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2 Mar 2015 - by A4ID

Regulating the real weapons of mass destruction

A4ID assisted Oxfam International and the Control Arms campaign in sourcing lawyers from around the world to establish a Legal Response Network that could support ATT negotiations by providing free, real time legal advice during the conference sessions.

The need for an Arms Trade Treaty

Every state has a right to self-defence, but from this has developed a lucrative international trade in arms. In 2011 alone, the global arms trade was worth $85.3 billion. There is currently no highest common international standard to regulate the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. Yet, the absence of regulation of the arms trade can lead to increased conflict and the consequent curtailing of peaceful economic and social development. The current patchwork of differing standards in countries allows arms brokers to facilitate illicit arms deals across jurisdictions and avoid prosecution.

In order to focus on the progress of the SDGs and support developing countries in attaining them, it has been recognised that a global agreement regarding the arms trade must be reached. As conflict disrupts development and discourages investment, so the regulation of the arms trade can promote peace and foster stability.

The Treaty

Oxfam International report that irresponsible arms transfers fuel armed violence which undermines development and diverts money away from those who need it most, slowing the attainment of the SDGs. In light of this, Oxfam has been campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) since 2003, recognising the impact of the arms trade on global social and economic development and the need for regulation.

The formation of a new and effective ATT has been the subject of negotiations within the UN since 2006. Negotiations culminated in a 25 day UN conference in July 2012, bringing together governments from every country in the world in an effort to set out and agree upon a global arms trade treaty. In its encouragement toward the development of an ATT, Oxfam planned to support developing country states and NGOs in these negotiations in order for them to be able to participate effectively.

The lawyers

A4ID assisted Oxfam International and the Control Arms campaign in sourcing lawyers from around the world to establish a Legal Response Network that could support ATT negotiations by providing free, real time legal advice during the conference sessions.

With expertise in areas including public international law, human rights law and international trade, lawyers were divided into two teams: one researching the various legal issues affecting the Control Arms Campaign prior to the conference; and one providing expert pro bono advice to developing countries, NGOs or lobbyists with specific questions throughout the conference.

This efficient network was able to establish the provision of expert legal support, allowing states and NGOs to participate effectively and work knowledgable towards a global humanitarian treaty.

Impact

Oxfam noted the quality of the legal advice provided, commenting on the continued support of the lawyers involved and their assistance in raising the profile and reputation of Oxfam. The lawyers gave Oxfam the capacity to reach those involved in the treaty negotiations, and enabled Oxfam to form trusting relationships with NGOs, lobbyists and the media, facilitating their effective participation. Alison Mellon of Oxfam acknowledged the pivotal impact of A4ID lawyers, saying:

“The lawyers’ research informed the policy positions and strategy of the coalition going into the negotiations and ultimately allowed Oxfam to play a vital part. The lawyers made a tremendous difference.”

What next?

Whilst the conference ended without an agreement and an ATT has yet to be reached, negotiations are soon to resume and the work of A4ID lawyers will continue to be needed. The dedication and impact of the Legal Response Network was so instrumental it is expected that their legal advice will be further called upon; the expertise of the network will continue to be a significant resource for the work of the Control Arms campaign and the development of an ATT.

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