included in the ATT.
    • The former inspector talked about the necessity to register arms brokers by each state and the lack of laws to prevent the dealing of arms for known non-humanitarian purposes. The common, unabashed answer to her question to them of “Why did you do it?”: “If I do not, someone else will.” She emphasized the need to include brokers in the ATT (there are states that want brokers specifically excluded.
      • An excellent documentary, “A Short Film About Guns” was premiered at this side event. It featured the former child soldier and the arms inspector.  I was actually taken aback when, in the film, the child soldier calmly  told of using blindfolded prisoners for target practice.
  • The  ATT must be passed by consensus; i.e. no adverse votes. This can happen in  one of two ways if there are – and there will be – states against the ATT:
    • Abstention
    • Absenteeism;  i.e. not be present at the vote.

So, until Friday…. (the last day of the conference)


July 21, 2012 Statement on behalf of the following at the Arms Trade Treaty Diplomatic Conference Conference: (underlining and bold for emphasis inserted by Dr. Mtonga):

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the CARICOM member states (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago), Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, the ECOWAS member states (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo), Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zambia.

Mr. Chair,

We are now entering the final week of negotiations to conclude what the United Nations General Assembly has tasked us to do; that is to “elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms” and to “achieve a strong and robust” Arms Trade Treaty. We take the floor now to underline what our countries consider to be the very core of such a binding instrument, without which our efforts would fall significantly short of what the GA resolution has mandated. We are confident, Mr. Chair, that you will help secure this for us.

Notwithstanding the fact that a treaty could be incomplete and ineffective without many of the elements that we have discussed during this process, there are in our opinion a set of concepts that provide the backbone on which the rest of the treaty rests. Without detracting from the detailed comments made by member states throughout the course of our discussions, we wish to emphasize that an ATT will be judged by the strength of its criteria (and also its scope).

On criteria, these must, in the words of the GA resolution “address the problems relating to the unregulated trade in conventional arms and their diversion to the illicit market”. We need this treaty to prevent authorization of transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that those weapons would be, inter alia:

– used for, or facilitate, serious violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law,
– having a destabilizing effect or exacerbating existing conflicts,
– diverted to unauthorized end users.

Mr. Chair,

We rely on you to ensure that these elements are reflected in clear terms in our parameter section.

The scope must consequently also be wide enough to address the problems referred to in the GA resolution. We need a treaty that encompasses all conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons and ammunition.

Mr. Chair,

As a large and diverse group of states that have been consistent supporters of this process, we submit these remarks in the hope that this Conference will fulfill the mandate of GA resolution 64/48 and live up to the expectations placed on us by the world community. We go now into a weekend of work, and trust in you, the other MC Chair, and, of course, our president Ambassador Garcia Moritan, to bring us all towards this very important outcome.

I thank you, Mr. Chair.

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