Arms Trade Treaty conference starts today

The Third Conference of States Parties (CSP3) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) opens today in Geneva. Set to continue until 15 September, the conference is an opportunity for states parties and signatories to evaluate the Treaty's implementation. The background to this meeting is bleak. Many of the Treaty's main champions are continuing to profit wildly off international arms transfers that are resulting in massive civilian casualties and the destruction of entire towns and cities. CSP3 is also being held while the UK government hosts the world's largest arms fair in London. This exhibition of technologies of violence gives state representatives a chance to browse and purchase weapons to replenish their arsenals while other representatives of their countries are in Geneva to talk - or not talk - about the international arms trade.

There is a concern that, as happened during CSP2, the thematic discussion at this conference will overlook matters of substance and emphasise matters of process. This would mean not adequately addressing why some states are already falling behind on reporting requirements, as one example, or why some have elected to keep their reports private. It would mean not discussing compliance issues, in the context of implementation, and only focusing on procedural issues such as the future status of the working group on implementation. This is not to say that procedural decisions are not important—they are the building blocks on which the ATT functions. What is problematic is to focus solely on these aspects and kick the harder topics down the road for another day. The integrity and credibility of the ATT erodes further each day that this happens.

ATT states parties and signatories must condemn arms transfers that are facilitating human suffering or the violation of human rights or international humanitarian law. The Treaty stipulates that the risk of such consequences should prevent arms transfers from being approved, yet many exports go ahead despite ample evidence of the harms they create. Thus in addition to calling out these transfers, states parties and signatories need to discuss how to challenge actions that arguably violate the Treaty. There is already a working group on treaty implementation, but this body has not taken on an investigatory or action-oriented role in regards to circumstances where arms transfers are facilitating humanitarian catastrophe as described above. The CSP should discuss and take decisions on these serious issues.

Ahead of this conference, Reaching Critical Will has published a summary version of our comprehensive report on how to implement the ATT’s provisions related to gender-based violence. During the conference, we will be monitoring and reporting daily on CSP3 through our ATT Monitor. You can subscribe to receive this source of news and analysis each day of the conference. In addition, we will post all available statements and documents. WILPF will also participate in three side events:

Reaching Critical Will resources