ATT Academy in Southern Africa takes place in Namibia

By Raluca Muresan, Control Arms

A version of this blog originally appeared on the Control Arms website.

Earlier this month, Control Arms hosted its latest Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Academy—a series of regional training events that convene government and civil society representatives to discuss the implementation of the ATT and challenges of particular relevance to the region at hand. Across the ATT Academy events, training sessions focus first and foremost on assisting states as they work to fulfill the ATT’s fundamental humanitarian promise of reducing human suffering caused by the irresponsible or illicit trade in weapons, which served as the primary motivation for adopting the Arms Trade Treaty six years ago.

Thirty-five government and civil society representatives from nine countries and eight ATT experts met from December 9-12, 2019 to attend the first in-person session of the ATT Academy in Southern Africa. Hosted by Control Arms, organized in partnership with the Ministry of Defence of Namibia, and with funding support from the ATT Voluntary Trust Fund, the ATT Academy provided an in-depth and tailored learning opportunity to carefully selected participants from Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia to support their work relating to the implementation of the ATT.

Government and civil society representatives, as well as invited experts, at the conclusion of the four-day ATT Academy in Southern Africa. Credit: Control Arms|Raluca Muresan, 2019.

Much of the ATT Academy in Southern Africa, like previous Academy events, focused on the astronomical civilian cost of the unregulated or insufficiently regulated trade in weapons.

Rear-Admiral Peter H. Vilho, Executive Director of the Namibian Ministry of Defence, provided opening remarks to kick off the Academy. In those remarks, he reminded participants that in 2016, over half a million people worldwide lost their lives violently, either because of direct conflict or in homicides, and 10.3 million people were newly displaced by conflict.  “For too long,” R.Adm. Vilho declared, “millions of civilians around the world pay the price for the lack of legally binding rules governing arms transfers, especially women and children.” To meet these challenges, R.Adm Vilho emphasized the importance of firm commitments to multilateral instruments, including the ATT, and the need “to work in tandem with other international and regional instruments, including the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) and its International Tracing Instrument (ITI), the Firearms Protocol, and the SADC [Southern African Development Community] Protocol.” R.Adm. Vilho also noted the benefits of projects, such as the ATT Academy in Southern Africa, that offer an opportunity to discuss ATT implementation, identify good practices, and exchange information that can assist states in the SADC region in addressing these challenges.

The ATT Academy in Southern Africa focused on the scope and general implementation of the ATT and highlighted the importance of Articles 8 and 9, which address the responsibilities of importing, transit, and transshipment states to prevent illicit arms transfers and diversion. The training devoted significant time to discussion of Article 15, which addresses international cooperation and assistance in support of ATT universalization and implementation. The Academy also stressed the importance of the complementarity between international and regional instruments that address security, human rights, and development challenges, including the Sustainable Development Agenda, all with an eye to fulfilling the ATT’s humanitarian promise of reducing human suffering around the world.

Participants also explored ways in which the ATT can address challenges of particular relevance in Southern Africa, such as wildlife poaching and gender-based violence (GBV). Expert speakers, discussion groups, and hypothetical exercises encouraged participants to ask questions and relate ATT obligations to their national context.

Participants in the ATT Academy in Southern Africa discuss issues posed in one of the session’s practical exercises on the scope of the Arms Trade Treaty. Credit: Control Arms|Raluca Muresan, 2019.

The participants will meet again in June 2020 for a second training to explore ATT implementation, with a focus on methods to develop national control lists for and facilitate transparent reporting on arms transfers. This meeting will also provide an opportunity to identify concrete action that ATT States Parties can take to address wildlife poaching and GBV in Southern Africa. Between the two meetings, Control Arms will also prepare webinars for the participants on similar topics, including gender-based violence, and facilitate regular communication among participants.

The ATT Academy is a joint project organized by the Namibian Ministry of Defence and Control Arms, with funding from the Voluntary Trust Fund and support from the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.  

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