23 June 2010

A Brief Reprise

by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

The 4th BMS is history and ODA officials, diplomats and civil society representatives now have a few days to answer email, do laundry and reintroduce themselves to their families before returning for the last part of the UN’s 2010 ‘disarmament trilogy.’ Formal negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty will begin in mid-July, and while there is significant diplomatic insistence that this is ‘not a disarmament treaty,’ it is clear to many that the regulatory coherence provided by such a treaty could prove invaluable in efforts to ensure that arms transfers have maximum transparency and are used in a manner consistent with other state interests to protect human rights and protect civilian populations.

In several ways, the BMS debate previewed the ATT agenda. Both drying up existing stockpiles of older weapons and eliminating the potential for new traffic in illicit small arms was clearly on the minds of delegates during the long five day sessions of the BMS. An ATT, of course, would do little in the immediate term to address the problem of societies that are awash in older, but still quite lethal weapons. But the fact that so many of the representatives to the ATT will have been at the BMS improves prospects for government-sponsored resolutions that insist on regulation of the trade of small arms while doing more to dry up the still massive stocks of illicit arms that continue to fuel criminal and other abusive behavior.

Despite the long hours and efforts to build consensus (highlighted by warm applause for the representative of Liberia for encouraging others to support a consensus outcome), the final document for the 4th BMS was notable for its numerous omissions and sometimes narrow priorities. Not surprisingly, many NGOs were more supportive of government positions that could not reach the level of consensus—including illicit manufacturing, civilian protection, gender concerns, victim assistance, and security sector reform—than with many of the consensus provisions. Many of us were also intrigued by those government statements that endorsed ‘culture of peace’ priorities and recognized the links between illicit arms and social development. While we were realistic about the limits of consensus at this BMS, we (and this includes many diplomats) had hoped for a document that we could more easily ‘shop’ to constituents eager for policy movement on small arms as one tangible recognition by the international community of the many human victims and social disruptions that illicit arms has created and continues to create.

There will likely be much comment on the final outcome document over these next weeks. For us, two things stand out. First, despite the fine work of Federico Perazza, the borders consensus produced overly technical and enforcement-driven priorities with little commentary (and that merely a reference to ‘social and economic integration’) to indicate that delegates understand the urgent need to preserve the many human interactions that require accessible borders while governments and regional organizations also seek to address border ‘porosity.’

In addition, and again in recognition of the fine work of Sarah de Zoeten, the ‘cooperation’ consensus was almost entirely driven by state priorities and state actors. Not only was civil society nearly absent from the final document (aside from some references to our capacity to support governments and suggest good ‘matches’ for assistance), there was virtually no reference to the specific skills of civil society in diverse global regions that can serve as a supplement to state-sponsored initiatives. This is not about ‘culture of peace’ activities alone, nor is it solely about having NGOs present in the negotiating rooms. Rather it is about mediators, conflict resolution experts, victims’ services personnel, women’s rights advocates and other civil society leaders who are able to train and involve citizens to do more locally to identify, highlight, remove and help repair the damage from illicit weapons. The excellent language in the document pertaining to cooperation and coordinated action with regional and international bodies could well have been enhanced by adding civil society to the core list of collaborators.

The process of strengthening follow-up mechanisms suggested in large part by Ambassador Macedo will indeed be enhanced by timely government reporting on their efforts to implement the PoA, by a review of and commitment to the use of new UN and other tools and mechanisms, and by preparations for 2011 and 2012 that highlight key issues and agenda items in a timely manner and with sufficiently lengthy formal meetings to allow discussions and negotiations on agreements that are both more inclusive and more binding.

At the same time, as mandated by the GA, cooperation and assistance will remain front and center for delegates responsible for small arms negotiations. After we’ve all caught our breath, we should strive together to create a more workable relationship for civil society that puts new skills and fresh perspectives into the policy and action mix.

18 June 2010

Day 5: Outcome document adopted

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

During a procedurally confusing Friday, the Chair of BMS4, Ambassador Macedo of Mexico, pleaded with delegations to adopt the draft outcome document without reopening the text with such limited time left. Though supported by the vast majority of delegations, who argued that they would not have time to get instructions from capital if substantive changes were made, a few delegations requested the opportunity to go through the text section by section to suggest amendments. Deliberations on how to proceed consumed all of the morning and afternoon meetings; in the end, a few delegates did manage to suggest changes, but most were able to work these out bilaterally between concerned individuals. While other delegates continued pressuring the Chair to open the text futher, a suggestion by the Egyptian delegate to add a description of the process to the technical part of the document saved the day. The paragraph read:

The Chairman presented to delegations a draft outcome document prepared with the assistance of the Friends of the Chair in thorough informal consultations with delegations. He appealed to delegations not to open the draft for discussion and requested its adoption as an outcome of the BMS4, while noting that such procedure will not represent a precedent in future meetings of the Programme of Action.

At five minutes to 6, the document was adopted by consensus. Analysis of the document will follow over the next few days on this blog.

What is the BMS?

by Glynis Beaton, Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Guyana

BMS4: What exactly is this and of what concern is it to me? These were some of the questions I asked myself.

My home country had no report, online. I had no idea of my country's position and never saw my representative. Of what concern was this process to my country and my organization the Young Women's Christian Association?


As it turns out, BMS4 was of major concern to me, my organization and my country. All my concerns were answered at this meeting. It was thrilling to see the cooperation among nations in preparing some of the statements. This cooperation gave me the impetus to return home and fully implement the POA, especially the sections on gender which are of primary concern to my organization.

Moreover, my meetings with other colleagues, with the Ambassador from Jamaica, and with representatives from CARICOM yielded much value towards stronger collaborations in the near future.

Thanks to IANSA's daily meetings and updates via email, we were kept on our toes regarding the important issues that we needed to keep our sights on.

Thanks, Thanks, Thanks! The BMS was worth my time and energies.

Optional Protocols

by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

Yesterday’s discussions inside and outside Conference Room 2 focused on tools that can bring us closer to a regulatory framework of laws, regulations, law enforcement structures and information infrastructure to move us closer to an effective international tracing system. The working non-paper by William Kullman and the subsequent discussion he led in the BMS made clear once again that the UN and member states have at their disposal high levels of technical expertise needed to maintain a robust and transparent International Tracing Instrument—complete with comprehensive, accurate reporting mechanisms—to effectively address the ‘misuse and proliferation’ of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

As ably summarized on this Blog by Ray Acheson, discussions identified a range of stakeholders with resources and ‘best practices’ to share towards an effective and reliable ITI. States have done some important work in creating national and cross-border marking and tracing systems backed by robust legislation and enforcement. An important example of state leadership was provided through a side event by Heather Sutton and Daniel Mack of Instituto Sou da Paz who shared findings from their excellent study: “Implementing Brazil’s ‘Disarmament Statute’: Putting Law into Practice”.

In addition to states, NGOs and civil society groups are contributing much to research and information systems that can help us keep track of small arms movements and help build local capacity to assist officials in eliminating arms trafficking and (as Sou de Paz has done) craft effective laws and regulations. For instance, an extraordinary new resource for information sharing accessible to both experts and community practitioners was on display in the ECOSOC chambers where Philip Alpers and Marcus Wilson previewed Gunpolicy.org for the BMS community. Their resource offers important trans-national data and perspectives (in partnership with the Small Arms Survey and other agencies) that is quickly proving invaluable to policymakers and practitioners.

