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Campaigners and States determined to see ATT by end of 2012, as conference fails to reach agreement – Week Four update

by Oxfam | August 1, 2012

Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control, Anna MacDonald, on the final week of ATT negotiations:

The final week of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty ended without agreement. A draft full treaty text was presented for the first time early in week four, leading to intense negotiations as supporter states and campaigners pushed to strengthen weaknesses and close potential loopholes.

It was a rollercoaster week which went from initial concern, to optimism as the text improved following concerted lobbying. On Thursday night expectation of agreement of the treaty was very high, as it seemed all states were ready to compromise and agree to the draft on the table.

Friday, however, began with a statement from the US delegation requesting "more time to consider the text on the table" which signalled White House opposition and thus that consensus was not at hand. High level last-minute lobbying from states and UN agencies were unable to turn the US around, and after lunch the conference President announced that the draft text would be annexed to the conference report, rather than adopted.

Campaigners worked with supporter states to quickly develop a statement expressing determination to achieve an ATT, and worked the room to get a large number of states to sign on. That afternoon, the statement was read out by Mexico on behalf of 90 states including Canada, and gave a strong signal that supporters will not allow the treaty process to fail:

“We are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible. One that will bring about a safer world for the sake of all humanity,” the statement said. A number of individual states then echoed this sentiment, and many acknowledged the important role of NGOs during the month, among them Morocco (very significant from an Arab state) and the UK.

The US attitude was especially frustrating considering that many of the compromises in the draft text were made to accommodate US positions. However, the prevailing sense from the negotiations is one of determination from supporter states to take the treaty to the UN General Assembly in October instead, and we remain optimistic that it will be adopted there.

Highlights of the fourth week included:

A media stunt with the creation of a mock graveyard in front of the UN (recreating our original image from the launch of the campaign) and achieving widespread international media coverage. Interviews included a prime slot on the Today program, a press release with a focus on Africa and an appeal to UK and France not to cave in to US pressure, postcards urging delegates to reach agreement, as well as a penultimate day campaign action to close the loopholes, using Olympic imagery: “Go for Gold, not Loopholes." Our analysis of the “Top 5 Escape Clauses" in the draft text was effective in lobbying, with 3 out of 5 loopholes closed in the final draft.

Campaigners really pulled out all the stops, working 18 hour days, as negotiations ran from early morning until 2 a.m. for 8 consecutive days. The ATT legal and Policy teams provided rapid text analysis to states, which received widespread positive feedback, as did our two press conferences which were well attended by international media and got great coverage.

It has been an incredible month of campaigning, and the achievement of a draft Arms Trade Treaty which the vast majority of states agree to remains a significant achievement. There is much in the text which we can be really proud of, including strong criteria around international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as on sustainable development, anti-corruption measures and gender-based violence.

We finish the month exhausted and disappointed at the outcome, but determined to continue the battle, and have positive hopes of seeing the Treaty achieved by the end of 2012.

With thanks for all the support and for the exceptional team effort,