Adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty

Editorial by Maria Butler, PeaceWomen Director

This month has been another busy one with the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the Open Security Council Debate on conflict-related Sexual Violence. We also saw the G-8 countries endorse a declaration on preventing sexual violence. On April 2nd, States (by majority, not consensus) adopted the first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). It includes a legally binding criterion on preventing gender-based violence (GBV) which makes it part of the mandatory export assessment process. As part of the risk assessment process, States will be required to take into account the risk of the weapons, ammunition, parts, or components being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women and children. This creates a platform for prohibiting the transfer of arms, if there is a risk they will be used to facilitate GBV.

From PeaceWomen’s perspective, the GBV provision is not perfect, but it is certainly much stronger than the extremely weak language in previous drafts. We, as civil society, can and will move forward with implementation. (See our summary of ATT and Gender here) I have hailed the inclusion of this GBV provision as historic. I also know without the enormous amount of work by key colleagues and bridge builders within WILPF and our partner organizations that we would not have this provision to work with going forward. I recall sitting in a café close to the UN with Ray (Director of WILPF disarmament work) and Rebecca (then of IANSA-Women Network) plotting our earlier engagement in the ATT process from a gender perspective. Right then, I committed PeaceWomen to work on this (without any funding) because I believed it was critical to link preventing armed violations against women (VAW) and implementing a women, peace and security agenda.

One step led to the next: a joint policy paper; a side event with the CEDAW Committee; one article to another; a State champion in Iceland. The small meetings and the mountain of emails continued, our campaign “Make it Binding” grew, the advocacy strategy evolved, the politics changed, and at some points we achieved great strides towards our end goal. At others, we hit dead-ends but that did not slow down our momentum, as we journeyed from the prep conferences to the first negotiation conference in July 2012 through the final negotiations last month. Together all these approaches and efforts (as well as other ones I am not aware of) resulted in the final Treaty Text including an important provision on GBV and VAW. I believe that without WILPF’s advocacy and work at the international and national level, the Treaty would have been gender-blind or worse, it would have undermined existing international law.

102 States supported our position to strengthen the GBV provision during the March negotiations. Before I walked over to the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security meeting last week at the Canadian Mission to the UN, I took out the list of WPS Friends (43 member states) and the list of 102 states who supported strengthening GBV in the ATT. Do you think all, or at least most, of the “friends” would have supported the ATT GBV provision? I had thought the numbers would be close. But in fact, only 70% matched up. This provides a challenge and an opportunity for WILPF to close this gap. Who are those so-called friends of 1325 who didn’t provide support? Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, Japan, Jordan, Rep of Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Tanzania, USA, and Zambia. This requires some further analysis and is an issue PeaceWomen will take up in the upcoming weeks.

Photo: Courtesy of PeaceWomen, Maria Butler

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