Saturday, January 20, 2018

Focus on T&T for Arms Treaty hq

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Mark Fraser

 TRINIDAD and Tobago seems set to become host country for the Secretariat of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)—thanks to commendable lobbying efforts by the Government in Port of Spain and partner states of the Caribbean Community.

At this time of an alarming, depressing epidemic of gun-related murders, this development may be of little interest to traumatised  citizens—particularly those in the capital city and environs.

Nevertheless, the human tragedies resulting from gang-related and other manifestations of gun killings should not rob this country—a founding member of Caricom and headquarters of the Caribbean Court of Justice—for the honour to flow when the final decision is recorded for the precise physical location of the UN Arms Trade Treaty Secretariat.

But there remains much lobbying work to be done. Impressive edifices of international institutions and agencies have been springing up in the capitals and urban areas of Caricom states following the dawn of political independence 52 years ago. 

And it should be recalled that Jamaica—which doomsday elements are often quick to associate with frightening rates of murder and criminal violence—had valiantly succeeded  to become host country, some two decades ago, as operational  base of the UN Law of the Sea Secretariat. 

The UN Arms Trade Treaty is officially endorsed as a multilateral legally-binding accord that “establishes common standards for the international trade of conventional weapons and seeks to reduce the illicit arms trade.

The product of some two decades of advocacy and diplomacy, the ATT was approved for operations on April 2, 2013 by the UN General Assembly with a vote of 153 in favour, three against and with 22 abstentions. 

The treaty requires all participating states/parties to adopt “basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders; establishes common international standards that must be met before arms exports are authorised; and also requires annual reporting of imports and exports of arms to the ATT’s secretariat.

The quest to host the ATT secretariat has been vigorous with T&T involved in intensive lobbying efforts in co-operation with Caricom and the wider community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

At last January’s  CELAC Summit in Cuba, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was engaged in  intensive lobbying efforts, reminding that they had previously co-operated to obtain approval of the ATT at the level of the UN General Assembly. 

Against that background, Caricom foreign ministers chose the occasion of last week’s Eight United Kingdom/Caribbean Forum, that took place in London,  to seek further endorsement of T&T’s quest to host the ATT secretariat.

The nine-page communiqué  which disclosed discussion of the recent launch of the “Caribbean and UK Diplomatic Academies”  simply stated that “the Caribbean expressed their support  for the interest of Trinidad and Tobago to host the Secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty”. It was silent on the position adopted by the UK government, host of the two-day summit. 

Also of significance was the  communique’s silence on Caricom’s latest position in relation to its earlier condemnatory statements on the Dominican Republic’s original controversial naturalisation law that had discriminated against immigrants born in that country and primarily of Haitian descent.

However, it has since been indicated that following  changes in controversial provisions outlined in the original legislation and the assent given by the DR’s president to the new naturalisation law, Caricom foreign ministers opted to move away from an original threat to cease doing business as usual with that Spanish-speaking regional state within the framework of the UK/Caribbean Forum. An official statement is expected from Caricom.