Reinvigorating the Narrative: The Broader Benefits of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Implementation Guide to the ATT and PoA

October 31st, 2017

     On 20 October 2017, the Centre for Armed Violence Reduction (CAVR) hosted a First Committee side event entitled “Reinvigorating the Narrative: The Broader Benefits of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Implementation Guide to the ATT and PoA”. The panel discussion was moderated by Hugh Watson, First Secretary of the Australian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, and it included remarks by four participants: Caitlin Wilson, Deputy Head of the Australian Mission in Geneva; Deepayan Basu Ray, Director of Arms Control for CAVR; Laurent Masmejean, Counsellor at the Swiss Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; and Philip Alpers, Program Director for CAVR.

     Caitlin Wilson presented two documents—“Reinvigorating the Narrative: The Broader Benefits of the Arms Trade Treaty” and “Implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and the UNPoA”—that CAVR authored published in support of international efforts to eradicate the spread of illicit arms. According to Wilson, the “narrative” of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has become critical to continued progress towards universalization of the Treaty. She said that discussions of the ATT since its entry into force have generally focused on its effect on the industry and market for conventional arms, but the international community must also highlight how the Treaty can benefit the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and support human security at the national, regional and international levels.

     Emphasizing the Treaty’s utility and accessibility, Wilson encouraged non-governmental organizations, academics and other stakeholders to consider recommendations in “Reinvigorating the Narrative” for conveying the ATT’s value to states not yet party to it. The report, she stated, addresses how the ATT promotes efforts to stop violence; maintain national, regional and global security; combat terrorism; weaken the supply of arms to black markets; reduce drivers of refugee flows; support industry in responsible states; and support the interest of states situated to contribute significantly to implementation. Wilson added that recognizing and acting on synergies between the Treaty and other initiatives, such as the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, can contribute to the ATT’s success. She also thanked Switzerland for its financial contribution to “Implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and the UNPoA”, and encouraged an ongoing effort to achieve universality of the ATT.

     Deepayan Basu Ray of CAVR discussed why states not party to the ATT should join the Treaty. He reiterated several benefits of ATT implementation presented in “Reinvigorating the Narrative”, including action against gender-based violence; creation of reliable regulatory standards; support for regional security through strengthened regional cooperation; and integration of multiple global initiatives, such as the ATT and the SDGs, into a harmonized strategy for engagement. He noted that the report contains a step-by-step checklist for conducting export assessments in compliance with ATT provisions. Applying the spirit of the ATT to the assessment process, he said, can help combat illicit markets and enforce international humanitarian and human rights law. He emphasized that pursuing these goals and objectives can help establish a high common international standard for reducing illicit arms flows, and he concluded by describing the Treaty as a key tool for universalizing such efforts around the world.

     Laurent Masmejean of Switzerland highlighted three points related to implementing the ATT. Making his first point, he noted that an intergovernmental working group on implementation has determined that States seeking to comply with the Treaty must first establish relevant national-level processes and structures. Next, he referred to beneficial synergies between implementation activities for the ATT and the Programme of Action. Finally, he stressed the value of the publication “Implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and the UNPoA”, stating that it brings together practical experience and guidance to aid governments in implementing both initiatives. He concluded by thanking the authors of the publication.

     Philip Alpers of CAVR reviewed reasons that ATT non-state parties should adopt and support the Treaty. He reiterated the importance of the implementation guide for small developing nations in Oceania and the Caribbean, as the new publication concentrates on the needs of such states. He also mentioned that smooth communication is essential between personnel in customs bureaus, administrative offices, law enforcement agencies, military services and arms industries. He finished by noting that the publication answers questions about the structures and roles of entities involved in implementing the ATT and the Programme of Action.
Text and photo by Whitney Alexis