Of course, having resources and using them to full benefit are not necessarily the same. For persons outside the UN system (and for many within) a major sticking point as they assess UN-based efforts to create effective international instruments is their ‘optional’ nature. Most people don’t understand much of how the UN functions and more specifically the small, cumulative steps towards trust building and transparency that must be taken seriously if states are to shed some of their sovereign concerns and enter into binding international agreements. At the same time, diplomats and even NGOs sometimes lose touch with the urgent needs of communities that can be more successfully addressed through robust, binding measures. While pushing states to make as many concessions to national interest as possible to create legally binding instruments that can effectively combat the illicit trade in small arms and its damaging effects on communities, we can do more to stimulate understanding of the difficult lines that diplomats must sometimes straddle on their way to finally endorsing such instruments.

As at least one delegate noted yesterday, we can and must get to the point where we can reasonably assume that any unmarked weapon is an illicit weapon. This requires levels of state and civil society vigilance backed by robust technology and information systems sanctioned at the international level. It also requires steady progress towards making the optional, mandatory.

17 June 2010

Weapons or Wellbeing?

by Allison Pytlak, Religions for Peace

The answer to that question might sound a touch obvious, but for many organizations who follow arms control, disarmament and development issues we know that this is unfortunately not so. In an effort to bridge the dialogue on those subjects as well as the main actors within it, Religions for Peace and UN Millennium Campaign jointly presented a side event called “Weapons or Wellbeing? Advancing MDGs by Cutting Military Spending” on 14 June in the UN Church Centre.

Moderated by Ms. Deepika Singh, Director of Programs at Religions for Peace, the event also included Ms. Christiane Abogdon-Johnson of United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Mr. Sering Falu Njie, Deputy Director, UN Millennium Development Goals Campaign. Both presenters gave thorough examinations of the relationship between military expenditure, conflict, poverty and disarmament. After thus outlining the problem, Mr. Stein Villumstad, Deputy Secretary General at Religions for Peace, put forward a possible solution in the way of ‘shared security’. This framework—in which development, national security and respect for human rights are advanced simultaneously and in good faith—puts human welfare and human security well ahead of the type of safety provided by weapons alone.

This side event was also an opportunity for Religions for Peace to present the text for a new United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that it has drafted, which asks member states to cut military spending at a rate of 1% per annum over ten years, and convert those funds toward achievement of the MDGs. This reflects an important and necessary progression from existing UNGA resolutions on ‘disarmament and development’ that are less specific in their demands. This draft includes a time bound commitment and a defined reduction amount.

This resolution has been advanced by the Religions for Peace Global Youth Network, as part of their Arms Down! Campaign for Shared Security. Mr. Errick Lutambwe Milindi, from the African Interreligious Youth Network, represented the youth during the side event. As he explained, the campaign has already collected over 2 million signatures on a global petition that also asks governments to reduce military expenditure in favour of increased development spending. These signatures will be presented at the United Nations when the campaign ends in October.

Day 4: International Tracing Instrument

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

On Thursday, 17 June, delegates to BMS met to consider and adopt an annex to the BMS4 outcome document on the “Implementation of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons,” otherwise known as the International Tracing Instrument (ITI).

William Kullman of the United States prepared a discussion paper on this subject (WP.4) in advance of BMS4. On Thursday morning, delegations delivered interventions in response to his paper and on the ITI in general, during which most representatives spoke about the importance of the full implementation of the ITI. Though the Instrument is not legally-binding, it is considered by most states to be an important mechanism for implementing the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) and curbing the illicit trade in small arms.

Several delegations suggested new or strengthened mechanisms to promote the Instrument’s implementation. The Belgian delegation suggested that states should increase sharing of information on traced illicit arms, arguing that this information provides a way to identify potential traffickers and routes and can help those making decisions on arms transfer licences reduce the risk of diversion. The Belgian delegation also noted that if the arms trade treaty to be negotiated in the coming years contains criterion on the risk of diversion, it would, combined with improved exchange of information on tracked illicit small arms, would be a major step forward for combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW).

In this regard, Switzerland’s ambassador suggested the establishment of national focal points to improve the exchange of information on traced illicit weapons and called for the enhancement of INTERPOL’s electronic tracing tools. The Swiss delegation also highlighted the module on tracing of SALW in the International Small Arms Control Standards project, which is intended to standardize tracing activities and facilitate collaboration between states.

Many delegations urged the improvement of tracing mechanisms, the establishment of multilateral platforms to share tracing requests and information, and increased assistance to states for marking and tracing tools, equipment, and procedures. Other delegations pointed out existing lacunae in the legal norms and laws preventing trafficking in SALW; for example, Morocco’s delegation suggested the consolidation of efforts to curb the illegal trade in SALW through the formulation of an instrument on illicit brokering. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged states to mark and trace their weapons collected after armed conflict, which is not currently a required practice. The ICRC also recommended that government experts directly involved in implementing the ITI meet on a regular basis to share their experiences and consider the Instrument’s implementation.

After these inventions, Mr. Kullman moderated a paragraph-by-paragraph review of the draft annex on the ITI, which begins on page 10 of the consolidated draft outcome document. Though the review continued until after the 6:00 PM official close of business, it did not result in any major substantive changes to the text. The annex essentially notes what states said in the context of BMS4 or in their national reports related to implementation of the ITI and outlines “understandings” reached by states at the meeting, which include, among other things:

  • that establishing the legal framework is not enough without the technical and human capacity to implement the International Instrument, and therefore, states in a position to do so were called upon to render, upon request, technical, financial, and other assistance in building national capacity in the areas of marking, record-keeping, and tracing, and in the development of national legislation, regulations, or administrative procedures;

  • that states were encouraged to designate national points of contact to exchange information and to enhance interaction between these points of contact at the bilateral, regional, and international levels;

  • that states were encouraged to use the proposed UN template for reporting on their implementation of the ITI;

  • that states were encouraged to support the role of the UN in promoting the ITI and the role of INTERPOL in implementing the ITI;

  • that the PoA-ISS can be a useful tool for the implementation and reporting procedures for the ITI; and

  • that states were encouraged to strengthen efforts by regional organizations to support the ITI.

The annex was adopted at the end of the meeting and the full and final text will be available in the new version of the consolidated outcome document, which will be released later Thursday evening.

Workshop on small arms and munitions management: past experiences, mistakes, and best practices

by Benjamin Karsai and Christian Ciobanu, NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security

On Tuesday, June 15, 2010, the Permanent Mission of Germany and the Small Arms Survey hosted a workshop entitled, “Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM): Practitioners' Perspectives,” which addressed PSSM assistance programs. The aim of the meeting was to compare and contrast the experiences of different practitioners in the field of small arms and munitions management and discuss past experiences, mistakes and best practices. There were a total of three presenters. Mr. David Diaz, a representative from the United States State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (OWRA), discussed the process in which the U.S. government provides assistance and implements small arms reduction projects in developing countries. Lieutenant Colonel Andreas Nehring, from the German Armed Forces staff, presented reflections on the German Experience in Cambodia. Finally, Mr. Steve Priestley, the International Director for Technical Assistance for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), discussed his NGOs involvement in countries such as Angola, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. He provided several disturbing examples of unprotected and mismanaged weapons storage facilities and proposed practical, cheap and easy solutions toward addressing the issue of small arms and munitions management.

