Posts Tagged ‘IANSA’

Taking Stock of the UN Arms Trade Treaty

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

The Arms Trade Treaty As Gateway Framework For National Small Arms Control And Disarmament

By Jeff Moran | Geneva

(c) Jeff Moran

Image: (c) Jeff Moran

On 20 June Ambassador Roberto Moritán (Argentina), the former President of the 2012 UN ATT Conference and Chairman of the pre-negotiations process, spoke as part of a public briefing on the ATT at the United Nations in Geneva titled “The Arms Trade Treaty: Past, Present, Future.”

Amb. Moritán explained the ATT should not be seen as a static treaty, like others within the traditional arms control and disarmament field.  Instead, he explained that the ATT is best understood as an ongoing process and a framework…dynamic and expandable with amendments and additional protocols perhaps.  Additional protocols were understood to mean distinct treaties negotiated in addition to the ATT.  An example of a disarmament treaty with additional protocols of would be the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Expanding on this theme, Amb. Moritán stated the current “scope,” “parameters,” and “criteria” within the existing treaty “need additional negotiation.”  In particular, he said the scope of the treaty should be expanded over time in light of technological developments, and cited scientific achievements in robotics as one reason for this.  He concluded by stating “the ATT has to lead to negotiations in conventional weapons.  Negotiations of conventional weapons cannot continue to be a taboo in the United, Nations.”

If the ATT is to become a broader framework for ongoing negotiations on conventional arms control and disarmament, it is only a matter of time before the volume of the UN small arms control discussion turns up.  This was hinted at during the follow-on presentation by Sarah Parker of the Small Arms Survey, the UN’s go-to resource for small arms control research and policy development.

Ms. Parker presented a PowerPoint version of a report she published earlier this month called: “The Arms Trade Treaty: A Step Forward in Small Arms Control?”.  She explained in her report that while “the ATT has contributed several missing pieces to the framework of controls governing the international transfer of small arms,” it nonetheless has “provisions that are, in many cases, weaker than existing commitments on small arms transfers agreed more than a decade ago.”  The key takeway: the ATT needs more work with respect to controlling and documenting international small arms transfers at the very least.

But normative developments within the ATT and broader small arms process framework will not likely be limited to controlling and documenting international small arms transfers.  Given the history of the ATT negotiations and the small arms process, restrictions on transfers of small arms to “non-state actors” or “private actors” (diplomatic homonyms that often mean rebel groups, private corporations, or individuals) will probably reappear on the UN agenda through implementation and expansion of the ATT framework.  So might global restrictions in the form of national controls on civilian access or even outright prohibitions on civilian possession of certain types of small arms.

In this direction, a coalition of UN agencies and contracted small arms control advocates have been quietly developing a series International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) since 2008.  Some ISACs were released last year, but the project coordinator reports remaining ones are going to be released this year.  Privately, diplomats and ISACS advocates confirm that these will be “of use” and that many states hope a critical mass of these standards become the basis for future negotiations to amend the ATT.  Amendments to the ATT can be voted on six years after the instrument enters into force, and during meetings of States Parties only every third year thereafter.  Decisions on amendments will not be made by consensus, but through a three-fourths majority vote of States Parties in the room.

Two ISACS are thought to be of particular interest to those seeking to amend the ATT.  The first is ISACS number 03.20, “National Controls Over The International Transfer Of Small Arms And Light Weapons.”  Among other things, 03.20 has a provision that prohibits international transfers to private actors without “end-user certification.”  The second is ISACS number 03.30,“National Controls Over the Access of Civilians to Small Arms and Light Weapons.”  Among other things, 03.30 requires national registration of firearms and owners, prohibitions on civilian  possession of certain weapons Americans can already legally and legitimately possess with additional licensing, and even has language advocating for national home inspections of private gun collections for “safety compliance.”  This second standard was written by Dr. Ed Laurance, who is a former strategic planner for IANSA.  IANSA stands for the International Action Network on Small Arms, which, according to page 3 of its foundation document, is committed to “reducing the availability of weapons to civilians in all societies.”  (More information on draft versions of ISACS 03.30 and 03.20 and other ISACS involving national controls can be found here.)

If the ATT negotiations to date and the 112 signatories to the 2006 Geneva Declaration are any indicator, most if not a three-quarters majority of UN member states would endorse “private actors,” “end-user certification,” and “civilian access” appearing on the UN’s small arms control and disarmament agenda with the ATT.  In fact, Ms. Parker, along with her colleague Markus Wilson, even suggest in their small arms process guide for diplomats that a prohibition on transfers to private or non-state actors and prohibitions on civilian possession would have already become established, if not binding, international norms by now were it not for the singular opposition of the United States during the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which resulted in the politically binding Program of Action (PoA).

