PSAAG, represented by our Arms Control Manager Laura Spano, was fortunate to participate in UNRCPD’s first workshop in the Pacific on the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The workshop was jointly organised and gracefully hosted by the Government of Samoa. The workshop aimed to enhance the capacity of participating states to meet ATT obligations. Establishing and maintaining a national control system that considered the transit/transshipment nature of Pacific Islands featured predominately during the workshop. Pacific states were also able to extend dialogue to discuss regional approaches to practical implementation of the ATT.
10 Pacific island states, along with financial contributors Australia and New Zealand, met for two and half days to discuss Pacific arms control mechanisms. Representatives from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security, Justice, Attorney-General Office, and Customs and Officers exchanged their views, experiences and lessons learnt when building comprehensive arms control systems in their respective states. Representatives of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, academia and non-governmental organisations also contributed their expertise by sharing their experiences working on the security in the region and beyond.
PSAAG presented on the relevance of Article 9, 10 and 11 on transit/transshipment, brokering and diversion for Pacific states. Of particular importance throughout the workshop, was exploring how the obligations under transit/transshipment relate to existing customs and transit controls. While Pacific states are not major importers or exporters, a number are transit hubs and therefore points within arms transfers where diversion of small arms and light weapons is at risk. While there is no lack of political will in the Pacific Islands, capacity challenges, legislative gaps and difficultly patrolling their vast ocean create obstacles to fully implement the ATT. PSAAG also discussed the valuable role of civil society and how governments can develop further capacity by working with members of their national and regional community.
A number of states indicated they are in the process of national consultations and/or had conducted a national assessment of their compliance with the treaty. For example, Samoa aims to pass their Conventional Arms Bill covering the scope of the ATT later this year. Of particular success has been the Fiji, who has been working with PSAAG, to build national support for the treaty. Fiji, who abstained from voting on the Arms Trade Treaty, presented at the workshop on the value of conducting the Arms Trade Treaty Baseline Survey. Through a series of workshops Fiji has been able to identify gaps in their control systems. For example, Fiji does not have provisions for brokering despite already having comprehensive controls. A gap they hope to close as they work towards updating their Arms and Ammunition Act.
Pacific states expressed their interest in continuing the dialogue within the region. The representatives emphasised that more capacity and awareness will be required to enable Pacific states to ratify/accede to the treaty in the future.