Mr. David Diaz explained that mismanaged small arms stocks threaten civilian populations from accidental explosions and risk the illicit proliferation of guns and munitions to non-state actors. The security challenges that governments must address include excessively risky storage of weapons, poor security, unmarked weapons, illicit exports, and lack of transparency. In order to properly deal with this issue, states must engage in a proactive approach through organization, management and resources. The key toward reducing these threats is the reduction of excess and unnecessary weapons stores. Diaz explained that through reducing stockpiles, governments can secure their small arms more effectively and cheaply. However the issue of PSSM assistance is a complex multifaceted issue. In order to maximize success and effectiveness, Diaz strongly stressed cooperation and collaboration of many different organizations and practitioners in the field. He explained that a multilateral approach provides a range of effectiveness, collaboration, follow up and transparency in terms of small arms security.

After Diaz’s presentation, Lieutenant Colonel Andreas Nehring from the German Armed Forces staff shared his views about Germany’s experience in dismantling stockpiles in Cambodia. He noted that after 30 years of conflict, Cambodia stabilized itself and the government was ready to dismantle its small arms and light weapons and contacted Germany to help provide resources to secure its ammunition and develop a national strategy on SALW. Once Germany received Cambodia’s request, the Armed Forces conducted an initial finding in which they discovered that there were large quantities of various types of ammunition that were carelessly thrown in various ammunition warehouses. Furthermore, the warehouses were unfit for arms storage.

After the Armed Forces conducted their initial investigations of Cambodia’s ammunitions, the Armed Forces worked closely with Cambodia to develop a national commission for reform on weapons and ammunitions management in August 2007. By March 2008, the Armed Forces established a plan of action for demolishing ammunitions and worked closely with ASEAN. By March 2009, the Armed Forces requested the help of Royal Cambodia Armed Forces (RCAF) with developing safe storage for Cambodia’s arms. It also conducted multilateral demolition training programs and ammunition technical training programs in Cambodia. Germany concluded that if it were to conduct future projects, Germany must closely cooperate with regional actors, carefully plan its objectives, and develop a comprehensive standard of procedures.

Mr. Steve Priestley, a representative of MAG, provided a brief overview about his organization’s efforts in removing landmines and eliminating weapons in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In regards to the Sudan, the Sudanese government contracted MAG to remove mines, missiles and batteries in over 35 villages. In terms of the DRC, MAG discovered 516 tons of ammunition and 101,230 of small arms throughout the county. It also noticed that a community emerged around an ammunition depot. To ensure the safety of individuals, MAG encouraged families to move their homes out of the depot and to relocate their families to other areas of the country.

Priestly stressed that many countries are unaware about the extent of small arms and mines in their countries. Most of these countries simply do not have the resources to remove these weapons and create a central storage unit. As a result, they contact organizations, such as MAG, to help them with creating a stable country.

At the end of the panel discussion, several members of the audience asked questions to the panelists. Some of the questions addressed whether countries could sell surpluses to people instead of dismantling them and how UN member states and regional organizations could work together to deal with small arms. In response to the first question, Nehring explained that the older ammunitions are not saleable because they usually in bad conditions. Diaz further explained that the profit margins are usually too small for states to generate profits. As a result, it is better for them to dismantle their ammunitions than selling them. In response to the second question, Nehring informed the group that it is occasionally difficult for regional groups to coordinate their activities. However, if they exchange information with one another, it is usually easier for them to coordinate their plans on eliminating ammunitions.

Latin America and UNPoA

by Zunaira Choudhary, NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security

Attendees at a BMS side event titled “Latin America and UNPoA” gathered on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 to discuss the enhancement of “South to South” dialogue and relationships, specifically in regards with issues concerning small arms. In an introductory statement, the moderator of the event addressed the need for the establishment of political and academic interaction between Latin American and African nations.

Noting mutual interests and similar situations in terms of the development of the level of government, attendees stressed that both Latin American and African states can employ similar techniques in addition to technical and political cooperation in order to tackle the issue of small arms related violence. A representative of the West African Action Network on Small Arms stated that though Latin America has more experience in dealing with this issue, armed violence is a growing problem in Africa and consequently, there is a great deal that can be learned from Latin American cases. On the other side, it was mentioned that African states have a history of national commissions from which Latin American states can borrow insights and inspiration.

In a discussion on the adaptability of legal frameworks, one attendee, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, said that in light of prevalent corruption and extrajudicial killings, the need for transparency and accountability is of great importance. Noting the difficulty of obtaining accurate and comprehensive documentation of gun-related injuries in some African states, a representative from International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War suggested networking as a means to determine the best transferable practices that can be shared by interested parties. A representative from Zambia shared the concept of burial permits in Zambia; by requiring a permit in order to bury all bodies, including those brought-in-dead at a hospital, a registry of deaths becomes available. In addition, a Nigerian physician present at the event said that a major challenge is converting what is known as clear evidence on gun-related injuries into actual, meaningful legislation.

Lastly, participants mentioned that, as the victims of conventional weapons transfers, both Latin America and Africa can make a large contribution to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Small Arms and Light Weapons in Africa: A Resource Guide for Religious Communities

by Allison Pytlak, Religions for Peace

“Diverse African religious traditions know—each in their own way—about the inviolable, “God-given” dignity of each person. Working to end the plague of small arms and light weapons is a religious duty, because these miserable weapons contribute so massively to the abuse of so many innocent people”.
-Resource Guide Letter of Welcome from Dr. William F. Vendley and Dr. Mustafa Ali

Religions for Peace presented its new resource guide on SALW in Africa during a side event this morning. This resource guide is designed for religious leaders, communities and organizations at all levels to better understand and respond to the many problems posed by small arms and light weapons, as well as the issues that fuel their use and trade.

The first section provides basic information and definitions, as well as connections to other issues such as development, health and gender. It also outlines some important agreements among states that govern the trade in small arms. The second section outlines four types of responses to small arms. They are organized to help us see that response can be from the perspective of demand, availability, supply and aiding victims of armed violence. Finally, the third section provides helpful advice on how to take action through advocacy, media engagement, mobilizing youth and raising public awareness.

The guide will be disseminated through the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL), the regional body of Religions for Peace which is based in Nairobi but coordinates the work of councils in over twenty countries across the continent. It was first launched in Kigali, Rwanda during a meeting of senior religious leaders and youth, in March 2010. A French version is scheduled to be released shortly.

In order to ensure that religious leaders and communities can make use of the guide, the organization has also launched a small grants program for its affiliates in the region. It is now supporting projects such as workshops and trainings, translation into local languages and engagement with youth and women of faith in the context of gun violence.

