Expected Council Action
The Council will discuss the Secretary-General’s report on small arms in an open debate and it is expected to adopt a resolution or a presidential statement addressing the problem. An Arria formula meeting is also planned.
The Council, recognising the direct impact that small arms have on the maintenance of peace, has since 1999 addressed small arms as one of the thematic issues that regularly appear on its agenda. (An in-depth analysis of Council’s role on this issue is available on our website: www.securitycouncilreport.org). The Council has primarily focused its attention on four areas:
the implementation of the UN 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA)
council-mandated sanctions and arms embargoes;
conflict prevention and peacebuilding, including demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants (DDR); and
In 2006, small arms will receive a great deal of attention from member states. In January at a General Assembly preparatory meeting there was wide support for doing more to stem the trade of illicit weapons at the upcoming UN Review Conference of the PoA in July. However, there was difficulty in agreeing to an agenda for the July Conference. Calls for more effective methods to reduce availability of arms have become increasingly vocal. For example, Dennis McNamara, Special Advisor to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, has repeatedly called on states to implement a voluntary cessation of small arms sales to Africa for the next four years, and urged more state responsibility, especially for those states involved in arms sales.
While the problem of small arms proliferation continues to be serious, and the Council has engaged the issue energetically, Council actions have yielded mixed results. One area of concern is the uneven effectiveness of the implementation of arms embargoes, a mechanism increasingly popular with the Council to reduce the supply of arms in areas of conflict. Recent reports on arms embargoes indicate that enforcement is patchy and sometimes non-existent.
Another area of concern for the Council is the DDR component of peacekeeping missions. DDR programmes have had varying levels of success, and financing of the programmes frequently lag behind requirements.
While the members of the Council have been generally supportive of actions to tackle the proliferation of small arms across the globe, differences exist among member states as to the degree of support and to the robustness of actions considered appropriate. Some states, notably EU members (the UK, Greece, France, Denmark and Slovakia), have pressed for more accountability, and for legally binding instruments. Others, such as the US, favour non-binding instruments like the PoA.
Three of the top exporting countries-the US, Russia and China-are the source of a significant portion of the small arms and light weaponry. Thus addressing this issue at the Council level has been a sensitive matter. Arms-exporting countries have preferred to make the distinction between legal and illegal trade in arms, and press for greater control of illicit arms. However, most Council members tend to support the view that the highly portable nature of small arms, porous borders and cross-border arms trafficking make these distinctions largely immaterial, especially in conflicts on the Council’s agenda.
During its tenure on the Council in 2005-6, Argentina has been particularly active on this issue, having taken the lead in drafting the 2005 presidential statement and preparing to hold an open debate during its presidency in March 2006.
reaffirm earlier commitments and recommendations contained in the five presidential statements to date and express general support for the PoA;
include provisions urging states to exercise responsibility in arms trade and in enforcing embargoes; and
request regular periodic reporting on the matter from the Secretary-General.
Another option is that the Council will adopt a presidential statement on the above issues.
A further option would be for the Council to support the strengthening of measures to identify and trace small arms. However, given the dynamics described above, this would be difficult to negotiate.
More than 640 million small arms and light weapons are in circulation worldwide, and this is recognised as a significant threat to international peace and security. Small arms and light weapons have been sufficient to destabilise states and entire regions, increase the lethality and longevity of conflicts, obstruct relief programmes, undermine peace initiatives, exacerbate human rights abuses and hamper development.
Among all the tools of war, small arms are the most widespread, easily available and most difficult to control. As most countries affected by small arms violence are not arms producers themselves, attention has been focused on the supply of and trade in small arms. At the UN, concern has focused primarily on illegal arms sales, but the illicit trade is connected to the legal trade in small arms. The lack of transparency in even legitimate trade presents a significant challenge for the control of the trade.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Presidential Statements|
|11-15 July 2005||
UN Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the PoA
UN Second Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the PoA
The Council held its first open debate on Small Arms.
UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects was held and states adopted the PoA.
Useful Additional Sources
Missing Pieces: Directions for reducing gun violence through the UN process on small arms control, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, July 2005