“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.”
Lithuania 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 theirs efforts to reduce the misuse and illicit trade in small arms.
Barbados and Dominica have become the 68th and 69th countries to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty. Their ratifications guarantee them full decision making powers at the First Conference of States Parties and will bring the total number of CARICOM States Parties to 12. All CARICOM governments have signed the Treaty. With the deadline to become a State Party before the First Conference of States Parties passing today, the stage is now set for the CSP where critical ATT decisions will be made.
Folade Mutota of the Caribbean Coalition for Development and Reduction of Armed Violence welcomed the strong support from her region, saying “we are proud that now all 14 members of Caricom have joined the ATT, and 12 have ratified.”
Nearly one week ago, Karamoko Diakite addressed the UN Security Council as part of an open debate on small arms and light weapons. He spoke on behalf of global civil society and the countless victims of armed violence around the world. His powerful story was accompanied by a call to action that urged Council members to adopted a resolution on small arms that built on previous efforts and strengthened language on the Arms Trade Treaty.
While many governments praised his courage and thanked him for his rousing statement, they have struggled to find enough common ground to adopt the resolution. Karamoko has returned home to Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, but upon hearing the difficulties faced in the Security Council, sent this message to diplomats in New York:
Last week I had the honour of meeting many of you when I came to the UN Security Council to present on behalf of civil society. I told you about my own experiences of living with the scourge of armed violence, fueled by the flood of small arms and light weapons into my country and my region. And I appealed to you to act, to use your collective power to ensure the robust implementation of arms control measures that can help to reduce this terrible humanitarian situation that affects not just my community, but many across the world. This week you have the opportunity to act on a new resolution, that calls for such action.
On behalf of global civil society and those impacted by armed violence, I call on you all to support this resolution.
West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA), Member of IANSA
The draft resolution as a whole has built on and improved the previous small arms resolution adopted in 2013. It specifically has improved language on the Arms Trade Treaty, gender, and connectivity with peacekeeping operations. Control Arms urges all parties involved to take advantage of this opportunity for progress and work together to adopt the resolution.
The potential for the ATT to reduce violence from Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) featured strongly during a debate at the UN Security Council on Wednesday. The Debate, which was convened by the Mission of Lithuania, in its capacity as Council President, drew wide and high level participation from Member States.
The debate opened with a statement from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in which he launched a new report on SALW and stressed that the widespread availability SALW and their ammunition is the common factor in over 250 conflicts witnessed across the globe in the last decade. He noted that the recent entry into force of the ATT lays the foundations for a global framework of arms transfer controls, including for small arms and light weapons and ammunition.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, referred to the ATT as a “real source of hope” and called on the Security Council to continue to continue its strong support for the ATT by mandating UN operations to build ATT implementation capacity into regional and national assistance alongside capacity-building for human rights and rule of law institutions.
Civil society was represented by Karamoko Diakite, President of the Cote d’Ivoire chapter of the West Africa Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA). His personal testimony described the horrific impact of small arms on his family and community and highlighted how those arms had been stolen from insecure stockpiles and illegally trafficked. “We were all victims of those armed men…and we ask the question: Where do these weapons and their ammunition come from, these weapons that enable all this violence, all this suffering?”
Over 60 Member States, including both Council and non-Council members, delivered statements during the Debate. Nearly all statements welcomed the recent entry-into-force of the ATT and noted the role that it will play in reducing the illicit transfer and diversion of arms, particularly when implemented in tandem with the 2001 UN Programme of Action on SALW, and in reinforcing arms embargoes and increasing transparency. Many reiterated the importance of securing stockpiles and utilizing new technologies for marking and tracing. There was a heavy emphasis on the negative impact of arms on children. The meaningful participation of women in all aspects of disarmament and conflict resolution was stressed by many States.
Lithuania has also been leading negotiations on a new resolution about small arms control that would build on Resolution S/RES/2117, which was adopted in September 2013. Negotiations have stalled, and the resolution has not been presented yet. That adoption signalled a major step forward in international cooperation on arms control and was the first time that the Security Council has ever adopted a resolution on this subject. Lithuania’s work on the subject is an important step toward advancing that work, and Control Arms hopes to see a resolution adopted soon.
Photo credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Liberia, a strong and vocal champion for a robust ATT has officially joined the ranks of countries that have ratified the Treaty when Ambassador Marjon Kamara, Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations, deposited the instrument of ratification on 21 April 2015. The West African State, whose citizens have firsthand experienced with the negative effects of the irresponsible arms trade, is the 10th country from Africa and the 67th overall to join the ATT.
The Liberian government has been a longtime supporter of the ATT and fought hard to make sure that the Treaty would be strong enough to make a difference on the ground. After the ATT entered into force, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf illustrated the importance of the Treaty for her country. “I lead a country which is experiencing the terrible effects of more than 14 years of a devastating war with itself, one which destroyed tens of thousands of lives, and hundreds of millions of dollars in social and economic infrastructure. Our experience and that of other countries in Africa and other parts of the world showed that the ATT was needed to help reduce armed violence and wars that are fueled by irresponsible arms transfers. Even now, with the terrible health crisis affecting our country, we are still suffering the affects of a destroyed infrastructure,” she said. President Sirleaf also gave an impassioned plea for governments during negotiations to “be bold in our work toward the ATT,” calling it a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Watch the full video of President Sirleaf’s call to action.
With their latest action, Liberia is set to fully participate in the First Conference of States Parties (CSP) to be held in Mexico City in August. The conference will be critical in determining the future of the ATT. African voices played a vital role during negotiations of the ATT, and their contributions at the CSP will be just as important.
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