Implemented by the Pacific Small Arms Action Group, Control Arms and Nonviolence International Southeast Asia, the aim of this project was to provide a tailored learning opportunity for officials from developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance their existing knowledge of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and increase participation in Treaty-related meetings. It grew out of an identified need and request for more in-depth training opportunities on the ATT to deepen existing knowledge and engage other individuals that are stakeholders in Treaty implementation. It was also intended to illustrate the relationship between development and armed conflict and the potential of the ATT to positively impact developing countries by reducing illicit arms flows.
The primary activity in this project was a multi-day in-depth training held in Siem Reap, Cambodia from 3-6 May 2016. The 14 participants came from the following eight countries: Cambodia, Fiji, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Thailand. Collectively the individuals present came from ministries of Defense, International Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs as well as armed forces, customs, transnational crime departments and Police. Most had not participated in ATT-related meetings before and had little practical knowledge about the Treaty, despite now having a role to play in its future implementation.
The workshop generated lively discussions amongst the participants, including exploring the roles and responsibilities of various government departments, questions of legal competence, and exploring the relationship of the ATT to other relevant agreements like the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and the UN Convention Against Organised Crime. There was a strong emphasis on the obligations of import and transit states under the ATT, reflecting the reality of the countries participating. An exercise using case studies completed the workshop and proved to be a very effective way for participants to apply what they had learned in earlier sessions about how to assess transfers. Finally, the workshop included a session to consider the relationship between socio-economic development and the ATT, which was a theme that emerged at other points over the four days.
The workshop allowed participants to discuss candidly and in detail some of their key concerns pertaining to the ATT. These included why these states should accede to the Treaty if they are already in de facto compliance with it through existing policies, as well as where to look for credible information when conducting risk assessments and why small countries should join if not all major exporters have. There was also discussion about the potential role the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) can play in enforcing the ATT.
The participants benefitted from the presence of a Jamaican diplomat who has been closely involved in the ATT process. She shared examples of how the small island states in her region have worked closely together in their approach to ATT implementation as a model for how those in Asia and especially the Pacific can interact together.
The participants have expressed their support to contribute more to their countries’ participation in ATT-related meetings in the region and in the international discussions on the ATT after learning more about the nuances of the ATT and the benefits of being a party to the Treaty. This includes the upcoming second Conference of States Parties.
An outcome document was agreed by all participants that promotes greater cooperation, collaboration and learning from each other’s’ experiences and continue the engagement with civil society organizations