Circulation of ATT papers and Saferworld’s response

The formal process towards the sixth Conference of States Parties (CSP6) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is moving forward, however, as expected, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact.

The second week of preparatory meetings, scheduled for April, was cancelled. As per 9 June, it is still unclear whether CSP6 – currently set for 17–21 August – will take place, and if so, how it will be organised. 

Efforts are however being made to move work forward through papers circulated for comment in April 2020 by two of the three ATT Working Groups (the Groups on Effective Treaty Implementation (WGETI) and on Transparency and Reporting (WGTR)), by the Management Committee, and by the President (focused on his chosen CSP theme of transparency and exchange of information and its role in the prevention of diversion). These papers can be found here.

Saferworld has submitted written responses via the ATT Secretariat to the documents produced by the Presidentthe WGETI, and the WGTR.

The circulated papers – in particular the updated reporting templates from the WGTR – are welcome. 

However, while we recognise that COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges to collaborative international processes, we are concerned that overall the papers reflect a lack of ambition and urgency that points towards a potentially serious loss of momentum in progress towards better ATT implementation and ATT universalisation. This is most obvious in the case of the sub-Working Group on Article 11 (diversion), whose contribution to the WGETI paper consisted solely of a revised workplan whose only change was to set back the previous schedule by six months to a year. 

More generally, we are also concerned with a developing drift away from transparency (information being readily available in the public domain), which a careful read of these latest documents suggests could be accelerating, despite this being one of the purposes set out in the first Article of the ATT text.

This is reflected in: the increasing number of national reports that are being shared only among States Parties; two of the three mechanisms for addressing the diversion of arms exports being restricted to States Parties; and the President’s paper including six recommendations on information exchange (among states) but none on transparency. In addition, no provision has been made for responses to the papers to be made public or even shared with the States Parties.

Saferworld urges States Parties to recommit to the principle in Article 1 that a purpose of the Treaty is “Promoting cooperation [and] transparency … in the international trade in conventional arms” and to do more to ensure that the public has full and proper access to all relevant information.