Small Arms - Security Council, 8874th meeting
The proliferation and stockpiling of illicit weapons continue to threaten international peace and security, exacerbating the plight of civilians in strife-torn countries worldwide, the senior United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council today.
“The misuse, illicit transfer and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons, and their ammunition, remain a defining factor in undermining peace and security at the national, regional and global levels and have deeply aggravated situations for vulnerable populations already suffering from conflict,” Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said in a briefing to the 15‑member organ.
Presenting the Secretary‑General’s biennial report on small arms and light weapons (document S/2021/839), she said that their use can render arms embargoes ineffective, sustain conflict dynamics, and endanger peacekeepers, aid workers and local populations, while stymieing the implementation of peace agreements.
While commending the Council’s increasing consideration of the issue in its work, as reflected in its inclusion of arms‑related provisions in recent peace operation mandates in Abyei, Mali, Central African Republic and elsewhere, she encouraged the Council to also focus on conflict‑prevention, pointing out that poorly maintained stockpiles impact peace in conflict and post‑conflict settings.
Noting the issue’s impact on women, peace, security and children, she called for strengthened integration and analysis of sex- and age‑disaggregated data on small arms and light weapons, and for support to be lent to civil society organizations. Citing the growing threat of illicit reactivation of poorly deactivated small arms and the shift in weapon purchases through the darknet — making them difficult to detect and investigate — she called for the early adoption of measures to address such emerging challenges so that small arms control remains effective.
David Lochheed, Senior Researcher of the Small Arms Survey, also briefed the Council, providing a vivid illustration of the grave impact of the issue on peacekeeping operations on the ground, describing trends in the proliferation of such weapons, and proposing comprehensive solutions to tackle the problem. Over the course of 15 years in peacekeeping operations, he observed that the unchecked proliferation of arms, ammunition and explosives poses one of the greatest challenges to peacekeeping. Improvised explosive devices had a particularly devastating effect in asymmetric conflicts such as in Mali, where they accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the United Nations fatalities from malicious acts in MINUSMA, with the balance of the killings being carried out by small arms and weapons. Peacekeeping operations must prioritize counterproliferation, he said, expressing hope that “the sacrifices of our fallen peacekeepers encourage our collective action on this issue”.
Also briefing the Council was Badreldin Elamin Abdelgadir, Executive Secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, Horn of Africa and Bordering States, who enumerated the many factors contributing to the dangerous armed conflicts that raged in the region, including weak legislative policy, poor governance and economic marginalization. Pointing out that seven of the 13 current peacekeeping operations are in Africa, of which five are in the subregion covered by the Centre, he stressed: “Strengthening the fight against the proliferation of illicit weapons would go a long way in reducing the need for peace operations.”
In the ensuing discussion, many Council members took the floor to express concern about the continuing threats posed by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons to security, agreeing that it contributed to human rights abuses and exacerbated transnational organized crime and terrorism. Several commended regional efforts toward conflict prevention and arms control, such as the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative, while also emphasizing the importance of tackling the gender‑dimension of the issue, given its impact on sexual and gender-based violence.
Ireland’s representative was among the speakers who expressed concern about the disproportionate impact of the unchecked proliferation of such weapons on women and girls, which fuels gender-based violence and human trafficking in countries such as South Sudan and Somalia. The stark facts set out in the Secretary‑General’s report highlight the importance of responding to the threat and doing so in a gender-sensitive manner, she stressed. She also underscored the need for sharing information to ensure effective weapons tracing and making use of regional leadership and engagement to address the issue.
In a similar vein, the representative of France noted the Council’s efforts to mark and trace stockpiles, adding that it could certainly do more. She called on States to join the Arms Trade Treaty and Firearms Protocol, and encouraged them to also mark weapons and support the International Tracing Instrument. Moreover, she pointed out that the Council should update its sanctions regimes and address the problems posed by ammunition, and attendant risks such as theft and the manufacture of improvised explosive devices.
Meanwhile, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines observed that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region continues to be severely impacted by irresponsible and illicit weapons flows, aided by permissive gun laws in many manufacturing countries, although the region does not manufacture or import small arms and light weapons on a large scale. While commending such initiatives as the African Union’s Silencing the Guns and the regional road map for the Western Balkans, she pointed out that such measures will be for naught if States that manufacture arms do not assume greater responsibility for the consequences of the trade of those weapons.
Kenya’s representative, Council President for October, highlighted the strength of regional initiatives as exemplified by the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, Horn of Africa and Bordering States. He called on the Council to lend support to Governments in affected areas to enhance their ability to monitor proliferation trends, reform the security sector, and implement disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes in a coordinated manner. Strengthening the capacity of United Nations missions and Governments in weapons and ammunition management is critical to prevent the diversion and illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, he emphasized.
Also speaking today were representatives of Viet Nam, Mexico, Tunisia, United States, India, Russian Federation, Estonia, United Kingdom, China, Niger and Norway.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:19 p.m.