OLA/UNITAR Seminar on International Treaty Law and Practice, with a special focus on the Arms Trade Treaty

16-17 April 2013 – The UNITAR New York Office, with the Office of Legal Affairs, International Treaty Law and Practice section, jointly held their bi-annual workshop in New York, welcoming over 30 delegates. Mr. Stephen Mathias, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, introduced the workshop with an overview of the Treaty section, and emphasized that some of the greatest achievements of treaty practice include the advancement of norms and standards in international law. In fact, Mr. Mathias pointed out the necessity for enhancing the awareness of multilateral treaty affairs, as treaties are crucial to sustaining the rule of law. Ms. Gabriel Goettsche-Wanli, Chief of the Treaty Section, further explained the importance of treaty law making, along with giving the background and history of the Vienna Convention.

Ms. Dina Hamdy, a Legal Officer with the OLA Treaty Section continued the focus on treaty law making, discussing the importance of depositing multilateral treaties with the Secretary-General. There are several hundred treaties deposited with the Secretary-General, and a State’s failure to deposit the treaty will preclude the treaty having any legal effect. Mr. Carlos Ivan Fuentes, Associate Legal Officer, OLA Treaty Section, explained the mandate of Article 102 of the UN Charter, as well as Article 80 under the Vienna Convention to submit a treaty for registration and publication after their entry into force. He enumerated the registration procedures. On day two, Ms. Arancha Hinojal-Oyarbide, a Legal Officer with the Treaty Section, explained final clauses and their legal effects: regulating the procedural aspects of the treaty.

The second day also included a focus on the recently adopted Arms Trade Treaty with a panel session of experts from the Secretariat and the Permanent Missions, moderated by UNITAR NYO Head Ms. Yvonne Lodico. Maritza Chan, Minister Counsellor of of the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations, provided a compelling history of the ATT, and emphasized that the ATT hasbeen a “story of conviction.”  Another speaker was Mr. Daniel Prins, Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch at UNODA, who discussed implementation and how to move forward with the ATT. Mr. Nikolas Johannes Stuerchler Gozenbach, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN, gave a comprehensive overview of the final clauses of the treaty. He emphasized that despite the fact that final clauses can be an “afterthought” to a treaty, they can truly shape policy.

The last segment of the workshop reviewed the UN’s Treaty Collection.  Mr. Andrei Kolomoets, Information Management Officer, and Mr. Eugene Gheorghe, Information Systems Officer with the OLA, explained to delegates how to locate and to navigate treaty-related information online.

The participants greatly appreciated this learning event, evidenced by the concluding applause and evaluations. Government representatives and legal experts were pleased to learn more about treaty law making – critical for advancing the rule of law and understanding among nations.