17 June 2010

Day 4: International Tracing Instrument

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

On Thursday, 17 June, delegates to BMS met to consider and adopt an annex to the BMS4 outcome document on the “Implementation of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons,” otherwise known as the International Tracing Instrument (ITI).

William Kullman of the United States prepared a discussion paper on this subject (WP.4) in advance of BMS4. On Thursday morning, delegations delivered interventions in response to his paper and on the ITI in general, during which most representatives spoke about the importance of the full implementation of the ITI. Though the Instrument is not legally-binding, it is considered by most states to be an important mechanism for implementing the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) and curbing the illicit trade in small arms.

Several delegations suggested new or strengthened mechanisms to promote the Instrument’s implementation. The Belgian delegation suggested that states should increase sharing of information on traced illicit arms, arguing that this information provides a way to identify potential traffickers and routes and can help those making decisions on arms transfer licences reduce the risk of diversion. The Belgian delegation also noted that if the arms trade treaty to be negotiated in the coming years contains criterion on the risk of diversion, it would, combined with improved exchange of information on tracked illicit small arms, would be a major step forward for combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW).

In this regard, Switzerland’s ambassador suggested the establishment of national focal points to improve the exchange of information on traced illicit weapons and called for the enhancement of INTERPOL’s electronic tracing tools. The Swiss delegation also highlighted the module on tracing of SALW in the International Small Arms Control Standards project, which is intended to standardize tracing activities and facilitate collaboration between states.

Many delegations urged the improvement of tracing mechanisms, the establishment of multilateral platforms to share tracing requests and information, and increased assistance to states for marking and tracing tools, equipment, and procedures. Other delegations pointed out existing lacunae in the legal norms and laws preventing trafficking in SALW; for example, Morocco’s delegation suggested the consolidation of efforts to curb the illegal trade in SALW through the formulation of an instrument on illicit brokering. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged states to mark and trace their weapons collected after armed conflict, which is not currently a required practice. The ICRC also recommended that government experts directly involved in implementing the ITI meet on a regular basis to share their experiences and consider the Instrument’s implementation.

After these inventions, Mr. Kullman moderated a paragraph-by-paragraph review of the draft annex on the ITI, which begins on page 10 of the consolidated draft outcome document. Though the review continued until after the 6:00 PM official close of business, it did not result in any major substantive changes to the text. The annex essentially notes what states said in the context of BMS4 or in their national reports related to implementation of the ITI and outlines “understandings” reached by states at the meeting, which include, among other things:

  • that establishing the legal framework is not enough without the technical and human capacity to implement the International Instrument, and therefore, states in a position to do so were called upon to render, upon request, technical, financial, and other assistance in building national capacity in the areas of marking, record-keeping, and tracing, and in the development of national legislation, regulations, or administrative procedures;

  • that states were encouraged to designate national points of contact to exchange information and to enhance interaction between these points of contact at the bilateral, regional, and international levels;

  • that states were encouraged to use the proposed UN template for reporting on their implementation of the ITI;

  • that states were encouraged to support the role of the UN in promoting the ITI and the role of INTERPOL in implementing the ITI;

  • that the PoA-ISS can be a useful tool for the implementation and reporting procedures for the ITI; and

  • that states were encouraged to strengthen efforts by regional organizations to support the ITI.

The annex was adopted at the end of the meeting and the full and final text will be available in the new version of the consolidated outcome document, which will be released later Thursday evening.

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