Taking stock of action on the illicit small arms trade: The way forward for tackling the illicit small arms trade
Small Arms Survey Online Forum Inventory 11
By: Emilia Dungel and Paul Holtom
Discussions on new dynamics and approaches to consider at the multilateral and national levels for tackling the illicit small arms trade should unfold in parallel as new challenges emerge. This blog post gives an overview of the main points raised during the high-level panel in the eleventh session of the Small Arms Survey 2020 online forum ‘Taking stock of action on the illicit small arms trade’. The session sought to take stock of the lessons learned during 20 years of implementing the UN Programme of Action on small arms (PoA), with a view to preparing for a productive and future-oriented seventh biennial meeting of states (BMS7) on the PoA next year.
Three clear priorities for BMS7 emerged from the session:
- addressing technological developments;
- effectively and efficiently matching national priorities with international agendas and limited donor resources ; and
- tackling diversion.
Dealing with developments
Progress can be made in addressing the challenges, and realizing the promise, of new technologies for implementing the UN PoA in order to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit small arms trade in all its aspects. As noted during an earlier panel in the online forum, BMS7 provides an opportunity to address recent developments in manufacturing technology and design, including polymer and modular weapons, in the PoA and ITI frameworks. After years of careful deliberation and reviews of obstacles and practical measures, a key objective for BMS7 should be to make tangible progress in ensuring that such technological developments do not hamper the full and effective implementation of the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) provisions on marking, record-keeping, and tracing. Belgium is currently facilitating a preparatory process for the consideration of an ITI annexe on polymer and modular weapons at BMS7.
Deliberation, dialogues, and determination
The international small arms control community is increasingly calling for all interested parties to exploit synergies and opportunities for increased efficiencies and effectiveness in assistance and cooperation to tackle the illicit small arms trade. The Third United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action (RevCon3) stressed the need for national ownership and measurability on implementation progress at the state level. In this regard, sharing lessons learned and building capacity to develop, design, implement, monitor, and review national action plans (NAPs) for tackling illicit small arms proliferation are essential for moving forward on prioritization and goal-setting in a holistic manner. The processes to develop NAPs provide opportunities for a ‘bottom-up’ approach to small arms control, giving a voice to communities and groups vulnerable to the illicit trade like women and youth, increasing opportunities for learning ’what works‘ in small arms control from a wider community than has traditionally been the case.
At the same time, these national efforts will only succeed if embedded in regional and international initiatives and efforts to tackle the illicit small arms trade, which like Covid-19, does not respect national borders and boundaries. We need to use good practices and information for successfully intervening to disrupt illicit small arms proliferation to achieve national targets, regional roadmaps, and international instruments and initiatives. As one speaker noted: ‘align international; aim regional; act national’. If nationally tailored and owned solutions to the challenges posed by the illicit small arms trade are based on international commitments, inclusive deliberations, and solid research, major obstacles will have been removed for finally matching needs and resources in an efficient manner.
‘The pace for tangible process is to a large extent determined outside the conference room by regional and national realities. Our solutions must ensure that we respond to realities on the ground so that we can improve lives.’
— Speaker at High-level closing panel
Diversion, diversion, diversion
The latest Report of the Secretary-General, The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects and assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them, notes that the full and effective implementation of the PoA is critical to combat diversion. Preventing and addressing diversion is a central objective of many existing global and regional normative frameworks that seek to contribute to the goal of inclusive peace and security, like the PoA, ITI, the Arms Trade Treaty, the Firearms Protocol, the Security Council, the Women, Peace and Security agenda, Agenda 2030, the Disarmament Agenda, and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Building on the UNSG Report’s recommendations and the deliberations of this panel, BMS7 provides an opportunity to re-energize efforts on diversion and to set an ambitious agenda that can be shared across international and regional instruments, matching the needs of critical stakeholders invested in the fulfilment of their goals and objectives.
The speakers in this panel were:
- Chair: Daniel de Torres, Small Arms Survey
- Under-Secretary General Izumi Nakamitsu (video address)
- HE Lazarus Amayo, Chair-designate of BMS 7
- Mélanie Régimbal, UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC)
- Karin Olofsson, Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons
- Maja Messmer Mokhtar, Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs
To learn more about the topics covered in this blog, see:
- Implementing the Programme of Action and International Tracing Instrument: An Assessment of National Reports 2012–2017 (Small Arms Survey Report)
- Ways Forward: Conclusions of the Small Arms Symposia (Small Arms Survey Briefing Paper; also available in French and Spanish)
- Measures to address and prevent diversion (Small Arms Survey infographic — also in French and Spanish)
- Preventing Diversion: Comparing ATT and African measures for importing states (Small Arms Survey Briefing Paper)
- Behind the Curve: New Technologies, New Control Challenges (Small Arms Survey Occasional Paper)