Proposals for enhancing international cooperation and assistance

March 20 2012, 7:03 PM by Ray Acheson

Tuesday’s discussion was focused in large part on the issue of
international assistance and cooperation and its critical importance
for the proper implementation of the PoA. The consensus among the
majority of delegations was that the current level and functioning of
international assistance and cooperation is not sufficient for the
full implementation of the PoA and, therefore, for combating the
excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and its
wide spectrum of humanitarian, socioeconomic, and security
consequences. The Argentinean and Cuban delegations, among others,
noted the widespread and cross-cutting impacts of assistance and
cooperation on full PoA implementation.

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

A positive example of international cooperation cited by CARICOM was
cooperation through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the
United States for access to the e-Trace program, a web-based firearm
trace request system for law enforcement agencies that provides for
the electronic exchange of crime gun data in a secure web-based
environment free of charge. Although many delegations referenced
successful cooperative programs and initiatives such as this, several
member states continued to express the view that developed states and
international and regional organizations should, upon request of
developing countries, render greater cooperation and assistance, in
particular financial and technical support. The representative of
Thailand, for instance, noted that the lack of expertise on various
aspects of the PoA remains a serious obstacle to implementation.

Several delegations proposed various methods of addressing this gap.
The representative of New Zealand expressed interest in compiling a
list of relevant expertise on relevant PoA provisions for the use of
all member states as well as improving donor coordination through
hosting a possible working session at the August Review Conference to
facilitate donor-recipient relationships. In addition to supporting
the New Zealand proposal for a working reception on donor-recipient
coordination, the US also stressed the role of National Points of
Contact in facilitating the matching of needs and resources. The
Australian delegation offered a comprehensive, 10-point plan for
improving assistance and cooperation with many helpful points, in
particular mapping donor expertise. The Japanese delegation also noted
that identifying the needs of regions, rather than just individual
states, would promote better facilitation of assistance.

The delegation of Indonesia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement
(NAM,) submitted a comprehensive Working Paper on this topic,
emphasizing that in order to sufficiently address the pluralistic
challenges associated with the illicit trade in small arms and light
weapons (SALW) through a political document such as the PoA, it is
essential that the appropriate level of resources and expertise is
made available to member states to strengthen national implementation
capacity. Equally important, the NAM called for the full
implementation of the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), the
purpose of which is to promote and facilitate marking and tracing to
enhance the effectiveness of and complement existing bilateral,
regional, and international agreements to combat the illicit trade in
SALW. The complementarity of the ITI, PoA, and Firearms Protocol,
along with related work of the World Customs Organization and
INTERPOL, and efforts towards a forthcoming Arms Trade Treaty, should
not be overlooked.

Reiterated throughout the NAM Working Paper is the necessity of
rendering “actual and continued unconditional and non-discriminatory
assistance to developing countries, upon their request” thereby
underscoring the importance of consistency and fairness in granting
assistance. This point of non-discrimination and availability of
assistance to all states was explicitly supported by the Cuban,
Tunisian, and Iranian delegations. Furthermore, the NAM was careful to
propose that assistance should not take the form of a reallocation of
resources originally devoted to economic and social development
programs. In a comprehensive list of potential areas of cooperation
and assistance, the NAM underscored the following aspects of PoA
implementation: weapons collection and destruction; disarmament,
demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), including collection,
control, storage and destruction of weapons, most especially in
post-conflict situations; stockpile management; marking, tracing, and
record-keeping; trans-border customs cooperation and networks for
information sharing among relevant agencies; maritime border
surveillance; capacity-building, public awareness, education, and
confidence-building programs; legislation development; and preparation
of national reports and other facets of national coordination.
Moreover, international assistance is often required in the form of
technology sharing such as mobile X-ray technologies, scanners, and
radar systems. Some delegations, such as South Africa and Sweden,
placed particular importance on the technical assistance required for
adequate stockpile management and physical security, especially in
conflict and post-conflict situations.

Member states acknowledge the necessity of international assistance
and cooperation for those states that lack the national capacity, but
not necessarily the political investment, to ensure that states abide
by and conform to PoA expectations. How this assistance is to be
rendered in an equitable, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner
is, like the implementation of the PoA provisions themselves, one of
the greatest challenges of the small arms process. The representative
of Egypt underscored that the scale and effectiveness of international
assistance must not only be improved, but must be measured. As a means
to buttress the effectiveness of assistance, the NAM paper called for
a set of indicators to evaluate cases of international assistance,
which was also echoed also by the New Zealand delegation. Similarly,
the NAM suggested that states cooperate with regional organizations,
in particular with the three UN Regional Disarmament Centres, to
establish and improve cooperation mechanisms such as trust fund
arrangements for rapid mobilization of expertise and resources.
Likewise, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) was
called on to continue to carry out studies on the financial and
technical needs of PoA implementation, particularly the sum total of
technical assistance provided since 2001 and the corresponding impact
on implementation priorities. Other proposals in the NAM paper
included development of an online database of relevant academic
research studies and reports submitted by states providing
implementation assistance that would be compiled annually by the UN
Office for Disarmament Affairs.

As made clear by the NAM presentation, a primary challenge of
international cooperation and assistance is to evaluate its concrete
effectiveness on the ground. An inevitable consequence of such
evaluations in whichever form they make take, whether through
additional reporting or the application of indicators, will be an
increase in administrative responsibilities that will have to be borne
by donor states, recipients or, more likely, both. As the German
delegate noted, cooperation is neither a one-way street nor, as we
were reminded by the South Africa delegation, exclusively a
North-South street. Genuine cooperation requires efforts by all member
states. In a system that is already overwrought with many reporting
responsibilities for member states, the likelihood that states will
agree to another set of evaluation burdens is low. The commitment by
states to PoA implementation reporting on a biannual basis has already
proven less than universal insofar as many member states still fail to
submit reports regularly and within the allocated time frame.
Nevertheless, it is clear that international assistance and
cooperation will need to be improved and assessed in order to enhance
overall PoA implementation. It would be wise to formulate an
evaluation of assistance and cooperation that does not further burden
member states and discourage regular follow up, but facilitates the
matching of needs and resources in a straight forward and transparent
manner.