What's In Blue

Council to Adopt First Resolution on Small Arms

Tomorrow afternoon (26 September), the Security Council will hold a high-level meeting on small arms to be chaired by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of Australia. A draft resolution was put in blue yesterday evening (24 September) and is expected to be adopted tomorrow. It will be the first formal Council meeting on small arms since 30 April 2008 (S/PV.5881 and Resumption 1). More importantly although the Council in the past has adopted several presidential statements on this issue, it will be its first ever resolution on small arms.

During the meeting, the Secretary-General will brief on his 22 August small arms report (S/2013/503). In addition, the ICRC vice-president, Christine Beerli, has been invited to speak. Most Council members are expected to participate at foreign minister-level. To guide the discussions, Australia circulated a concept note on 9 September (S/2013/536).
Negotiations on the text of the draft resolution began more than two weeks ago and have been intense, with Council experts meeting almost daily. In the end, it seems all the key elements proposed by Australia in the initial draft made it through to the final text, although discussions at times were difficult and a few members had reservations about several issues.

The draft resolution as agreed focuses on the illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons and aims to support the existing normative framework in this area. It also outlines practical steps to strengthen Council response to small arms-related threats to international peace and security. It builds on and incorporates agreed language from previous presidential statements on this issue and also reflects some of the recommendations from the Secretary-General’s report.

Among other things, the draft covers obligations of states to fully comply with Council-mandated arms embargos and take appropriate action while also expressing the Council’s intention to monitor and strengthen the implementation of such embargoes; emphasises the role of UN peacekeeping operations in assisting with the implementation and monitoring of arms embargoes, and in capacity-building for host governments; encourages information sharing and cooperation among relevant actors; and calls on states to support efforts related to weapons collection, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs as well as stockpile management.

The draft resolution also recognises the impact of small arms on the protection of civilians and reminds parties to conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, emphasising in particular the need to protect humanitarian personnel and facilitate humanitarian access. Moreover, it includes a separate provision highlighting the need to implement relevant obligations under resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in the small arms context and to take into account the special needs of children.

Finally, the draft encourages states to accede to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its protocols, urges states to consider signing and ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) adopted by the General Assembly on 2 April 2013 (A/RES/67/234 B) and stresses the importance of implementing the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms.

During the course of the negotiations, it seems Council members differed on a number of issues along traditional dividing lines, including references to the ATT, the responsibility to protect and the role of UN peacekeeping operations. However, one of the more difficult discussions centred on the relevance of language reflecting the women, peace and security agenda. Due mainly to reservations expressed by China, some references to the link between small arms and gender-based violence were not retained in the final text, but otherwise the agreed language is fairly comprehensive.

Another contentious issue in the final stages of the negotiations was a proposal by Russia to include a provision that would call on states to refrain from transferring small arms to non-state actors not authorised by the government of the recipient state. Other Council members, including the US, were strongly opposed to this and the proposal did not make it into the final text.

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