10 September 2012

Rest stop

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

We are approaching the end of what has been a long and challenging summer for many delegations and NGOs. There is one last hurdle to be overcome—approval of an outcome document that can help define for states and their public a set of obligations to drive the next six years of UNPoA activity.  

Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW) has been pleased by the number of states offering, and even increasing, their capacity support for UNPoA related activities. We have appreciated the many resources on display in side events that can help establish a sound basis for more sound policy. We have greatly respected the quality of leadership evidenced by the Review Conference (RevCon) President, Ambassador Ogwu of Nigeria, and the facilitators. We have admired the patience and diligence of diplomats and NGOs as we all tap into the last vestiges of energy to ensure that we can move forward UNPoA implementation with the right combination of clear policy objectives, relevant technology, and adequate levels of financing.

Ambassador Ogwu spoke on Thursday morning about finally approaching the finish line, but she also cautioned, regarding the pursuit of an outcome document, that (in essence) the excellent might well be the enemy of the good. We need a solid document from which we can move forward, but it is clear that a perfect one is not possible nor is it absolutely necessary at this stage. There are political issues at stake in this document, but no binding legal obligations to consider. There are things still to fix and those items will surely be discussed through at least tomorrow morning. It is an inevitability that a document that the President seeks to have endorsed by consensus will fall somewhat short of expectations for many delegation and NGOs.

On this final day, and as noted by the delegation of Sierra Leone, it is important to remind ourselves that an outcome document is a corollary to—not a substitute for—practical, robust commitments to full UNPoA implementation. We certainly need an outcome document, and it is much better to have a comprehensive framework than a limited one. That said, the most important outcome is related to the creation of enduring, collaborative working relationships of states, multi-lateral organizations, and civil society devoted to effectively implementing all UNPoA provisions. At the next RevCon, we will surely reference this outcome document, but we will be energized by all of the hopeful projects undertaken over the previous six years to bring the problems of illicit small arms under effective national and international control.

One other note: As most of the readers know, the team that has produced this Monitor has spent many weeks in both ATT and UNPoA processes trying to bring capable analysis to bear on problems that delegations have faced as they have sought the most effective ways to eliminate diverted weapons transfers and stem the flow of illicit small arms. We commend this work highly as a major contribution to a reliable, transparent and effective human security framework.

In this context, we wish to acknowledge the departure from the UN of Mr. Hossam Aly who both enhanced and helped solidify the high reputation of Egyptian diplomats serving the UN disarmament community. The faces that represent states and the Secretariat on disarmament affairs change constantly, but the pattern of commitments left behind continue to inspire our common work.

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