December 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2023
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Small Arms and Light Weapons

Expected Council Action

In December, the Security Council will hold an open debate on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). The meeting will take place based on the Secretary-General’s biennial report on SALW pursuant to resolution 2220 of 22 May 2015. Ecuador is expected to circulate a concept note to help guide the debate.

Key Recent Developments

Two recent Council members, Kenya and Mexico, which served in 2021-2022, facilitated various discussions on SALW and advocated the integration of SALW-related matters in the Council’s country-specific and thematic work.

On 6 October 2021, Kenya convened a briefing on the threat posed by the illicit flow of SALW in peace operations as one of the signature events of its Council presidency that month. UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s seventh biennial report on SALW, submitted pursuant to resolution 2220. She said, “In contexts where UN peace operations have been mandated, illicit flows and the easy availability of arms can exacerbate and sustain conflict dynamics, render arms embargoes ineffective, endanger peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, and local populations, and complicate the implementation of peace agreements.” Nakamitsu noted that arms-related provisions are incorporated in the mandates of UN peace operations deployed in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen.

On 22 November 2021, Mexico convened a ministerial-level open debate to discuss “The impact of the diversion and trafficking of arms on peace and security”. This open debate built upon the virtual Arria-formula meeting that Mexico held on 16 September 2021 on the threat to international peace and security posed by the illicit trade in SALW. Robin Geiss, director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, and María Pía Devoto, member of the Control Arms Governance Board, briefed the Council during the open debate. The meeting focused on how the unrestricted flow of weapons continued to fuel violence in conflict and post-conflict situations. It also considered efforts to address SALW in the context of conflict prevention and the implementation of indicator 16.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, including through the reduction of the illicit flow of SALW. Additionally, the meeting explored the link between illicit financial flows and the illegal trade in SALW as a source of finance for non-state actors.

On 22 December 2021, the Council adopted resolution 2616, proposed by Mexico, which addressed the illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation, and diversion of arms and related materials in violation of Council-mandated arms embargoes. The resolution expressed the Council’s intention to consider whether and how UN peace operations mandates “could support relevant national authorities in combating the illicit transfer and diversion of arms in violation of the arms embargoes in their respective areas of operation” during mandate renewals. It also emphasised that when the Council evaluated the possible lifting of an arms embargo, it would consider the capacity of states under the arms embargo to prevent its existing arms and ammunition stockpiles from being diverted to the illicit market.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for members to consider at the open debate is how to address the spread of SALW as a threat to international peace and security. In particular, they may analyse this issue in the context of the Secretary-General’s A New Agenda for Peace, which encourages member states “to develop and implement regional and subregional instruments, road maps and action plans to address region-specific challenges related to the diversion of small arms and light weapons and ammunition, as well as their proliferation and misuse, in accordance with international arms control treaties and political frameworks”.

Council members may also be guided by the specific recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s latest biennial report, which include:

  • encouraging member states to work with UN country teams to integrate SALW considerations into the country analysis and UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks;
  • encouraging the Council to consider systematically and comprehensively good practices related to weapons and ammunition management in relevant decisions;
  • encouraging peace operations to integrate conventional arms and ammunition-related risks in conflict analysis, prevention, management, and resolution efforts;
  • encouraging the Council to continue seeking reports from member states on the steps that they have taken to implement arms embargoes and on their efforts to cooperate and share information with the panels of experts; and
  • universalising relevant legally binding instruments, such as the Firearms Protocol and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and the implementation of politically binding instruments, such as the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument.

A possible option for Council members is to consider adopting a presidential statement in response to some of the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report that are relevant to the work of the Council, building on resolution 2616.

Council Dynamics

Several members are supportive of the Council’s deliberations on SALW, recognising the Council’s responsibility to address the issue as a driver of conflict. They also support integrating SALW issues into the Council’s consideration of country-specific situations and other thematic issues, including children and armed conflict; women, peace and security; climate change; and sustainable development.

Among the current elected members, SALW seems to be a priority issue for Ecuador, given the challenge that these pose to its own region. On the other hand, other members tend to underscore the primary role and responsibility of national governments in handling the issue. Russia, in particular, maintains that the General Assembly is the most appropriate place for discussion of SALW issues and opposes attempts to link them to other thematic topics. It does, however, appear to be amenable to discussing SALW in relation to peacekeeping, arms embargoes, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration.

The ATT and the repeated call for all states to ratify and accede to the treaty are contentious issues. Among Council members, Ecuador, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and the US are not parties to the treaty, and some of these members tend to oppose references to the ATT in Council products.

Past negotiations on SALW have been controversial. Six Council members abstained (Angola, Chad, China, Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela) on the adoption of resolution 2220 because the text did not include language critical of the transfer of SALW to non-state actors. Three Council members (China, India, Russia) also abstained on the adoption of resolution 2616.

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Security Council Resolutions
22 December 2021S/RES/2616 This resolution was on the illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation, and diversion of arms and related materials in violation of Council-mandated arms embargoes.
22 May 2015S/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 2013S/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 Statement
11 March 2020S/PRST/2020/5 This presidential statement was adopted during a debate entitled “Countering terrorism and extremism in Africa” under the agenda item “Peace and security in Africa”, a signature event of China’s Council presidency.
Secretary-General’s Report
1 November 2023S/2023/823 This was the seventh biennial report on SALW.
Security Council Meeting Record
22 November 2021S/PV.8909 This was a ministerial-level open debate on the impact of the diversion and trafficking of arms on peace and security.

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