The event was chaired by Mr. Stein Villumstad, Deputy Secretary General of Religions for Peace. Other presenters included Mr. Joseph Dube, IANSA Africa Coordinator, Ms. Allison Pytlak, Disarmament Program Coordinator at Religions for Peace, Rev. Fred Nyabera of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA) and Ms. Angela Baiya from the Regional Action Centre on Small Arms (RECSA).

For more information about the guide or Religions for Peace please contact Allison Pytlak at apytlak@religionsforpeace.org.

Dividing Lines

by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

UN security policy could well be characterized as an ongoing struggle between what is desirable and what is feasible. The aspirations that led many into policy and diplomacy careers eventually run headlong into sometimes challenging political realities—foremost of which is that states (like NGOs) embrace disparate and sometimes even contradictory outcome priorities from negotiations such as those taking place at the BMS.

Indonesia’s statement on the first day of the BMS (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement) reflects what might serve as an example of such priorities—simultaneously affirming the “sovereign right of states to acquire, manufacture, export and retain conventional weapons” with a call for states (especially developed ones) to embrace the principle of “undiminished security at the lowest level of armaments.” The statement also calls for “intensified actions at the regional and international levels to promote dialogue and a culture of peace.”

The Indonesian intervention blends the protection of a core state interest, an important security principle (albeit one directed in this instance at states not affiliated with the NAM) and a lofty but somewhat undefined aspiration. While an increasingly important voice in security discussions at the UN, Indonesia is clearly not alone during this BMS in defining its security interests in ways that protect state prerogatives and advance cherished policy objectives while keeping the door open for more comprehensive if less easily definable responses to violence.

It has often been the NGO community that has sought to insert language of urgency and aspiration into UN proceedings. In the security field, our task, it seems, is to remind states that there are more effective ways to address their legitimate security needs and fulfill the lofty ideals of the UN Charter than resorting to the use of weapons that waste resources, endanger children and other civilians, and create cycles of violent response.

This week, however, inspiration for action has been coming from many quarters. While the BMS is taking place, discussions have ensued in the UN Security Council on the Secertary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict. Other discussions focused on the MDGs and on trafficking have provided evidence of the role that small arms play in criminal activity, child abuse and impeded development.

Within the BMS itself, we listened intently to reactions to a discussion paper prepared by Mr. Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin from the Nigerian Mission, one of the Friends of the Chair at this BMS. Mr. Obisakin’s paper made the case for promotion of a ‘culture of peace’ as a supplement to ongoing negotiations focused on borders, technical assistance, arms tracing and Ambassador Macedo’s initiatives to strengthen follow-up mechanisms.

Some of those reactions recalled discussions that NGOs might have—speakers reminding each other that the promotion of security has many levels of responsibility and that well-educated, well-fed societies are less likely to be awash in illicit arms. Other delegations expressed concern that some of the ‘aspirational’ language employed in the paper could not feasibly find a policy connection within the context of this BMS and might actually distract delegates from negotiating tasks on which some agreements are possible.

Some of those watching the BMS proceedings and interacting with delegates feel some deep resonance with ‘culture of peace’ language and the practical commitments that flow from it. There is also a feeling that more direct interaction by diplomats with the many high-level discussions taking place around headquarters on issues relevant to illicit small arms would yield valuable perspectives and perhaps even a refreshed sense of purpose.

However, delegation after delegation has made it clear that illicit small arms and light weapons remain a scourge on our societies and a major drain on our capacity to ensure public safety, respect for human rights, and economic sufficiency. As BMS delegates and UN officials valiantly overcome fatigue from long weeks of briefings and negotiations (and sneak a peak at the latest football scores), their continued focus on prospects for tangible progress towards more robust efforts to curb illicit arms is highly desired. There are certain matters that the UN is particularly well-placed to take up, and negotiating concrete steps to end the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is one of those. In this instance, the desirable and the feasible seem closely connected.

Armed violence and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

by Serena Olgiati, Action on Armed Violence

The Interactive Hearings between the President of the UN General Assembly and representatives of civil society organizations and the private sector took place Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 June at the UN in New York. These Hearings have been organized to give NGOs and the private sector a chance to raise concerns and suggestions on the structure of the zero draft outcome document on the MDGs that will come out of the MDG Review Summit to take place this September in New York.

(Both speakers and respondents for the Hearings had been pre-selected, so there was no chance to speak if you had not been asked to do so previously—so much for an open interactive discussion!)

Why were we there? Our mission was to assess whether development NGOs and the private sector would reflect the growing international momentum around the agenda of armed violence and its interrelation with development.

Briefly, this is what happened:

1st day:
In general most of the discussions on the first day focused on gender equality, health and HIV-AIDS reduction as well as financial concerns and the need for increased international cooperation. Armed violence was not mentioned in any interventions from speakers or respondents. Though it was a bit disappointing, there was still hope because the second day would look specifically at sustaining development and withstanding crises.

2nd day:
Even though the first session was focusing on withstanding crises, most of the discussions focused mainly on climate change and financial crises and there was only one mention of conflict and development where the speaker highlighted the importance of integrating peace and security measures into development strategies and programming to ensure their long-term success.

Conceding that we were not completely successful in highlighting the importance of tackling armed violence in order to achieve the MDGs, I believe that some aspects of the issue were raised during the Hearings and they can provide an entry point for our future engagement with the development community.

The clearer lesson that I’ll take with me from these two days is that the disarmament circle needs to seriously work together to reach out to development organizations. We saw very clearly that though there is growing momentum amongst disarmament NGOs to work on this issue, this is not the case amongst the development community; and I have the impression that it is not always a matter of consciously opposing the inclusion of security aspects into development talks but often a question of properly engaging with the topic.

The same is true amongst diplomats. At the moment there is no coherent interaction between representatives dealing with thematic related to armed violence and the ones dealing with the review of the MDGs.

As mentioned before, there are some entry points that can be used to engage with the development community more broadly; the main one that was mentioned several times also during the Interactive Hearings is the question of violence against women. We could also see whether it is interesting for us to build up on the financial argument to show ways in which armed violence reduction programming would free up funds that could be used for the implementation of the MDGs.

Additionally some speakers raised the question of forced displacement as a factor hindering long-term achievement of the MDGs; and finally youth organizations mentioned the need to consider youth not only as victims of poverty, inequality etc. but also to consider them as active actors that can support the achievement of the MDGs. This argument has some similarities with some of the arguments that are raised concerning victims/perpetrators of armed violence.

What we need to do in the short term is to engage with governments in capitals and with their missions in New York and Geneva to ensure that they will specifically raise the question of the interrelation between armed violence and development. Negotiations on the outcome document will start tomorrow and Friday here in New York and discussions on it will continue until the end of July. The structure of the outcome document will then be finalized and after that changes will be very difficult.

Our message to states is very simple: At the moment armed violence appears in the preamble of the outcome document as a cross-cutting issue that affects the achievement of the MDGs but unfortunately it is not mentioned in the operational section. What we need is for states not only to recognize that armed violence is a problem but also to include it in the action plan so that it is properly tackled!

