Highlighting and implementing security linkages

March 20 2012, 8:39 AM by Ray Acheson

Echoed by the newly-appointed High Representative for Disarmament
Affairs, Angela Kane, at the opening session of the PoA Prep Com,
recognition of the multiple dimensions of illicit small arms
proliferation is critical to the successful implementation of the
UNPoA at national, regional, and international levels. Given the many
security challenges related to the illicit trade in small arms and
light weapons (SALW), it is essential that all substantive and
institutional linkages are affirmed and strong coordination bodies are
adopted for the most robust implementation of the UNPoA possible.
Chairwoman of the Prep Com, Ambassador Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, opened the
session by requesting that member states stay focused on discussing
the specific elements of the UNPoA that should compose the agenda of
the August Review Conference. Given that member states have asked for
all elements of the UNPoA to be considered at this Prep Com, delegates
were urged to demonstrate high levels of discipline and restraint.
Ambassador Ogwu pledged to circulate draft elements for a PrepCom
outcome document by Thursday morning. Any outcome document will have
to be adopted by consensus.

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

Many delegations addressed the multiple goals of the PrepCom and
Review Conference. The EU and Pakistani delegations reiterated that
the goal of this PrepCom to identify weaknesses in the implementation
of the PoA and find ways through which the implementation can be
improved, in addition to an assessment of progress, and also prepare
for the upcoming August-September Review Conference. Switzerland’s
delegate called upon member states to adopt clear recommendations for
the upcoming Review Conference. The Russian Federation’s delegate
noted that his delegation would use this week’s PrepCom as an
opportunity to share its national experiences in implementation of the
UNPoA as a way to contribute to international discourse on the issue.
Some delegations chose to focus exclusively on the upcoming Review
Conference and what should be accomplished in August. New Zealand’s
delegation stated that the Review Conference must affirm state
commitments to the UNPoA; consider other developments such as global
implementation trends in SALW; determine the content to be considered
in the subsequent six-year review cycle; and consider new strategies
to support implementation especially through matching needs and
resources.

Others delegations expressed concern that an expansive agenda could
become an impediment to success. According to the Chinese delegate,
too comprehensive a scope at the Review Conference would contribute to
lackluster substantive results. Therefore, the mandate should remain
clear and unobstructed: to review state implementation of the UNPoA’s
provisions. The Arab Group, represented by the delegate of Mauritania,
reminded member states that the UNPoA is a framework of political
reference and was the outcome of well-developed negotiations.
Therefore, such negotiations should not be reopened, but discussions
should be focused only on implementation of the already-existing
framework. The delegate of Argentina, representing MERCOSUR and
associated states, recognized that although not all relevant issues
could be covered by the Review Conference, it is imperative that
states adopt agreements that specifically address this universal
problem of illicit SALW.

In addition to the more procedural discussion around the goals of the
PrepCom and Rev Con, suggestions on expanded criteria for assessing
the UNPoA’s success was brought to light. Although many delegations
referenced the UNPoA as the primary, comprehensive framework for
preventing, combating, and eradicating the illicit trade in SALW
(including the delegations of India and the Philippines), the UNPoA
should not be allowed to function in a political or negotiating
vacuum. As such, the reference by New Zealand’s delegation to other
relevant policy debates was most welcome, especially in light of the
current Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations. The EU and Australian
delegates specifically underscored the synergies between the ATT
process and UNPoA, including development of further mechanisms at the
national, regional, and international levels to assess and minimize
the risk of weapons diversion. The Spanish representative affirmed
that the UNPoA should be complementary to the ATT, but not overlap
with it. It is critical that the UNPoA be seen as a complement to any
future ATT as the ATT will not have the ability to address weapons
already in circulation or existing stockpiles. It is important to
underscore, therefore, that many delegations have emphasized the need
to address stockpile management, including Australia, Japan, New
Zealand, Germany, Belize, Switzerland, South Africa, and CARICOM.
These delegations have rightfully noted that the UNPoA is the primary
instrument for addressing the challenges, and hopefully facilitate the
destruction, of excessive and illicit stockpiles. The Peruvian
representative offered examples to the PrepCom of Peru’s own weapons
destructions, stating that thousands of weapons have been destroyed
and the resulting metal materials used for social infrastructure
projects. The US delegate called for states to ensure timely and safe
disposal of obsolete and surplus weapons, although it is up to the
state to determine ‘surplus’.

Cross-cutting issues such as gender, peacekeeping operations, and
development can successfully be tethered to the UNPoA framework
insofar as they are affected by or can contribute to eradicating the
illicit trade in SALW. The Nigerian delegate representing the African
Group made the case that illicit SALW are one the primary variables of
insecurity on the continent also undermining prospects for development
and stability. In this mindset, other existing mechanisms that seek to
highlight issue linkages should be further explored in the UNPoA
context. These include effective implementation of the UN Firearms
Protocol under the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, as noted by the EU
and New Zealand delegations; frequent references to UN Security
Council Resolution 1325 ensuring increased participation of women at
all decision-making levels in security sector institutions; and
effective incorporation of the relevant work of the World Customs
Organization and INTERPOL, including the use of INTERPOL’s illicit
arms records and tracing management system (iARMS). The important
role of women in contributing to the full implementation of the PoA
and addressing the scourge of SALW was thankfully underscored by
several delegations including the United States, Kazakhstan, Norway,
the EU, the MERCOSUR bloc, Germany, and New Zealand. Undoubtedly,
gender mainstreaming in the full range of arms control and disarmament
processes is crucial to full and robust implementation of all relevant
international instruments.

In moving forward, both during this week’s PrepCom and in the
transition towards August and beyond, delegations would be wise to
recognize the high significance and impact of the UNPoA. As noted by
the New Zealand delegate, the UNPoA framework is as relevant today as
it was in 2001. Concerns over the growing illicit trade in SALW and
the dangers it poses will take much dedication and discipline to
successfully address. This week’s opportunity to provide a framework
that can more effectively review progress on UNPoA implementation must
not be wasted.