Security Council Open Debate on Small Arms

The Security Council open debate on "The human cost of the illicit transfer, accumulation, diversion and misuse of small arms and light weapons"(SALW) took place at the UN in New York on 13 May. 

Presided by Lithuania, the meeting began with briefing from a representative of the Lithuanian delegation, and statements from the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and President of the Côte d’Ivoire chapter of the West Africa Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) and representative of IANSA and other NGOs, Karamoko Diakité.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the vital need to promote the transparency of arms transferring. Mr. Ban noted that “Guns can be licensed, marked or confiscated; ammunition can be tracked, removed or destroyed; and depots can be guarded, cleared or secured.” The Secretary General further noted that more attention should be paid to ammunition, identification of the sources of SALW, trafficking patterns and divergent points. The importance of ammunition was further noted by many States during the open debate. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, identified most victims of SALW to be ordinary civilians, who were among the poorest and most vulnerable members of the society. He emphasized that protection of human life and human rights were central to the discussion. Karamoko Diakite of WAANSA, and member of IANSA, shared his personal experiences with conflicts fueled by the unregulated proliferation and use of SALW. He stressed that the electoral dispute of 2010-2011 in Cote d’Ivoire led to a strong anarchic distribution of weapons and ammunition and caused large human costs. This was the result of illicit trafficking of SALW and leakages from legal stockpiles. For example, abandoned arsenals after Gaddafi’s fall in Libya poured into the region and exacerbated the problem. He proposed three recommendations to the Security Council; that all member states meet all commitments under the UNPoA, that all member states ratify and implement the ATT, and that all member states actively promote and support the role of women as participants and decision-makers in preventing the proliferation of SALW. He also encouraged states to support the work of civil societies.

The African Union, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia. Australia, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chad, Chile, China, Columbia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, European Union (EU), Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, New Zealand, Netherlands, Pakistan, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom (UK), United States (US), and Venezuela took to the floor during the open debate.  The majority of States expressed the vital importance of the key instruments in curbing the illicit trade of arms- namely the UNPoA and the landmark ATT. States urged all member states to continue the effective implementation of the UNPoA, and further urged all States that have not done so to sign and ratify the ATT. In addition, the importance International Tracing Instrument (ITI) was recognized by many States.

All States acknowledged the great human costs that the proliferation of SALW cause, and further the role illegal SALW play in destabilizing societies, prolonging violence, inducing gender-based violence and the suffering of children, halting the progress of conciliation and post-conflict nation-building, and inhibiting socioeconomic and political growth. Stress was also placed by many States on the importance of preventing and combating the illicit manufacture and illicit trade of SALW. Austria emphasized that arms exporters bear particular responsibility for the control of SALW proliferation. Further, Indonesia noted that States are responsible for the arms trade, and it is, therefore, essential that the legitimate interests of arms exporting and importing States are considered equally, and that the agreements are transparent and balanced. In addition, Switzerland emphasized the need to address both the supply and demand side of SALW in order to control and prevent the illicit transfer of arms, particularly to non-state actors or to States where there are UN arms embargoes sanctioned. Many States noted the importance of upholding UN arms embargoes and preventing the flow of arms into countries where embargoes are present. Australia highlighted the importance of investigating and collecting information on traffic routes to increase the effectiveness of such arms embargoes.

Many states including Angola, Belgium, Brazil, Chad, Chile, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Serbia, Slovakia, and Venezuela encouraged the prevention on the transfer of SALW to non-state actors and terrorist groups. Belgium emphasized the importance of marking and tracing to provide insight on the divergent points and origination of arms in the hands of non-state actors, as well as the need to extract relevant data provided by nations and placing this information into UN databases. On the other hand, India highlighted that some states provide easy access to SALW as a deliberate strategy, which has caused terrorism to grow. Republic of Moldova noted the new challenges of technology, such as the 3D printing of weapons and the substitution of metal for other materials, on the marking and tracing of weapons. However, it stressed that new technology can also provide opportunities to improve record-keeping and stockpile management. Substantial improvements need to be carried out in relation to physical security and stockpile management and this issue was addressed by many states.

Enhanced international, regional, and sub-regional cooperation, as well as cooperation between law enforcement agencies were called for by many states. Further, China, Columbia, Kazakhstan and Mexico urged to strengthen domestic legislation and enforcement. Kenya emphasized the importance of strengthening domestic policy and legislative measures to address loopholes in current laws, while Paraguay noted that trust-building between states is important for effective cooperation. Argentina emphasized that domestic policies and periodic reviews on export controls and regulations are essential for combating the illegal proliferation of arms. Netherlands placed further importance on good governance, rule of law, and alternative livelihood initiatives to eradicate demand of SALW. Many states acknowledged the growing importance of border control to stop the proliferation of SALW from moving across borders and entering into the wrong hands. The US used the post-conflict situation in South Sudan to emphasis this point, in which a large proportion of illegal arms are flowing across borders and fostering new conflicts in neighboring countries. The need for assistance in technology, training, materials, and financial aid to assist capacity-building of less experienced states were highlighted. Germany announced that it has facilitated dialogue between countries that need assistance and potential donors, and that it has pioneered a new project in the extended Sahara region to enhance cooperation and coordination among various stakeholders. The EU enumerated two funding projects: one called ITrace which provides ground data of diverted weapons and documents of identified illicit trade of SALW; the other called IArms, which was a platform to facilitate information exchange as an integral part of international strategy to combat illicit trade of SALW.

Algeria, Australia, Croatia, the EU, Ireland, Mexico, Sweden, Thailand and the UK called for, and supported, the active participation of women in the disarmament and the peace-building process. Egypt, Finland, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Montenegro, Republic of Korea and South Africa also pointed out the role that peacekeeping operations can play in disarmament and control of illicit arms. Armenia, Jordan, Mozambique and Romania acknowledged the importance of civil societies, with Romania specifically noting the effort in raising public awareness and the role of UN agencies and the civil societies, including the UNDP, UNODA, UNDIR, IANSA, Control Arms, and Safer World.

The African Union, Croatia, Finland, Guatemala, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and the US, acknowledged their support for the adoption of the draft resolution, which is currently being negotiated by the Security Council. These States further encouraged other nations to adopt it. Russian Federation, however, expressed its concerns over the current draft resolution. It emphasized that measures, such as the national control over the production and destruction of SALW and the limitation of brokering and trading of SALW on expired licenses, were not addressed in the draft. This exclusion, therefore, did not reflect methods of the Russian Federation. The current draft, as stated by Russian Federation, has infringed on the sovereignty of states and thus emphasized their lack of support for it.

Thereof, all states that addressed the Security Council during the open debate are concerned about the illicit trade and misuse of SALW and its consequences. Numerous states mentioned the importance of the implementation of the UNPoA, the ATT, the ITI, and other international instruments that can be used to prevent, combat, and eradicate SALW. The need for improved border controls, improved stockpile management and programs, the inclusion of women to all forms of disarmament and peacebuilding processes, in addition to the importance of international, regional and national cooperation and assistance were expressed by all States. The important role of civil society was also noted by many delegations. 

For the full statement by Karamoko Diakite of WAANSA/IANSA, please click on the links below. (Statement available in French and English)


Karamoko Diekite, President of WAANSA, member of IANSA and NGO representative for the Security Council open debate.

Conseil de sécurité_Monsieur_Karamoko_Diakite.pdf367.08 KB
SecurityCouncilDebate_NGO presentation_Karamoko_Diakite.pdf302.07 KB