31 August 2012

What happened to the “review”? A midway assessment

by Marcus Wilson, International Action Network on Small Arms
We’re nearing the end of the first week of discussions concerning the Second Review Conference of the UNPoA. And despite civil society being closed out of the room for several meetings, it’s clear that the only “review” taking place is that of an outcome document, drafted months ago, and circulated widely. Where is the mandated review of progress made in the implementation of the PoA
In the lead-up to the Review Conference, there was a great deal of expectation (and some anxiety) of the potential outcomes of the meetings. Civil society, in line with the briefing paper written by Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand, had hoped that States would ‘draw some conclusions (however tentative) about the current state of [PoA] implementation, as well as about the implications of developments in the broader context in which implementation is occurring.’ Similar sentiment was expressed by the delegation of Syria, who reiterated the importance of maintaining the mandate to review implementation.
So far, there has been little of this. Rather, we’re faced with another example of dissecting the English language to the point of weakening previous work and even the text of the very instruments we are here to review. This makes it even less likely that stronger mechanisms can be agreed in the future.

Surely this Review Conference would benefit from the experience of BMS3, BMS4, and last year’s Open-ended Meeting of Governmental Experts (MGE), by using this opportunity to have substantive discussions on the successes and challenges of PoA implementation. As one delegate put it: “This is the only implementation support process we have, so we had better get it right.”

Ambassador McLay called for the Review Conference to consider the outcomes of the MGE, and to incorporate further MGEs as a regular fixture of future PoA meetings. Why are we not spending this time ironing out what has worked, and what hasn’t, in terms of measurable implementation over the past ten years? Thus, enabling us to address these issues over the next ten.

Instead, we have days of deliberations over language, and very little in the way of tangible plans to help move the PoA forward and improve implementation.

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