Final Preparations for an Arms Trade Treaty

Not everbody is as enthusiastic about the ATT. Image: Control Arms/flickr

While the ISN is examining the relationship between economics and war this week, UN delegations in New York are gathering for the last preparatory meeting on a treaty to regulate the global arms trade. After years of advocacy, preparation and dialogue, representatives from all UN member-states will meet in July for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). While expectations surrounding the treaty are very high in some quarters  (as “one of the most important treaties the world has ever seen”, according to Kate Allen of Amnesty International UK), many remain skeptical.

What is the treaty about? The aim of the ATT is to regulate the import and export of conventional weapons (and related products and services) on a global scale. While for some states the goal is merely to curb illicit trade in arms (i.e., mainly smuggling), others are aiming higher.  Advocates of a strong and comprehensive ATT want to prevent arms exports to states which don’t comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law.

In response to such high standards, some states accuse the West of wanting to stop the export of weapons to certain states altogether, which would deny them the right to self-defense, or so critics argue.


Why Libya Should Not Join the ICC…Yet

Seal of the Libya's National Transitional Council. Image: Wikimedia Commons

It comes as no surprise that human rights NGOs and those aligned with the International Criminal Court are advocating that Arab Spring states join the ICC. After all, justice and human rights have been central to the uprisings that sprang up last year. One Arab Spring state, Tunisia, already acceded to the Court last June.

In this context,  as part of its Universal Ratification Campaign, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) recently initiated a targeted effort to get Libya to join the ICC. The CICC, an impressive array of some 2,500 civil society organizations which broadly support the aims of the ICC, released a statement arguing that:


Views From Greece: Europe’s Paradigm Shift

Photo: opendemocracy/flickr

In a recent article, former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio pointed out that Europe, in deciding to move toward a common currency back in the late 1980s, made its “greatest miscalculation [in that it accepted] the assumption of stability while on the verge of a systemic transformation impregnated with volatility.”

Palacio’s words may sound obvious today with the help of hindsight, especially since the European Union is reeling from the impact of the sovereign debt crisis and the persistent confusion over what to do to correct the mess. And correctly Palacio suggests that what Europe needs is a new political paradigm that will allow it to rise to the requirements of a fast changing world order.

This is the greatest challenge that the nominally “united” Europe has come across since its inception. In the recent past, European leaders appeared to assume that enlargement by itself would somehow automatically trigger processes for the “deepening” of European political integration. But, just like in the case of adopting the euro, Europeans again made the incorrect assumptions of a universe operating according to wishful thinking and not according to the laws of Nature.

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Protecting Chinese Citizens Abroad: What Next?

More and more Chinese travel and work abroad. Photo: ILRI/flickr

The dramatic rise in overseas travel and expatriate work by Chinese was punctuated by the recent kidnappings of Chinese workers in Sudan and Egypt. “Overseas Chinese protection” (haiwai gongmin baohu) has been a critical priority since deadly attacks killed 14 Chinese workers in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2004. Between 2006 and 2010, 6,000 Chinese citizens were evacuated to China from upheavals in the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Lebanon, Tonga, Chad, Thailand, Haiti and Kyrgyzstan.

But a new urgency has arisen in the past year: in 2011, China evacuated 48,000 citizens from Egypt, Libya, and Japan; 13 Chinese merchant sailors were murdered on the Mekong River in northern Thailand in October 2011; and in late January 2012, some 50 Chinese workers were kidnapped in two incidents by Sudanese rebels in South Kordofan Province and by Bedouin tribesmen in the north of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

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Multinationals: Power and Responsibility

With power comes responsibility. Photo: RaghuP/flickr

Operating outside the legal jurisdiction of their home state, some multinationals violate human rights or damage the environment in ways that are illegal in their own countries: selling elsewhere what can’t be sold at home.

Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta’s code of conduct commits it to acting in accordance with “the highest standards of ethics and integrity.” Yet it also sells the highly toxic herbicide Paraquat – forbidden in Switzerland for more than two decades – to developing countries. The consequences are grave: Plantation workers are suffering from skin diseases, poisoning or blindness, and are at greater risk of developing skin cancer or Parkinson’s disease.

Sadly, Syngenta is just one of many examples. The progression of globalization has led to an immense expansion of multinational corporations around the world. As our alternative map of South America highlighted, corporations these days are often bigger economic entities than states themselves. Multi- and trans-national corporations are on the winning side of globalization – but doesn’t power also bring responsibilities along with it? What about the environment and rights of unskilled workers in developing countries?

Business ethicists have tried to address these issues with the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR stresses corporate self-regulation and is a voluntary commitment on the part of companies to contribute to sustainable economic, environmental and social development. Such codes of conduct have added to an increased awareness about the responsibilities of firms in doing business – and helped broaden consumer understanding about the implications of their purchase choice.