European Union External Action

International assistance and cooperation to implement the ATT: Exchanging lessons learned and opportunities

31/05/2018 - 14:00
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Today, a side event addressing the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), organised by the Small Arms Survey, took place in Geneva. It was co-hosted by the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament.

The aim of the event was to share lessons learned and opportunities for enhancing the coordination and effectiveness of international assistance and cooperation efforts to support national implementation of the ATT for states parties, and preparations to become states parties for signatories and interested states.

Speakers agreed that there were at least two key challenges to be dealt with. Firstly, it is important to pay more attention to coordinating efforts in the field and thus communication between the organisations active in the same country or region to avoid duplication and achieve synergies. A particular challenge is seen in coordinating strategies over the long-term. This would require political coordination in addition to mere technical cooperation. Secondly, the impact of the initiatives would need to be measured and evaluated.

Ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa, Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament and President of the Fourth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, mentioned two further challenges: Finding a balance between a tailored approach and a general one and between a focus on the short and on the long-term. With regard to sharing information, he specified that it would have to be timely. He suggested sharing plans, agendas and outcomes of conferences.

Colonel Bruno Paulus, Military Adviser at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the Conference on Disarmament, focused his presentation on the ATT Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF). The ATT VTF is a multi-donor fund established to assist requesting states in implementing the Treaty. It is working since September 2016 and has received over $6.5 million in funds to date. Projects vary in content and cover for example awareness raising and reviews of legislation. The VTF uses coordination to only funds projects that do not duplicate other efforts. But, as Bruno Paulus added, a pre-condition for a proper assessment in this regard is the availability of information. With regard to evaluation he reminded that the Voluntary Trust Fund has not yet accomplished even the first cycle and can therefore not yet present a full-fledged evaluation process.

Caroline Cliff, Chair of the European Union Council Working Group on Conventional Arms Exports (COARM) at the European Union External Action Service, outlined the main aspects and objectives of the second phase of the EU Outreach Programme in support of the ATT (ATT OP II), which was adopted in mid 2017 for a 3 year period. She also outlined challenges and lessons learnt from the project. These included the need to ensure that partner had a common understanding of the ATT, the importance of good interagency cooperation and coordination, and recognition of the impact of limited technical capacity in this licensing and enforcement agencies, and sometimes scarce resources. In response to questions, she said it was important that the political level  also supported the work of the technical experts. Caroline Cliff stressed that: "A very key part of the projects is to build trust and confidence." This limits the opportunities for information sharing at least as regards sensitive information. She closed by stating that given that the efforts are long-term, the evaluation would need to look on the long-term as well.

Paul Holtom, Senior Researcher at the Small Arms Survey, introduced the new Arms Control, Capacity, and Evaluation Support System (ACCESS) project. ACCESS is an initiative of the Small Arms Survey with support from the Government of Japan, which works with partners. The aim is to build capacity to identify priorities and develop strategic plans to put in place measures to strengthen conventional arms controls at the national, sub-regional, and regional level, especially in Africa. Paul Holtom also explained that while some states have recorded considerable progress in putting in place effective conventional arms control measures as a result of such international assistance efforts, the Small Arms Survey has found that all too often international assistance efforts are short-term, piecemeal, and do not support the development or implementation of a long-term strategy for the state seeking assistance. To date, very few evaluations of the impact of interventions have been undertaken.

The Arms Trade Treaty (‘ATT’) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013. It entered into force on 24 December 2014. All EU Member States are parties to the ATT. The ATT aims to establish the highest possible common international standards to regulate legal trade in conventional weapons and to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion.