“As you take to the vote, think of the mothers who live in continuous fear that rebels, terrorists, or militant gangs will attack their homes and steal, abuse, rape, kidnap their children, and sell into slavery their daughters. Think of the displaced, of religious minorities running for their lives; of the elderly and the disabled who simply can’t run. Think of the children, as young as six or eight, barely able to hold a gun, scared, brainwashed, and forced to maim, torture, and kill in order to live.”
Lithuanian Ambassador Murmokaitė introduced the voting for a resolution on the impact of small arms and light weapons (SALW) on the morning of 22 May 2015 with this passionate plea. After months of agenda setting, debate, and negotiations, the United Nations Security Council adopted the resolution with 9 votes in favor, zero opposed, and 6 abstentions. The resolution is the second thematic agreement of its kind, building on a resolution passed in 2013 led by Australia.
The weeks before the resolution featured debates on several key issue areas around the impact of the proliferation and misuse of small arms. The result of these discussions were advancements in language on the Arms Trade Treaty, gender, integrations with peacekeeping operations, and responsibility to protect. However, at the time of the vote, disagreements remained on the issue of non-state actors. This was the reason for abstentions by the three African members of the council, Nigeria, Chad, and Angola, who argued that the supply of arms to non-state actors is a threat to international security, and highlighted arms flows to forces like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and Al Shabab. However, among the Permanent Members of the Security Council, the US, UK and France would not accept the specific term “non-state actors, ” arguing that references to terrorists and criminal networks was sufficient. New Zealand lamented that “the issue had become a victim of a politicized debate” and felt that delegations on both sides could have focused more on finding a compromise.
It is commendable that in their role as Security Council President, Lithuania chose to make the devastating impact of small arms and light weapons a priority. They worked to move forward with this resolution, ultimately cosponsored by 56 governments, that raises the bar in the bar in the ongoing effort to reduce the human cost of small arms and light weapons.
Control Arms welcomes the adoption of the resolution and calls on all governments to act on its provisions, renewing their efforts to reduce the misuse and illicit trade in small arms.