04 September 2012

Strengthening the outcome documents through specifics

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

Last week, delegates began discussions on the outcome document for the Implementation Plan for the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) for the next review cycle from 2012 through 2018. While there have been proposals to include language that praises the progress made in implementing the ITI since its adoption in 2005, many delegates and NGOs have noted that language which does not add anything new to the discussion on how to more effectively and comprehensively implement the instrument is not sufficient.

In addition, during the “first reading” of the revised draft of the ITI Plan, the delegations of New Zealand and Switzerland cautioned against weakening existing ITI commitments through additional caveats and qualifiers. They were responding specifically to the proposal by the delegations of Cuba and Iran to include a reference to the different situations, capacities, and priorities of states as they relate to implementing ITI obligations. Such qualifiers seriously weaken the text and limit its ability to provide specific priorities that should be tackled by states over the next 6-year review cycle prior to the 2018 Review Conference (RevCon).

In order successfully identify gaps in implementation for the ITI, it is essential to use the outcome document as a means to highlight specific themes, priorities, and challenges that should be addressed by states. Both the US and the European Union offered concrete proposals that would contribute to the effective implementation of the ITI. The delegation of the US, with the support of Switzerland, suggested the inclusion of a deadline for identifying national points of contact prior to the 2018 RevCon. Likewise, the EU delegation called for concrete references to the implementation challenges identified during the 2011 Meeting of Governmental Experts (MGE), given that they are well-detailed in the MGE Chair’s technical summary on marking, tracing, and record keeping. These are good examples of elements of a text that is forward-looking, concrete, and specific such that it directly contributes to more effective implementation measures over a well-defined time period.

As has been previously noted in this Monitor, a reiteration of the existing UNPoA and ITI documents is inadequate. The ITI, although a solid consensus document that offers specific definitions of relevant terms (such as ‘tracing,’ ‘small arms,’ and ‘illicit’), is still insufficiently implemented in all regions. There are many gaps remaining to be addressed in order to effectively fulfill all ITI obligations. The 2011 MGE provided states the opportunity to explore these specific gaps and discuss with government experts, those who are directly responsible for ITI implementation, on ways to identify and address them. For example, the technical summary from the Chair, Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand, notes that challenges in marking include the development of 'weapons families' with similar design features that are vulnerable to misidentification as well as a trend towards regular adaptations of major components of weapons. Likewise, challenges related to cooperation in tracing were also discussed, including legal and bureaucratic impediments to timely provision of data and improving lines of communication between relevant national authorities. The MGE also explored gaps in recordkeeping such as the need to safeguard against unauthorized access to sensitive information.

These ‘specifics’ represent just a sample of the detailed challenges that should be effectively referred to in the ITI Implementation Plan. It would be a serious failure if at least some of these specific challenges were not taken up in this RevCon and subsequently referenced in the outcome document. The various components of the review cycle, including Preparatory Committees and MGEs, must be integrally connected so that they can carefully and incrementally build upon the specific findings and discussions of the preceding debate, in whichever form that takes. Only then will the outcome documents concretely contribute to the overall implementation of these instruments and, ultimately, the eradication of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and the dire consequences associated with armed violence. 

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