16 June 2010

Day 3: Implementing the UN Programme of Action

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Wednesday morning’s discussions focused on follow-up mechanisms to implement the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW). A discussion paper prepared by the Mexican delegation on this subject, WP.3, served as the basis for discussion.

In the afternoon, international, regional, and non-governmental organizations addressed the BMS. The statements are being added to the Reaching Critical Will website; reporting will follow tomorrow.

Follow-up mechanisms for implementing the UNPoA
takes as its starting point that in order to determine whether or not the UNPoA has had an impact on the illicit trade in SALW, states must first determine whether it is actually being implemented. Noting that the main follow-up mechanisms are currently annual reports, Biennial Meetings of States (BMS), and Review Conferences, the paper suggests that these should be reviewed to see if they are functioning as intended and if they could be strengthened.

To this end, the paper suggests that BMS4:

  • discuss streamlining and synthesizing reporting formats;

  • discuss the form and function of biennial meetings and follow-up with commitments undertaken in the outcome documents of such meetings;

  • discuss the structure and mandate of the programme of action in the Review Conferences;

  • task an appropriate resource person with preparing a progress report on the status of implementation that also identifies further tools, mechanisms, or steps for implementation;

  • stress the importance of the early designation of chairs for biennial meetings and Review Conferences;

  • hold discussions on the feasibility of establishing a voluntary sponsorship programme to achieve greater participation by all states in the UNPoA process;

  • discuss how the UNPoA Implementation Support System (PoA-ISS) could be used more effectively to increase participation of states; and

  • establish an implementation road map between upcoming meetings to link their agendas and substance and provide consistency and coherence between meetings.

The following overview focuses on delegation’s comments directed toward these proposals.

Meeting of government experts (MGE)

  • The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs noted that no such meeting has ever been held in the context of the UNPoA, that it is scheduled for 10–14 January 2011, and that its focus, agenda, and chair-designate have not yet been discussed. Therefore, UNODA suggested that the BMS4 outcome document could include an indication of focus for the MGE and welcome the selection of a chair-designate.

  • Japan suggested the MGE could focus on the difficulties and obstacles faced on the ground when carrying out various projects.

  • United States cautioned against “filling meeting gaps” with expert meetings, arguing that “many meetings on many subjects in multilateral fora turn into talk shops where the work doesn’t follow out of those meetings.”

  • Switzerland argued expert meetings are necessary to grasp specific challenges.

  • United States and India noted that the January meeting still doesn’t have a chair or themes and asked UNODA to look into the possibility of postponing it.

  • Canada argued that the MGE should focus on just one topic, allowing for in-depth discussions by experts on practical aspects of implementation; Canada argued that cooperation and assistance could be examined within the context of that one topic.

  • Canada suggested MGEs should encourage free-flowing discussion and interventions by civil society.

  • Colombia argued that experts should help develop the agenda for this meeting.

  • Colombia called for a stronger link between the BMS and MGE.

2012 Review Conference

  • The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs suggested that states may wish to include in the upcoming UNGA resolution on the small arms process that a one-week PrepCom be held in the first half of 2012, similar to 2006.

  • Israel, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Ireland supported the establishment of a PrepCom.

  • Israel suggested holding subsidiary body meetings in parallel to general debate at the RevCon in order to make the best of use of time.

  • The European Union and Australia argued that RevCons should be able to identify and adopt further measures to address gaps and needs indicated in the BMS and national reports.

  • India suggested the UNGA resolution on small arms could delineate the chairs and mandate for the RevCon.

Biennial meetings

  • European Union encouraged states in a position to do so to support the universal participation of UN member states in the BMS.

  • Australia said each BMS should be open and flexible to discuss current and emergent issues.

  • Pakistan argued that too much pressure is put on the BMS to decide what other meetings will do.

  • Colombia called for a stronger link between the BMS and MGE.

  • Cuba said it doesn’t object to biennial meetings continuing to examine specific issues of the UNPoA that may have been identified as priority ones by states, but stressed that this shouldn’t be construed as meaning that certain issues in the UNPoA are more important or significant than others.

Meeting cycle

  • Israel called for the formalization of a five-year meeting cycle and fixed, 10-day meetings.

  • Israel and Switzerland suggested alternating meetings between New York and Geneva.

  • Cuba argued that all member states have missions in New York but not Geneva and therefore it would be better to keep meetings in New York.

  • Australia, United States, and Cuba supported the formalization of a six-year meeting cycle.

  • European Union, Japan, Israel, Australia, United States, and Poland called for the early designation of chairs and themes well in advance of each meeting.

  • Cuba supported early designation of chairs while encouraging respect for the methods of each regional group for nominating chairs.

  • Cuba supported early designation of themes provided that states have necessary time for consultation to determine which issues should be discussed and that there is necessary leeway to allow issues to be included at later stage.

  • United States and Colombia suggested that chairs of meetings could continue in their roles until the the chair of the next meeting takes over, to ensure continuity and focus.

  • India, Pakistan, and Cuba argued that states should consider steps to enhance quality of UNPoA work while reducing the use of additional resources and that states should be cautious about increasing the number of meetings for financial reasons.

  • Cote d’Ivoire called for better synchronization of UNPoA meetings.

  • Ireland expressed interest in the suggestion (in Sarah deZoeten’s WP.2) of regular informal meetings of interested parties, international organizations, and civil society in order to identify possible matches between needs and resources for states. Ireland suggested that perhaps a specific session at a BMS could be held.

  • Colombia argued the UNPoA process needs a cycle of meetings to make possible the exchange of practical experiences, challenges, opportunities.

  • France called for thematic continuity between meetings.

Improving measurability of the UNPoA process

  • The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs suggested that the BMS4 outcome document could refer to the need for increased measurability voiced in previous meetings and call on the 2012 RevCon to address the development of goals, targets, and indicators for the UNPoA. UNODA argued that the 2011 MGE could be “a most appropriate opportunity to start an in-depth discussion on how the PoA can become a measurable Plan by the 2012 RevCon.”

  • Canada introduced its “implementation matrix,” which aims to provide a “snapshot of implementation” by setting out what states have agreed do, what they intend the result to be, whether it has been achieved, and how they are going about it.

  • Cote d’Ivoire called the development of a transparent mechanism that allows for stocktaking of the UNPoA’s implementation.

  • United Kingdom argued that states need to not only measure the impact the UNPoA has on the illicit trade in SALW but also the impact that its implementation has on the humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences of the illicit trade.

National reports

  • The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs explained it has presented a new online reporting template developed with the Small Arms Survey, UNDIR, and UNDP, which BMS4 could refer to in the outcome document.

  • Trinidad and Tobago, Ireland, and Norway welcomed this new reporting template.

  • UNODA also suggested that states may wish to consider explicitly agreeing to a two-year reporting cycle not only for the International Tracing Instrument but for the UNPoA as a whole.

  • The United States, Switzerland, Norway, Colombia, Poland, and Cuba supported the idea of a two-year reporting cycle.

  • The European Union, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Switzerland, Cote d’Ivoire, and Poland expressed support for developing a standardized reporting format.

  • Pakistan argued against “pro forma” templates for reporting.

  • Cuba said it was open to discussion on standardized reporting but argued that it should not be turned into a “straightjacket”.

