Expected Council Action
In December, the Council will hold a briefing at the initiative of Japan to consider the Secretary-General’s biennial report on small arms, which is expected by mid-December. At press time, no outcome was planned.
Background and Recent Developments
As a thematic issue, small arms was first deliberated by the Council in September 1999, and since then the item has been maintained on the agenda, though the Council’s attention to this issue has been somewhat inconsistent. The Council adopted six presidential statements on small arms between 1999 and 2007, but there were no discussions on this issue from 2008 to 2013, with the exception of a briefing in a closed meeting on the Secretary-General’s 2011 report on small arms. In 2001, the Council adopted a presidential statement that requested the Secretary-General to produce a report on small arms in 2002. Subsequent presidential statements asked for periodic reports until 2006, when the cycle was interrupted due to the Council’s difficulty in adopting the relevant decision. A statement adopted in 2007 requested biennial reports starting in 2008. The report due in 2010 was delayed until 2011 thus altering the reporting cycle.
The Council adopted its first thematic resolution on small arms in September 2013 on the initiative of then-Council member Australia. Resolution 2117 was based predominantly on previously agreed language from the presidential statements on the issue. The resolution sought to strengthen the Council’s response to small arms-related threats to international peace and security. It reminded member states of their obligation to comply with Council-mandated arms embargoes, expressing the Council’s intention to monitor and strengthen their implementation and emphasised the role of UN peacekeeping operations relating to arms embargoes and capacity-building for host governments.
In May 2015, the Council adopted resolution 2220, which was the Council’s second resolution specifically on this issue. The resolution urged member states to enhance their cooperation in curtailing illicit arms transfers and the accumulation and misuse of small weapons, while focusing on the effects of these activities on civilian populations. It again emphasised the role of UN peacekeeping operations relating to arms embargoes and capacity-building for host governments, encouraged information-sharing and cooperation among relevant actors, and called on states to support weapons collection, disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and stockpile management.
Japan has had a longstanding interest in the issue of small arms and was one of the original co-authors of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2013.
The treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014. At press time, 130 states had signed and 89 had ratified the treaty. Japan currently serves as the president of the Fourth Conference of States Parties (CSP4) to the ATT, which will be held in Tokyo next year.
Issues and Options
The core issue for the Council is the implementation of previous outcomes on small arms, most notably resolutions 2117 and 2220. A related issue is whether there needs to be further Council action on small arms, such as enhancing implementation of the provisions agreed in the aforementioned resolutions in regard to arms embargoes, the role of UN peace operations in combating the proliferation of illicit small arms, and other measures aimed at preventing diversion of arms into the illicit market, such as stockpile management and security sector reform.
An additional issue will be discussing any new recommendations that might be put forward in the upcoming Secretary-General’s report.
At press time, there was no indication that Japan, which initiated this meeting, would seek an outcome on this issue. However, an option for the Council would be to adopt a resolution or presidential statement that would welcome the Secretary-General’s report and endorse some of its recommendations. Furthermore, the Council could request the Secretary-General to consistently integrate small-arms issues into all planning and review processes for UN operations at the earliest possible stage, address small-arms issues in all relevant reports, and provide recommendations to the Council as appropriate.
Council dynamics on small arms tend to be complicated. This was particularly evident during the Council’s negotiations on its two most prominent outcomes on this issue, resolutions 2117 and 2220. In the first attempt to pass a resolution on small arms, an initiative of Argentina in 2006, the Council failed to adopt a resolution because of strong objections by the US, which at the time argued that this issue was best dealt with in the General Assembly. When resolution 2117 was adopted in 2013, Russia abstained, citing the omission of an amendment it had proposed aimed at preventing the transfer of small arms to non-state actors.
When resolution 2220 was adopted in 2015, Russia and China abstained, along with then-Council members Angola, Chad, Nigeria and Venezuela. Once again, the core issue during negotiations was the transfer of small arms to non-state actors. Russia also objected to certain provisions of the resolution regarding the expansion of the power of specialised committees and UN missions in controlling the transfers of small arms, which Russia believes should be the sole responsibility of the concerned government. Another issue that tends to be contentious is any suggestion of the Council’s calling on states to ratify or accede to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Among the current Council members, seven (Bolivia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russia and the US) are not parties to the ATT.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SMALL ARMS
|Security Council Resolutions|
|22 May 2015 S/RES/2220||This was a resolution on small arms that contained new provisions aiming to strengthen UN coordination and action on small arms, promote effective implementation of UN arms embargoes and support the Arms Trade Treaty.|
|26 September 2013 S/RES/2117||This was the first thematic resolution on small arms adopted by the Council focusing on the illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|29 June 2007 S/PRST/2007/24||This presidential statement noted with concern that the accumulation and illicit manufacture, trade and circulation of small arms contributed to the prolongation and increase in intensity of armed conflicts and undermined the sustainability of peace; reaffirmed the right to individual or collective self-defence; and requested a Secretary-General’s report on a biennial basis starting in 2008.|
|4 September 2001 S/PRST/2001/21||This was a statement on small arms. It requested the Secretary-General to submit a report by September 2002 containing specific recommendations on ways and means in which the Council could contribute to dealing with the question of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.|
|27 April 2015 S/2015/289||This was the report of the Secretary-General on small arms and light weapons.|
|22 August 2013 S/2013/503||This was the report on small arms.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|22 May 2015 S/PV.7447||This was the meeting where the Council adopted resolution 2220 on small arms in a split vote of nine in favour and six abstentions.|