Of course, the ATT can and should do much good to help establish badly needed  import/export controls with respect to conventional weapons in States currently lacking them.  The ATT should also and rightly compel appropriate humanitarian criteria into exporting State decision making where such criteria are missing or weak.  But can anybody deny at this point that the ATT is also a giant milestone towards global small arms control and disarmament, toward “reducing the availability of weapons to civilians in all societies?”  The truth is that a legally binding ATT, among other things, can and most likely will be revised and expanded to substantially achieve all that the politically-binding PoA was hoped to achieve but hasn’t, and then some.

At bottom, if the US is already the “gold standard” in terms of export controls and already applies humanitarian criteria in international weapons transfers, why again is it so imperative the US sign the ATT?   Some key diplomats suggest the US signature is necessary to create a symbolic demonstration of communitarian international engagement, and that this would help encourage other key states to do the same.  But if the American payment terms for signing and ratifying the ATT include a balloon payment 6 years from entry into force ultimately requiring a roll-back of American civil arms rights and privileges, perhaps the US ought not sign the treaty after all.  Instead, perhaps the US and other states should focus less on international trade controls and focus more on addressing root causes of armed violence in the developing or fragile states most affected by it, namely, lack of rule of law, weak if not incompetent local governance, and corruption.  Even Sarah Parker has apparently, finally, admitted in the conclusion of her aforementioned report:

“Small arms related problems have less to do with inadequate international transfer controls and more to do with controlling small arms already within their territories.” 

Ms. Parker’s remark is supported by prior research making the stronger point that, in fact, for most countries around the globe, particularly for most developing or fragile states, a combination of deficient domestic regulation of legal firearms possession with theft, and loss or corrupt sale from official inventories is a more serious problem than illicit trafficking across borders.[*]  Though the timing of Ms. Parker’s apparent admission (after the conclusion of the ATT negotiations) may raise certain ethical questions to some, her acknowledgement is nonetheless welcomed by this author in the spirit of it being better late than never.


[*] This author first called attention to the apparent overselling of the ATT’s benefits in this regard in 2012. See at notes 17, 18, and 19, which address research invalidating the overhyped claim by many ATT proponents, including the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, that there was ever and still is a large problem of international trafficking of small arms.  Real scholarship shows, contrary to ATT advocacy campaigning message, that the problem of international trafficking of small arms is actually quite small, and isolated to specific troubled states or sub-regions.  Key source:  Owen Greene and Nicholas Marsh, eds. Small Arms, Crime and Conflict: Global Governance and the Threat of Armed Violence. Routledge: 2012. P. 90-91.

About The Author

Jeff Moran lives in Geneva, Switzerland and is a consultant specializing in the ethical and responsible development  of the international defense, security, and shooting sports industries at TSM Worldwide LLC.  Previously Mr. Moran was a strategic marketing leader for a multi-billion dollar business unit of a public defense & aerospace company and an American military diplomat.  He is currently studying weapons law within the Executive LL.M. Program of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.  Mr. Moran has an Executive Master in International Negotiations and Policymaking from the Graduate Institute of Geneva, an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and a BSFS from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

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IAPCAR comment on UN ATT approval

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

The International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR) expressed concern about the passage of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (UN ATT) after its approval on April 2, 2013 in the UN General Assembly. This is not the path that the ATT should have taken. The Treaty had not been able to reach consensus, where all parties agreed, and it was hurried to the General Assembly. There were 154 votes in favor, 3 against and 23 abstentions.

Philip Watson, IAPCAR’s executive director, stated, “An ATT without any provision protecting civilian use of firearms for the purpose of self-defense is unacceptable. While the preamble makes vague reference to civilian arms, there is nothing acknowledging the right in the operative language of the treaty.”

IAPCAR co-founder Julianne Versnel addressed the global body at the ATT conference on March 27 along with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and defended the use of firearms in self-defense. “Almost half of the handguns in the US are owned by women. They are used daily for self-defense. I fully endorse, as should every person in this room, the idea that women must have the means to defend themselves. Nothing that is in an Arms Trade Treaty should affect a woman’s right to defend herself,” she told the delegates.

Pro-civilian rights supporters, collectors, industry and other participated in the process; however, were given less than half the time allotted to the self-titled ‘arms control’ groups in testimony to the global body.

The ATT will be open for signature on June 3 and will enter into force 90 days after the 50th signatory ratifies it.

The International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights ( is the only worldwide political action group focusing on the human right to keep and bear arms. Founded in 2010, IAPCAR has grown to 24 major gun-rights organizations and conducts operations designed to inform the public and promote the right of self-defense and gun-ownership.

Proposed arms treaty shows UN is its own worst enemy

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Original Article Via:  Dave Workman, Seattle Gun Rights Examiner

The final draft of the proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is out, and it contains language that may be incendiary to gun rights activists in the United States, with references to maintaining “national control systems” for small arms and ammunition.

From the proposed treaty on Page 4: “Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition/munitions fired, launched or delivered by the conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1), and shall apply the provisions of Article 6 and Article 7 prior to authorizing the export of such ammunition/munitions.”