  • European Union called for states in a position to do so to undertake outreach activities aimed at achieving universalization of reporting.

  • Japan noted that UN Regional Centres can play a role as regional focal points for helping states prepare national reports.

  • Israel suggested that national reports should focus on the designated themes for each UNPoA meeting.

  • Norway suggested that states should strengthen reporting through regional seminars and workshops where they can contribute expertise towards ensuring reports contain relevant information.

Progress report

  • The Russian Federation, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, and France supported the idea of the drafting of a report assessing implementation of the UNPoA to date.

  • Ireland suggested this “could perhaps be supplemented by asking the current Chairman’s Friends to assist in this process in their various areas of responsibility.”

  • Ireland also suggested this report could then be updated regularly and become a standard reference for the UNPoA.

  • Cuba expressed “misgivings” about this report, arguing that it should be up to states, not the Secretariat, to “shoulder the responsibility to assess how implementation has gone” in a balanced, candid, objective way.

Programme of Action Implementation Support System (PoA-ISS)

  • The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs suggested that states may wish to include in the BMS4 outcome document a request to the UN Secretary-General to provide UNODA with sufficient resources for maintaining the PoA-ISS, not later than in 2012 and within existing resources.

  • The European Union argued that since no specific tool has been identified to assess what is being done to implement the UNPoA and what is needed to fill gaps, perhaps states should consider supporting “full secretarial functions, like the PoA-ISS, that would ensure, inter alia, the analysis of national reports, coordinate outreach activities, and provide technical advice.”

  • Japan and Cote d’Ivoire welcomed the PoA-ISS.

  • United States said that expanding PoA-ISS or adding additional an resource person should be looked at very carefully, arguing that “any kind of expansion needs a lot of thought to make sure it’s effective and doesn’t just add another layer of bureaucracy.”

  • Ireland noted that the PoA-ISS is a useful tool, “but may not be sufficient in itself.”

Sponsorship programme

  • Australia, United States, Canada, and France supported the idea of a voluntary sponsorship programme to assist states to participate fully in the UNPoA process.

  • Australia suggested the outcome document request the UN proceed with establishing such a programme.

  • Cuba said its main concern with this proposal is that when considering this formally as part of contributions to assistance and cooperation, the practical effect may be that it actually reduces even more the already scant resources to implementing projects on the ground. It argued that any fund that might be set up must give priority to field projects and needs identified directly by states.

Implementation roadmap

  • Japan argued that an implementation roadmap and linking meetings would only be meaningful if states provide substantive inputs through national reports and active participation in meetings.

  • Israel called for clear links between meetings and the provisions of the UNPoA.

  • Australia said to promote continuity and coherence, UNPoA meetings should build on work and discussion from previous meetings and provide inputs to next meeting.

  • Australia and Canada called for a roadmap for 2012 and beyond.

Being part of the process: women, gender, and the PoA

by Sarah Masters, International Action Network on Small Arms

Despite the fact that small arms affect men and women differently, the UN Program of Action on small arms (PoA) contains only one reference to gender, in paragraph 6 of the Preamble in which states express grave concern about the devastating consequences of the illicit trade in small arms for children, “as well as the negative impact on women and the elderly” (UN 2001). Men are not mentioned at all. However, significant progress has been made in changing this incorrect impression at UN small arms meetings. A growing number of states have highlighted the importance of gender considerations, both in addressing armed violence and in creating effective disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programmes.

Gender advocacy in the field of SALW control has grown tremendously over the past ten years. A wide range of practical information has been generated since 2001 to help policymakers include gender considerations in the PoA. For example, as far back as 2003 a Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan launched by UNODA has underscored the commitment and importance it attaches to addressing the impact of all categories of weapons, including small arms and light weapons, on both men and women.

Since 2001 the women’s movement, through the IANSA Women’s Network, has contributed to expanding knowledge and expertise on small arms control, and the specific impacts of armed violence on women and girls. However a combination of lack of political will to institutionalise and implement gender sensitive policies continue to frustrate women’s efforts. Greater State commitment of resources for promoting gender equality within the UN small arms process is needed.

In recognition of this, and in view of the 4th BMS, 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (October 2010) The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs Regional Disarmament Branch (UNODA/RDB) and IANSA revised the “Guidelines for gender mainstreaming for the effective implementation of the UN PoA” in order to refocus efforts based on new developments, progress made and lessons learnt in the implementation of the PoA, as well as in the area of gender mainstreaming in peace and security.

The IANSA Women’s Network has released a statement urging States to take a systematic gender-inclusive approach in the implementation of the PoA. An enhanced understanding of gender-specific perceptions of peace and human security are crucial to ensure the full and effective implementation of the PoA. Women and men have an equal right to participate and to be considered in these processes. Gender roles must be encompassed in terms of the diverse impacts of SALW on men, women, boys and girls, and the different points of engagement for positive action.

Gender and the PoA: including all voices


Ms. Agn├ęs Marcaillou, the Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs chaired the NGO presentation, Gender and the PoA: including all voices. The event was jointly coordinated by the Regional Disarmament Branch, Office of Disarmament Affairs, The Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, and the International Action Network on Small Arms’ Women's Network. Ms. Marcaillou introduced the event by clarifying that our discussion of gender emphasizes women simply because there is a lack of deliberation in this area. However, violence between men was incorporated in the dialogue about gender as it relates to gun violence. Ms. Marcaillou reiterated that careful consideration of women is now being given attention precisely because it has previously been neglected. She defined gender mainstreaming as prescribed by the Report of the Economic and Social Council for 1997,

Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.

The panel was comprised of three women sharing their experiences and expertise from Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. As Ms. Marcaillou summarized, the presentations clearly illustrated a variety of aspects of how small arms affect women. Ms. Rebecca Gerome of the Advocacy Project, showed her documentary ‘Colombia: Living in fear: The impact of small arms on girls’ and presented on Colombian women afflicted by armed conflict, displacement and the direct relationship between machismo and gun ownership, including armed domestic violence. Ms. Glynis Alonzo-Beaton of the YWCA in Guyana, approached the issue of armed violence as a hindrance on development. Ms. Bibiane Aningina Tshefu of Women as Partners for Peace in Africa, presented the stark reality of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is infinitely devastated by small arms as women are being raped at gunpoint at a shockingly high rate.

Among the numerous comments and questions following the panelists was an NGO representative from Jamaica, who shared with the group that his organization, the Kingston and St Andrews Action Forum, had begun a new project which encourages men to support feminism and openly acknowledge gender issues. Another NGO representative from Jamaica asked women (because they are at the forefront of advocating women’s security and equality) about how to create dialogue and literature to sensitize men to gender issues. An NGO representative from the Gambia expressed the importance of introducing a culture of non-violence for those who were raised in a home where violence was used to resolve everyday issues.

“It (gender mainstreaming the PoA) is not a matter of feminism, it is a matter of business and efficiency,” stated Ms. Marcaillou. Gender and the PoA: including all voices was the official launch of The guidelines for gender mainstreaming for the effective implementation of the UN programme of action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, which is meant to be a user friendly resource for practitioners. Ms. Marcaillou welcomed people’s comments and contributions in order to refine the document for the next Biennial Meeting of States in 2012.

