Disarmament chief says small arms remain threat to peace and security

6 October 2021

The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council on Wednesday that Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), in the context of peacekeeping operations, are a "threat" that can "exacerbate conflict, render arms embargoes ineffective, endanger ‘blue helmets’, humanitarian workers and local populations, and complicate peace agreements."

Izumi Nakamitsu was briefing the Security Council on the threat posed by illicit flows of small arms and light weapons in the context of UN peacekeeping operations.  

According to her, these arms “remain a defining factor in undermining peace and security” and have “deeply aggravated situations for vulnerable populations already suffering from conflict.”  

Peace operations 

Ms. Nakamitsu pointed to a growing number of resolutions that take account of weapons and ammunition management, saying it “is indicative of the UN’s role in supporting to the control of those weapons to build and sustain peace.” 

She highlighted the threat of inadequately maintained stockpiles, saying they constitute “serious humanitarian hazards and are a known source of weapons diversion”.  

The High Representative also encouraged the Council to include this issue as part of conflict prevention measures. 

Children and new technologies 

Ms. Nakamitsu told Council Members that “children continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict”, often enabled and prolonged by the widespread availability of weapons. 

“Thus, all small arms and light weapons control initiatives should be carried out with due attention to their potential impacts on children’s rights and vice versa”, she added.  

She also highlighted new related issues, that warrant the attention of the Security Council and Member States. 

Emerging technologies that allow the production of small arms “may pose novel challenges and opportunities to the effectiveness of small arms control measures”, she said, and “should be seriously considered”. 

She pointed to a shift in arms purchases, in particular their parts and components, through the so-called Darknet and online platforms, resulting in a significant increase in the use of postal and courier services, making detection and criminal investigations more difficult. 

Action 

In her briefing, Ms. Nakamitsu highlighted two initiatives launched by the United Nations. 

Firstly, partners of the UN Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) group, that are developing guidance on country-level approaches. Second, the Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT), that has begun allocating grants to address the issue. 

She assured that the UN will continue to advocate for the universalization of the Firearms Protocol and the Arms Trade Treaty, and the full implementation of instruments such as the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument. 

The organization will also support the decision by the African Union Commission, to extend until 2030 the Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns and other regional initiatives in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific. 

The Executive Secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA), Lieutenant General Badreldin Elamin Abdelgadir, and the Senior Researcher at the Small Arms Survey, David Lochhead, also briefed the Council. 

 

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