Small Arms - 8713th Security Council Meeting

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05-Feb-2020 01:53:52
Spread of 1 billion small arms, light weapons remains major threat worldwide, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs tells Security Council.

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The widespread proliferation of approximately 1 billion small arms in circulation around the world — to terrorists, parties to intra-State conflict, organized criminals and warring gangs — continues to pose a major threat around the globe, the senior United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council today.

Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that small arms — such as rifles, pistols and light machine guns — contributed to some 200,000 deaths in every year from 2010 to 2015, and continue to represent a challenge that cuts across peace and security, human rights, gender, sustainable development and beyond.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s biennial report on small arms and light weapons (document S/2019/1011), she said that their use, whether in conflict or non-conflict settings, is prevalent from the Americas to Africa to Southern Europe. Indeed, no State is immune to the challenges posed by illicit weapons flows, she stressed, pointing that small arms continue to facilitate a vast spectrum of actions constituting violations human rights, including the killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Noting that the Secretary-General has recognized the relationship between high levels of armed violence and challenges to the realization of sustainable development, she nevertheless emphasized that the gender dimension has not been sufficiently integrated into policies regulating small arms and light weapons.

Damien Spleeters, Deputy Director of Operations for the investigative organization Conflict Armament Research, also briefed the Council, providing a snapshot of the technical challenges on the ground. A widespread lack of detailed reporting has hampered international efforts to control the illicit flow of small arms, he noted, likening the situation to attempting to control the spread of an infectious disease without understanding its origins or transmission vectors. Some of the most common challenges identified by his organization include governmental failure to secure weapons against theft and looting, the falsifying of export-control documents and the deliberate supply, by States, of weapons to rebel, insurgent and terrorist forces.

Citing real-world examples, he recalled that in 2016, Conflict Armament Research teams in Iraq traced a weapon that had been diverted to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) fewer than two months after its manufacture in Europe. Recent United Nations analysis reveals that the success rate of Member States in tracing weapons seized between 2016 and 2017 was less than 13 per cent, he added. Against that backdrop, he spotlighted specific initiatives by his organization, such as its “iTrace” tool, and its current support for the European Union and other partners in the enforcement of embargoes and sanctions.

Many Council members taking the floor agreed that the proliferation of small arms promotes violence, undermines respect for human rights, contributes to transnational organized crime and terrorism, and constitutes an obstacle to sustainable development. Several called attention to crucial international instruments intended to combating the illicit trade — including the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, the Arms Trade Treaty and the International Tracing Instrument — expressing hope that all three instruments will be universally implemented as soon as possible.

Germany’s representative was among the speakers who echoed concern about the disproportionate impact of violence caused by small arms and light weapons on women and children. Emphasizing the need to include women in all conflict-related discussions, he also joined other speakers in calling for stronger export controls as well as tracing and marking systems. Above all, Council embargoes and sanctions must be respected, he said, stressing that it is unacceptable that some States remain open to violating the arms embargo imposed on Libya.

In similar vein, Niger’s representative welcomed the Secretary-General’s strong focus on the Sahel, noting that the flow of arms from Libya has exacerbated insecurity across the entire region. Citing his country’s efforts to curtail the illicit trade — despite its porous borders and the growing terrorist threat — he emphasized that supplying Libyan actors with weapons, in violation of the arms embargo, contributes to insecurity and human rights violations while setting back sustainable development gains across the region. All countries, especially arms-producing States, must act more responsibly, he stressed.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines commended Africa’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative while emphasizing that key instruments like the Nairobi Protocol and the Kinshasa Convention cannot succeed in the absence of structural economic development. Armed conflicts in destabilizing regions are moving from the battlefield to cities and villages, creating humanitarian crises that endanger the most vulnerable, she said. While Member States have the right to address arms control as they see fit, “this right is not absolute when domestic policies have implications beyond borders”, she stressed

Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s representative noted that there has been no significant improvement in the fight against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which remains the main source of financing for terrorists and extremists. He expressed concern about the slow implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action and slippage in upholding the International Tracing Instrument, while calling for efforts to introduce a universal ban on the transfer of small arms to entities not authorized by recipient States. He also questioned references in the Secretary-General’s report to the Arms Trade Treaty, stressing that the instrument is far from universal and has a number of shortcomings.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, China, Estonia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Tunisia, Viet Nam, United States and Belgium.

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