Sharing the Load

by Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

On 15 June, the comprehensive and provocative working ‘non-paper’ submitted by Sarah de Zoeten of Australia was the basis of a vigorous and wide-ranging discussion by BMS delegates on International Cooperation and Assistance. Discussion focused largely on the ways and means for states and the international community to support both the UN Programme of Action (PoA) and, more importantly, efforts by individual governments and regional bodies to stem the traffic in illicit small arms and light weapons. Some delegations raised concerns regarding the precise requirements in the PoA for such support, but most delegations affirmed both the basic contours of the PoA and the need for greater levels of capacity-building both to assess state needs and to provide timely and high-quality assistance.

As a contribution to the general discussion on building capacity, some delegations shared examples of their particular national concerns and activities in the small arms area, including the Philippines’ collaboration with INTERPOL, Bangladesh’s ‘Small Arms Destruction Day’ and Switzerland’s examination of the effects of armed violence on the pursuit of Millennium Development Goals. Delegations suggested existing mechanisms, such as within the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs or the voluntary Group of Interested States process, which could both encourage and process applications from national and regional groups seeking support for initiatives to curb illicit arms. Others encouraged greater use of UNIDIR resources, more funding support from donor countries and more attention to the ‘best practices’ of important regional initiatives (including ECOWAS and the expanded security interests within MERCOSUR) focused on illicit weapons. In some instances, there was recognition by delegates that the abundant skills and capacities of civil society, located in diverse cultural settings and often without access to formal UN deliberations, are increasingly prepared to offer supplemental, critical, professional support to government agencies and international organizations in their efforts to stem the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons.

Regarding the need for additional capacity, delegates made some important points about the need to closely link the needs of states and the availability of existing resources. In addition, and consistent with the PoA’s affirmation of the central role of states in combating illicit small arms, many delegates were clear that states soliciting assistance from the international community have an obligation to do more for themselves. Nigeria and Peru, for instance, talked about reducing overall arms expenditures to assist in poverty reduction. The U.S. and others called for rejuvenated ‘national focal points’ within member states to facilitate requests and offers of support. In remark after remark, the willingness of states to tie capacity requests to robust national and regional initiatives—existing or proposed—was a welcome development.

But even more welcome was the willingness of many states, including smaller states—as individuals, in coalitions and from diverse global regions—to affirm that they indeed have much to contribute to global policy and practice on illicit small arms. States may in some instances be seekers of additional capacity, but they are also dispensers of capacity in the form of technical and diplomatic skills, ‘best practices’ and more. The willingness of so many states to step forward and declare not only what they are doing for themselves but what they are prepared to contribute to ‘shared responsibility’ on small arms was a most encouraging sign. Among other things, this elevates prospects for revitalized forms of state leadership at the UN that take the security needs, aspirations and interests of diverse global regions into full account during all important policy deliberations.

15 June 2010

Day 2: International cooperation and assistance and a culture of peace

by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Tuesday’s meeting focused primarily on the subject of international cooperation and assistance (agenda item 6b) as it relates to the implementation of the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) on small arms and light weapons (SALW). Sarah deZoeten of the Australian delegation prepared a working paper on the subject, which formed the basis for much of the discussion. The meeting also addressed agenda item 6d, other issues, which among other things looked at a discussion paper prepared by Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin of Nigeria on a culture of peace.

International cooperation and assistance
Ms. deZoeten’s paper, WP.2, emphasizes the difference between the two topics while highlighting their importance for the full and effective implementation of the UNPoA. It provides definitions of the two concepts, explaining:

The term “international assistance” is often used to denote the transfer of resources and expertise, including financial and technical resources, from one country to another with a view to building national capacity for effective implementation of the Programme of Action.

International cooperation” is a broader term, covering all forms of joint or coordinated action between two or more States, including the sharing of information and experience, in support of Programme of Action implementation.

The paper suggests some priority issues for BMS4 and explores some of the ways in which the meeting could move forward in improving the system of international cooperation and assistance, in particular in the international community’s approach to matching needs and resources. It recommends possible language for the outcome document, including:

  • recognizing the need for an increased understanding of how needs can be identified, prioritized and communicated, and how resources can be requested from donors;

  • encouraging states to use national reports to identify assistance needs;

  • considering ways in which the international community could follow-up on assistance requests in order to match donors and recipients;

  • endorsing the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs to assist states (upon request) to complete a project outline for outlining their assistance needs and to present all of these requests to regular informal meetings of interested states, international organizations, and civil society in order to identify possible matches;

  • supporting consideration of further measures to facilitate strategic dialogue and follow-up on the question of assistance, such as by highlighting the need to address challenges and effectiveness of assistance from recipient and donor perspectives;

  • highlighting the need to build linkages across existing projects that achieve multiple objectives—such as measures that help implement the UNPoA but also help combat transnational organized crime and terrorism;

  • identifying the different forms of cooperation which exist (South-South, North-South and North-North frameworks);

  • highlighting the need for enhanced inter-agency coordination, on the national and international levels, by utilizing existing organizations and structures, such as the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL; and

  • highlighting particular areas where information exchange could be enhanced, such as on confiscated or destroyed small arms, illicit trade routes and techniques of acquisition and national marking systems.

The paper also suggests areas for further discussion during BMS4, including taking stock of challenges and opportunities in international cooperation and identifying additional areas in which inter-agency cooperation and information sharing is possible and desirable.

Finally, the paper notes that in order to promote dialogue and a culture of peace, international cooperation could include “exchanging national experiences in the implementation of effective education and public awareness programmes, strengthening partnerships with civil society in building peace at the local level, training police in the appropriate use of force and firearms, and exchanging views on the practical implications of the links between peace and security, and development, human rights and the rule of law.”

After Ms. deZoeten introduced her paper, Ms. Kerry Maze of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) briefly outlined some of its research on this topic. Ms. Maze explained that UNIDIR has found that while there has been a modest increase of assistance over the past decade, the breadth of assistance is still limited, with most resources going to demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR) projects and arms collection and destruction programmes. On the other hand, she noted, most states have requested assistance in record management, border controls, marking and tracing, destruction, and stockpile management. Arguing that Ms. deZoten’s paper is “well grounded,” Ms. Maze urged states to adopt the recommendations of the paper.

After these interventions, delegations highlighted their efforts or requests in international cooperation and assistance and addressed specific elements of the working paper. The following covers direct responses to the paper and suggestions of forward-looking actions rather than explanations of current or past initiatives.

Matching needs and resources

  • The European Union emphasized the need to improve the capacity of recipient countries and the coordination of donor countries to identify specific assistance needs and offers.

  • The European Union, Austria, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, and Morocco welcomed the establishment of the Implementation Support System of the UNPoA (PoA-ISS).

  • Germany said the PoA-ISS is not actively promoting match making of needs and resources and is not documenting the follow-up on these proposals and therefore, states need need UNODA and its regional branches to help manage the information flow.

  • Australia pointed out that web-based tools are not useful for states with limited internet access.

  • Japan said UNIDIR’s checklist for matching needs and resources should be an integral part of the web-based PoA-ISS Matching Needs and Resources mechanism.

