Private sector joins calls for anti-corruption mechanisms in arms trade treaty

As UN Arms Trade Treaty negotiators met in New York last week Tobias Bock from TI’s Defence and Security Programme,  warned of the corruption risks that could undermine any result. He and Rob Wright, TI’s senior ATT expert and former UK Head of Export Controls, now look back at the meeting.

Last week, the 192 member states of the United Nations (193 from mid-week onwards, as South Sudan was admitted on July 14) met in New York to continue their negotiations towards an “Arms Trade Treaty” (ATT). States are keen to agree on an ATT in 2012, reaching a long overdue international agreement to finally regulate the global trade in arms. We represented Transparency International’s Defence and Security Programme and participated along with more than 100 other NGO representatives.

The ATT process officially started with a UN resolution in 2007 suggesting that States should aim for “the highest possible common international standards” for arms transfers. Such standards could range from regional and international security concerns to the abuse of international humanitarian and international human rights law. Since the ATT process started four years ago, we have been lobbying for one of those standards to be corruption. Why? Because the arms trade continues to be one of the most corruption prone sectors: GBP 20 billion are lost to corruption each year, and numerous cases demonstrate the devastating impact of defence corruption.

We were delighted to observe that the inclusion of robust anti-corruption mechanisms in an ATT received strong support last week from global investment funds, the defence industry, as well as the UN member states negotiating the treaty:

  • 21 large institutional investors issued a statement supporting the inclusion of anti-corruption mechanisms in an ATT. These investors – both asset owners and asset managers – collectively represent assets over USD 1.2 trillion, an amount larger than the total volume of the global arms trade, estimated by SIPRI to be around USD 50 billion per year. They demand that an ATT includes a commitment by State parties “to prevent the transfer of conventional arms […] which are likely to encourage corruption and unaccountable and non-transparent diversion of public spending”.
  • The defence industry also declared its support for strong anti-corruption mechanisms in an ATT at a side-event at the UN on July 14 organised by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD). One of the keynote speakers at the side event was Ambassador Moritan from Argentina, the Chair of the ATT process. The ASD has 28 member associations in 20 countries Europe and represents over 2,000 companies with 80,000 suppliers. The industry sectors employ around 696,000 people, with a turnover of UDS 2.234 billion.
  • Many States reaffirmed their support for including strong anti-corruption mechanisms in an ATT. These included Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Nigeria, Sweden, and Switzerland. The European Union again argued for strong anti-corruption provisions in an ATT, this time not only on behalf of the EU-27 but also on behalf of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. In addition, the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Austria, Jamaica, Finland, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and the UK that had previously spoken out for strong anti-corruption mechanisms were supported by Bangladesh, Ghana, Malawi, Lichtenstein, and Spain also calling for corruption to be tackled vigorously in the Treaty.

Towards the end of last week Ambassador Moritan presented an updated set of draft papers that indicate what a final ATT might look like in 2012. We were delighted to see that these papers include a number of useful anti-corruption provisions as well as strong anti-corruption language.

Many experts expect that Ambassador Moritan will soon start to draft the corresponding legal language. It is therefore imperative that States, global investors, the defence industry, and civil society maintain the momentum to ensure that the final ATT in 2012 does include strong anti-corruption provisions. Without these, it will be impossible to counter the devastating impact that defence corruption has on sustainable development, public trust in the government and its armed forces, as well as the ability of nations to pay a fair and uninflated price for the weapons they acquire to defend themselves.

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