Bellevue’s Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, has been vocally critical of the ATT process and is concerned about “vagueness” in the current language. SAF’s Julianne Versnel was at the UN last week to testify about unintended consequences of international gun control measures.

From the proposed treaty on Page 5: “Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control system, including a national control list, in order to implement the provisions of this Treaty.” Versnel suggested this may be one of the “core problems” of the proposed treaty, but it might take a determination from someone skilled in diplomatic speech to figure it out.

On Page 9 of the document, there is an entire section on record keeping that just might be enough to cause many people on Capitol Hill to follow the lead shown by Republican Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, discussed by this column that might prevent the U.S. from signing on.

Record keeping:

1. Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations, of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports of the conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1).

2. Each State Party is encouraged to maintain records of conventional arms covered under Article 2 (1) that are transferred to its territory as the final destination or that are authorized to transit or trans-ship territory under its jurisdiction.

3. Each State Party is encouraged to include in those records: the quantity, value, model/type, authorized international transfers of conventional arms covered under Article
2 (1), conventional arms actually transferred, details of exporting State(s), importing State(s), transit and trans-shipment State(s), and end users, as appropriate.

4. Records shall be kept for a minimum of ten years.

But does all of this treaty language really mean what a lot of people will think it means: The UN dictating some sort of national gun registry, at least on imported firearms? Because of the way this document is written, even if some UN spokesperson says “No,” there will be a legion of gun rights advocates who say “Yes,” and they will have compelling, if not convincing arguments.

The draft documents do include some caveats in the Preamble, including:

Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms
exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system,

Emphasizing that nothing in this Treaty prevents States from maintaining and adopting additional effective measures to further the object and purpose of this Treaty,

Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional
arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law…

But the Preamble is just that. It’s apparently not part of any binding language.

The authors of this document will be largely to blame for any misunderstanding, and they have opened themselves up to criticism that the language seems deliberately foggy and far too steeped in diplomatic semantics. That translates to being something less than “plain English.” Since the Obama administration has indicated a willingness to sign onto such a treaty, the Senate just might reject it out of hand, but before that happens, somebody will have to translate it for them.

U.N. global gun control effort begins anew

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Via Dave Workman, Seattle Gun Rights Examiner

New talks about an old subject – international gun control – begin today at the United Nations in New York, and sure to be involved at some point is the Bellevue-based International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR), founded with the cornerstone involvement of gun rights advocates Alan Gottlieb and Julianne Versnel.

IAPCAR Executive Director Phil Watson keeps an office at Gottlieb’s Liberty Park complex. Attorney Mark Barnes is IAPCAR’s managing director with an office in Washington, D.C.

In addition, the National Rifle Association is keenly interested in these talks. Indeed, U.S. gun rights organizations have every reason for alarm, in the wake of a statement published Friday by the Washington Post from Amnesty International’s Michelle A. Ringuette.

“The NRA claim that there is such a thing as ‘civilian weapons’ and that these can and need to be treated differently from military weapons under the Arms Trade Treaty is — to put it politely — the gun lobby’s creativity on full display,” Ringuette insisted, according to the newspaper. “There is no such distinction. To try to create one would create a loophole that would render the treaty inoperative, as anyone could claim that he or she was in the business of trading ‘civilian weapons.’ ”

This suggests that global gun banners equate rifles and shotguns with tanks and surface-to-air missiles. For example, during last Thursday’s Senate Judiciary debate on her gun ban legislation, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) defended her efforts to ban “just a few guns” and leave others alone by arguing, “Is this not enough for the people of the United States? Do they need a bazooka?”

Raising further alarms is the fact that within hours of confirming his re-election in November. President Barack Obama had joined a handful of other nations to rekindle the U.N.’s long-running effort to adopt an international gun control treaty. Gottlieb, who heads the Second Amendment Foundation, raised alarms about this last Nov. 7.

Amnesty International is part of an international gun control group called IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms). That group also includes the Brady Campaign for the Prevention of Gun Violence, and the Law Center for Smart Gun Laws (LCSGL).

It could be that the deck has been carefully stacked by the U.N. According to Fox News, last week, IANSA co-hosted – with the UN – a “series of meetings” with representatives from 48 African nations to push global gun control. The session was held in Addis Ababa, Ethopia.

Gottlieb was in Europe recently attending a meeting of the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting, and he takes the threat of global gun control seriously. That the U.N. is hosting these talks on American soil, in a building that has a statute out front of a Colt Python with its barrel twisted into a knot is a not-so-subtle insult to the Second Amendment and American firearms owners.

Gun rights leaders are warning American gun owners that this is not the time to become complacent, or to be entirely focused on state-level gun control measures, or bills passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s effort to renew and make permanent a ban on so-called “assault rifles” and ammunition magazines.

That all of this is occurring at the same time – barely two months into Obama’s second term – does not seem coincidental to some activists, who are now saying “We warned you.”