Malaysia: Regional conference on Arms Trade Treaty and humanitarian law

A regional conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and strengthening international humanitarian law (IHL) was held in Kuala Lumpur from 25-27 March. Conference speakers and participants share what the conference meant to them.

Around 70 people including lawyers, government representatives and delegates from Red Cross or Red Crescent societies, from the Asia-Pacific region, attended the three-day conference in Kuala Lumpur. It was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide a regional forum for technical discussions ahead of the first review conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) scheduled for mid-2015 in Mexico and of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent that will take place in Switzerland, also in December.

The discussions proved very popular with the participants. Ms Chang Wun Jeung from Korea, Mr Hidenori Matsumoto from Japan and Ms Pham Thi Thu Huong from Vietnam said the conference was very relevant, and particularly helpful for nations preparing for the International Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The conference also provided an opportunity to understand the potential benefits of becoming a party to the ATT, and how to incorporate the treaty at the national level. "I will bring some good and inspiring ideas back to share with my colleagues," said a smiling Ms Lulu Wang of the Red Cross Society of China.

"It was a very informative event. It is rare to have the opportunity to hear various perspectives from different states," said Ms Nutta Vasantasingh from Thailand. Echoing her view was Ms Stacey Nation from Australia who was impressed by the diversity of participants at the conference.

Professor Dr Park Soon Hyang from Korea's National Defense University said that the information on ATT and IHL enhanced her knowledge significantly, and hoped that the conference would be held on a regular basis. Another prominent academic, Associate Professor Dr Zhu Lijiang of the China University of Political Science and Law was happy with the in-depth discussion on the various elements of IHL which, he said, was very useful for his teaching and research.

After delivering his keynote address, His Excellency Professor Dr. Rahmat Mohamad (right), who is the Secretary-General for Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO), speaks to some participants. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Nicholas CHOONG

Following the event, several participants were keen to foster closer working relations with the ICRC, to strengthen the IHL implementation in their respective countries. One such person was Takayuki Yamamoto of the Japanese Red Cross who promised to advocate for the establishment of a national IHL committee. Commending the conference for increasing his knowledge on IHL and expanding his professional network, Gary Domingo from the Philippines added that the session on disaster laws was one of the conference highlights. He said that this gave participants an insight into the legal frameworks surrounding disasters and emergencies.

ICRC legal adviser Dr Gilles Giacca said he was impressed by the interest of a number of States on how the ATT worked. He said more could be done in helping States to understand how they would benefit from the ATT framework and how to address some of the misunderstandings surrounding it. Thanking all the speakers and participants for their participation, Dr Gilles added that "the conference contributed in many ways to the ICRC strategy in shaping the debate about arms transfers from a humanitarian perspective, including the interpretation of Common Article 1 to the Geneva Conventions".