Maintenance of international peace and security - Security Council, 8942nd meeting
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Threats to international peace and security.

The Security Council today adopted a resolution enabling the 15-member organ to consider during mandate renewals the role peace operations could play in helping States to stem the flow of illicit weapons, in line with related arms embargoes.

Adopting resolution 2616 (2021) (to be issued as document S/RES/2616(2021)) by a recorded vote of 12 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (China, India, Russian Federation), the Council resolved to consider, on a case-by-case basis and when appropriate, during the renewal of mandates of peace operations that coincide with Council-mandated arms embargoes, whether and how the peace operations could support relevant national authorities in combating the illicit transfer and diversion of arms in violation of the arms embargoes in their respective areas of operation.

Further to the resolution’s terms, it emphasized that it would duly consider, when evaluating the possible lifting of an arms embargo, the capacity of States under Council-mandated embargoes to exert effective control over their existing arms and ammunition stockpiles and future imports with a view to preventing such weapons from being diverted to the illicit market.

The Council also stressed that subject to the specific exemptions to each arms embargo, arms and related materiel of all types that are supplied, sold or transferred as security or disarmament assistance under exemptions should not be resold to, transferred to, or in other ways made available for use by parties other than the designated end user or other users explicitly permitted under the relevant embargo.

In addition, the Council encouraged Member States to, among other things, ensure adequate marking and record-keeping measures are in place to trace arms, including small arms and light weapons, as required by the international and regional instruments to which they are parties, and undertake due diligence measures concerning the export of the commercially available components of weapons systems to States under Council-mandated embargoes that may be used by designated individuals and entities or armed groups in contravention of the respective sanctions.

It also affirmed its resolve to designate, where appropriate and under applicable sanctions regimes, those individuals who have been involved in activities prohibited by Council-mandated embargoes.

Following the adoption, Council members explained their positions. Mexico’s representative said the small arms trade fuels conflicts and sustains actors that prefer to resort to force instead of dialogue and negotiation. Welcoming the increased attention to the issue, he said the resolution adopted responds to a real and critical problem and contains provisions on the need to build capacity and provide assistance to Member States requiring it. It further aims to strengthen the international legal order and supports efforts to find diplomatic solutions to conflicts.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation abstained from the vote on the resolution because it didn’t understand why it was introduced in the first place. The text was problematic from the start, he said, adding that it represents a one-size-fits-all approach to arms embargoes and peacekeeping missions. Each situation is unique and must be considered as such, and the document is drowned out by the huge number of provisos, he said. In that context, he said it is not clear where the added value of the draft is and pointed out that it did not garner consensus.

China’s delegate said his country abstained from the vote, expressing regret that the resolution’s final text failed to fully reflect its concerns. More details regarding peacekeeping nations are needed, he said, stressing that respect must be shown for the sovereignty and aspirations of host countries. Each country has specific needs, and peacekeeping mandates must be drawn up on a case-to-case basis. Emphasizing that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons exists in both developed and developing nations, posing a great danger to neighbouring countries, he said the international community must pay close attention to this threat.

India’s delegate raised several concerns about the resolution’s approach, emphasizing that United Nations peace operations must not be used to implement arms embargoes, which could affect a mission’s efficiency and put peacekeepers at risk. Such actions should have been discussed with troop- and police-contributing countries, he said, also stressing that implementing arms embargoes involves a gamut of issues best dealt with specialized agencies. When such additional activities are added into peacekeeping mandates, it can also affect peacekeepers’ mandated task of protecting civilians.

Viet Nam’s representative said his delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution, voicing concern over the negative impact of the illicit trade in and misuse of small arms and light weapons on peace and stability in many places in the world. He drew attention to relevant response efforts by regions and States including in Africa, which are heavily affected by the issue, stressing the importance of seriously implementing all existing frameworks and commitments, as well as related Council sanctions. Strengthening management and monitoring measures positively contributes to peace, stability and reconstruction in conflict areas, he noted, while reaffirming the right of States to use small arms and light weapons in exercise of their legitimate right to national defence. International consensus, including in the Council, should be strengthened on issues that have a common impact on the international community.

Speaking in his national capacity, the representative of Niger recalled that his country voted in favour of the resolution. As for the possibility of the text undermining the effectiveness of the Council’s sanctions regime, he pointed out that the resolution considers, on a case-by-case basis, peacekeeping mission mandates and arms embargoes. He went on to hail the text’s provisions on capacity-building for States in monitoring and tracing military arsenals. However, he suggested that the Council should spend more time addressing why those weapons continue to circulate in the first place. It is high time that the economic interests of arms manufacturers are not valued over the lives of people impacted by their trade and use, he said.

The meeting began at 2:04 p.m. and ended at 2:26 p.m.