In collaboration with the Women for Peace and Democracy in Nepal (WPDN) and the Government of Nepal, the United Nation Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) conducted a national workshop “To Promote the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and Support Nepal’s Accession to the Treaty” in Nagarkot, Nepal on 24 and 25 November 2021.
Thirty-two representatives from the Nepalese Federal Parliament, key ministries such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, Nepal’s security and defence forces, UN agencies, and civil society, including Amnesty International, Media Advocation Group (MAG), Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL) and the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 Action Group, gathered for an open discussion on the relevance of the ATT, the Treaty’s provisions, and the benefits for Nepal if it were to accede. They were joined by two international experts from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms Light Weapons (PFSALW).
In her opening remarks, H.E Ms. Sewa Lamsal, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal noted that “Nepal considers the ATT an important instrument for international and regional peace, security, and stability as it is the first legally binding treaty that regulates the international trade of conventional weapons.” She added that “[…] the illicit trade, proliferation and trafficking of conventional arms have serious implications on human rights and domestic violence”. Ms. Lamsal also highlighted the need for the international community to reallocate financial resources from excessive military expenditures toward much needed investments in development.
Participants then heard from the directors of UNRCPD and WPDN, who outlined the workshop’s objectives and their relevance to Nepal’s context. Expert speakers Mr. Paul Holtom, Conventional Arms Programme Lead from UNIDIR, Mr. Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of UNRCPD, independent expert Ms. Elli Kytomaki and Ms. Karin Olofsson, Secretary General of the PFSALW, then took the floor to explain how the ATT came into existence, its obligations and provisions, how the Treaty contributes to “disarmament that saves lives” as outlined in the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, as well as approaches for effective implementation.
Mr. Kryvonos noted that UNRCPD has been assisting States to implement the ATT as well as other complementary global instruments, including the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA), and pointed the participants to useful tools such as the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC). Ms. Karin Olafsson shared key perspectives and recommendations on parliamentary action with regards to the ATT, noting that “MPs are essential for the universalization and national implementation of international arms control instruments such as the ATT, given their legislation, oversight and awareness-raising roles.”
Discussions on day two coincided with the launch of the global “16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) campaign and centered around the issue of gender-responsive small arms and ammunition control. Experts Ms. Shobha Shrestha, WPDN, Ms. Ida Scarpino, UNRCPD and Ms. Olofsson noted that the ATT is the first global arms control instrument to acknowledge, and create obligations around, the connection between legal international arms transfers and GBV, as it requires States parties—when deciding whether to authorize an arms export— to take into account the risk that the items may be used to commit or facilitate serious acts of GBV. Moreover, they said, the progressive language on gender has been part of the ATT process throughout, including at the recent Conference of State Parties (CSP) where States called for increasing women’s participation in international disarmament fora. The discussions then zoomed in on the synergies between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and small arms control agendas, which, experts and participants agreed, need to be synchronized in Nepal to achieve common objectives, such as a more effective implementation of key peace and security and gender equality priorities, increased collaboration, and dialogue between stakeholders with diverse but complementary competencies, and a more efficient allocation of human and financial resources. For the arms control community, the WPS agenda provides structure and guidance for the comprehensive integration of gender perspectives; while for WPS policy actors and practitioners, engaging with arms control can help operationalize peace and security -related elements of the WPS agenda. Thus, acceding to the ATT will help the Nepali government with fulfilling its commitments under UNSCR 1325.
Mr. Stephane Maicon, Deputy Head of the European Delegation to Nepal, provided closing remarks, reiterating the European Union’s support for the universalization of multilateral arms control treaties on arms control and encouraging the government of Nepal to accelerate the process of acceding to the ATT.
Participants also had the opportunity to join the 16 Days of Activism campaign to end violence against women, holding up signs that raise awareness about the ATT’s provisions on countering GBV and for gender-sensitive risk assessments prior to authorizing arms transfers or exports.
The one and half-day-long workshop was conducted in the framework of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs’ global project in support of gender mainstreamed policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse,funded by the European Union. The project promotes the implementation and universalization of multilateral instruments and treaties on small arms and light weapons, and seeks to contribute to international peace and security in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 16, and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.