Open debate in connection with "The impact of the diversion and trafficking of arms on peace and security" under the agenda item "Small arms".
With illicit trade in small arms and light weapons fuelling conflict, aggravating the humanitarian situation and undermining development, over 50 speakers during today’s open debate in the Security Council emphasized the need for political will and effective arms management to tackle the trafficking and diversion of weapons and ammunition to conflict zones.
Robin Geiss, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), briefing the 15-member organ, said the diversion and trafficking in weapons and ammunition is “a defining factor” in undermining peace and security. The misuse of illicit arms and ammunition has negative impacts, ranging from deaths, injuries, displacement and psychological harm, to long-term socioeconomic effects on access to health and education, the delivery of humanitarian services, the protection of civilians and sustainable development.
Highlighting the importance of tackling each stage of weapons’ lifecycle, including production, export and stockpiling, he said UNIDIR develops and provides tools to strengthen national ownership of weapons and ammunition management throughout their entire lifecycle. “Today, weapons and ammunition management is increasingly recognized as a fundamental component of conflict prevention and actions to tackle armed violence,” he said.
However, United Nations peace missions do not systematically integrate conventional arms control measures into their conflict prevention and management toolbox, he pointed out, noting that UNIDIR is developing arms-related risk analysis tools that can enhance peace operations’ conflict prevention, management and peacebuilding efforts.
María Pía Devoto, Member of the Control Arms Governance Board — a coalition of 150 civil society member organizations — recalled that the group was created to bring about the Arms Trade Treaty, which requires States parties to develop national control systems to address trafficking and diversion of weapons. She outlined other instruments, agreements and mechanisms at Member States’ disposal to curb the diversion and trafficking of small arms, including the International Tracing Instrument and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, also known as the Firearms Protocol.
The illicit trafficking and diversion of small arms and light weapons, along with their retransfer to unauthorized end-users generates high levels of armed violence and foment crime and terrorism, she emphasized. Therefore, it is in the interest of all States to do everything possible to address the problem. The Council has the tools, knowledge and experience to combat the illicit trade in small arms, including its arms embargoes. However, arms embargoes are undermined by violations by Member States and non-State actors. Tackling the issue requires political will, she stressed.
In the ensuing discussion, more than 50 speakers took the floor, describing the impact of small arms and light weapons on the peace and stability of local communities, countries and regions, while also exploring actions that could be undertaken by the Council and other actors to address the issue.
Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, underscoring that Governments and the private sector must work together to slow the trafficking in small arms and light weapons. Further, the latter must self-regulate its distribution chains to ensure that such weapons do not end up in the wrong hands. “The red thread running through the Mexican Presidency of the Security Council has been prevention,” he stressed, adding that if not for those weapons, most of the armed conflicts on the Council’s agenda would reach a peaceful resolution.
Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said that the primary responsibility for addressing illicit transfer of small arms lies with Member States. However, some countries are using advanced technologies like drones for cross-border supply of illicit weapons to terrorist groups in violation of other countries’ sovereignty, he warned, unequivocally condemning such actions while calling for greater attention to the terror-crime nexus and the thriving illicit network for procurement and transfer of small arms and financing.
France’s delegate urged the Council to enforce arms embargoes and ensure that peacekeeping and special political operations, when mandated, have the means to effectively combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The Council should also call on all States to adhere to relevant multilateral instruments, such as the Arms Trade Treaty and the Firearms Protocol, and should also encourage States to do more in marking and tracing weapons and their ammunition, detect violations of embargoes and ensure the security of stockpiles.
The representative of the United States emphasized that improving the management of weapons and ammunition is key to preventing diversion of those arms, offering several examples of his country’s support to countries to build capacity and develop resources, including training personnel in Niger and Ecuador. Emphasizing that the Council’s body of work is sufficient, he said: “The shortfall is in States’ national efforts to implement the terms of the relevant resolutions.”
In a similar vein, the Russian Federation’s representative said that the main reasons behind the uncontrolled flows are well known: excessively permissive national legislation and persistent loopholes in national export-control regimes. He also insisted that the Council should not duplicate the functions of the General Assembly, especially on such a universal issue as the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
Kenya’s representative, however, challenged the Council to undertake every effort to address the problem, questioning why the 15-member organ remains reluctant to do so, given the role of illicit small arms and light weapons in escalating and prolonging destructive conflicts. Noting that Kenya had pushed for listing certain terrorist groups under the appropriate sanctions regimes, but was met with opposition by some Council members who believed such action might undermine humanitarian efforts, he argued that terrorist and insurgent groups’ operations only escalate humanitarian needs.
Costa Rica’s delegate also expressed regret that the Council has not yet fully integrated the consideration of small arms and light weapons, and their ammunition, into its work. “If small arms and light weapons are the fire we fight today in all regions,” she said, “ammunition is the oxygen that fuels it.” She also pointed out that — while export assessments are supposed to consider the risk of gender-based violence — it is not clear how, or even whether, this happens.
Canada’s representative, along with several delegations, also spotlighted the importance of incorporating gender dimensions in formulating responses. He called for full implementation of resolution 2122 (2013), including by ensuring full and meaningful participation for women in eradicating the transfer of these weapons and in related decision-making processes.
As well, the representative of Sweden, also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, pointed out that advancing the integration of gender perspectives is a key priority. The serious effects of weapons on sexual and gender-based violence cannot be stressed enough, she noted, calling for full and equal participation of women in disarmament dialogues.
Niger’s delegate said that such arms have become the main cause of human suffering, particularly for women and children who are targeted by non-State actors and criminal groups. He stressed the importance of regional instruments, underscoring that the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns in 2030”, as well as other initiatives by States in Central and West Africa, deserved support.
Indonesia’s representative also highlighted the importance of regional mechanism in addressing the impact of small arms and light weapons. To that end, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime was tackling the complex, transborder nature of trafficking small arms and light weapons.
Qatar’s delegate, speaking for the Arab Group, said the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons used by illegal armed groups and terrorist groups has exacerbated conflicts and has threatened peace and security in the Middle East region, as well as in other regions around the world. Therefore, it was crucial, she stressed, to strengthen cooperation in transferring expertise to developing countries to help them trace weapons and maintain border oversight.
The Permanent Observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross said that over the last decade in South Sudan, the Committee’s surgical teams have cared for a staggering 9,000 patients, with a quarter of those women or children being treated for gunshot wounds. Member States supporting warring parties must leverage their influence, she stressed, asserting: “Failing to manage the supply chain, without regard to how weapons will be used, is putting a dirt-cheap price on the lives of civilians.”
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Estonia, Tunisia, Norway, Ireland, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Viet Nam, Morocco, Hungary, Iran, Japan, Guatemala, Malta, Switzerland, Ecuador, Greece, Belgium, Iraq, Bulgaria, Germany, Brazil, Syria, Slovakia, El Salvador, South Africa, Italy, Latvia, Colombia, Ukraine, Philippines, Liechtenstein, Turkey, Albania, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. A representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m., suspended at 1:09 p.m., resumed at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:29 p.m.