  • Netherlands welcomed the checklist.

  • The European Union and Philippines supported the use of national reports as a tool to identify assistance and cooperation opportunities among states.

  • Venezuela argued that while national reports are useful in identifying needs, they should not be considered the only means of submitting requests for assistance.

  • Algeria argued that proposed assistance should meet the real needs of the beneficiaries and should be part of the national programmes that have been set up in advance; it also argued that a complete assessment of a country’s needs should precede any assistance programme and should have measurable outputs.

  • MERCOSUR and Associated States, Venezuela, China, and Morocco said donors need to respond to priorities established by individual states.

  • CARICOM welcomed WP.2’s suggestion that BMS4 could endorse UNODA assistance for states by matching needs and resources.

  • Switzerland said BMS4 should include in its outcome a call for states to establish mechanisms and instruments to prioritize needs and coordinate requests put to donor countries on the basis of national reports.

Facilitating assistance and cooperation

  • China emphasized that governments have the primary responsibility for international cooperation and assistance.

  • China argued that the UNPoA and ITI should remain the foundation for international cooperation and assistance, that the UN should play leading role, and that Interpol and the World Customs Organization should be better utilized.

  • Pakistan argued that there is currently no clear channel for assistance, whether it is bilateral or through the UN. Pakistan urged for the process to remain apolitical.

  • Morocco noted that BMS3 agreed that assistance to states would be multilateral and bilateral.

  • Mali noted that states need to collaborate in bilateral context with their neighbours and in a multilateral context with regional groups and the international community.

Inter-agency cooperation

  • The European Union, Japan, and Colombia encouraged states to enhance inter-agency cooperation.

  • Algeria called for enhanced cooperation and technical assistance between police, justice systems, and border and customs control systems to combat illicit trade of SALW across borders.

Shared responsibility

  • Iran called for acknowledgement of “common but differentiated responsibility” that takes into account the different contributions of states to the problem of illicit trade in SALW and the different capacities they command to tackle the problem. Iran noted that major producers have a special responsibility and can offer both negative assistance through reducing their production and positive assistance by extending resources to countries in need.

  • Venezuela said the principle of shared responsibility should be examined to determine its scope and its political and legal ramifications.

South-South, North-South, and Triangular cooperation

  • CARICOM suggested SALW issues need to be addressed especially among states where weapons originate, transit, and serve as destination countries.

  • India argued that south-south and triangular cooperation helps skirt political sensitivities.

Linkages between projects with multiple objectives

  • Austria and Japan supported the BMS highlighting the need to build these linkages as suggested in WP.2.

Distinction between cooperation and assistance


  • Algeria highlighted the importance of assistance in capacity-building to investigate illicit networks.

  • Bangladesh said it needs technical assistance for capacity-building to enhance border controls, specifically, for checkpoints and immigration.

  • Gabon said the international community should contribute to help states manage stocks and facilitate the use of electronic records.

  • Morocco highlighted the importance of capacity-building for institutions such as customs and the police and argued that any support for national capacity-building needs to be accompanied by legislative and operational support to set up effective national controls of borders and to regulate and restrict bearing of arms among people.

Exchange of information

  • The European Union and Colombia called for further international cooperation in the exchange of information.

  • Armenia suggested that subregional exchange of information on SALW issues may work in parallel with conflict resolution efforts by preventing further arms races and serving as a confidence-building measure.

  • Armenia called for consolidation of national and collective efforts and for mechanisms to monitor progress and share lessons learned and best practices.

  • Colombia called for the BMS to consider how existing mechanisms or inter-agency exchange of information can be adapted to international cooperation on SALW.

  • Pakistan called for more transparency and exchange of information from bilateral arrangements.

  • Morocco noted that establishing focal points can only produce the desired results if there is coordination and called for the establishment of a computerized information system between the focal points in regions and subregions to exchange information.

Marking and tracing
  • Guatemala said that technical experience in marking, tracing, tracking, and registering SALW is needed in cooperation between states.

  • Bangladesh said it needs technical assistance for marking, tracing, and record keeping, especially in the areas of modern technology and equipment and training.

  • Bangladesh suggested the international community make it mandatory to imprint the manufacturers’ information on SALW and ammunition and for the media to publish the manufacturers’ information of the gun when reporting on the death of an individual killed by that gun.

  • Iran reiterated the need for the BMS to facilitate the transfer of technologies required for marking and tracing.

Arms manufacturing

  • Togo said it welcomes international assistance in monitoring local arms manufacturers.

Legal frameworks

  • Algeria highlighted the importance of promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation in area of justice and establishing conventions with regard to legal assistance and extradition.

  • Algeria also suggested the outcome document should contain a recommendation that states do not pay ransoms to terrorist groups, citing a decision by the African Union to prohibit and criminalize the payment of ransoms.

  • Switzerland suggested the outcome for BMS4 could call for an improved legal framework for technical assistance, particularly in areas of physical security and stockpile management in projects that do not come under UN auspices.

Law enforcement

  • Philippines and Kenya highlighted law enforcement as an area that needs international assistance and cooperation.

Arms trade treaty

  • Montenegro argued that common standards for the export of weapons and ammunition set by a legally-binding ATT would “significantly contribute to the reduction of illicit trafficking of SALW and reduction of arms violence.” Montenegro suggested that the BMS is important in that it “represents impetus for other activities concerning conventional weapons and trade of arms.”

  • Bangladesh argued that the trade in arms should be brought under an international regulatory framework and that it therefore supports negotiations of an ATT under UN auspices.


  • Algeria argued that cooperation in implementation of UNPoA must be accompanied by measures that can improve social and economic conditions of people in regions affected by the illicit arms trade and that trainings must include an aspect on development and economic and social reintegration of people.

  • Japan argued that security and development “are two mutually interacting elements and security sector reform (SSR) is a part of development.” Japan advocated for SALW programmes to be integrated into national development programming.

  • Switzerland argued that the BMS needs to pay more attention to the broader framework of development such as the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development and the links between security, armed violence, development, and human rights.

  • Netherlands also highlighted the importance of the Geneva Declaration.

  • Pakistan argued that to reach consensus, the BMS needs to avoid going into uncharted territory or including non-consensus documents, such as the Geneva Declaration.

  • Norway argued that the multifaceted nature of the illicit trade in SALW must be recognized by affected countries, donors, international organizations, and other development actors and must influence the way programmes are decided and poverty reduction strategies are developed.

  • Peru noted that armed violence and development are linked with SALW issues and other problems, like drugs, terrorism, and organized crime.

  • Morocco highlighted the need to bring together security and economic and social development issues in countries that face armed violence.

Causes and consequences of illicit trade in SALW

  • Gabon said the international community needs to define a global approach to deal with the causes and consequences of SALW, including by providing assistance to developing countries and conducting political dialogue with those countries.

  • Iran argued that addressing root causes is an important issue and that overproduction and supply of SALW plays a decisive role in their illicit trade and continuity of conflicts. Iran argued that without taking into account supply and demand of SALW, efforts to end their illicit trade will lead nowhere.

Culture of peace

  • United States argued that WP.2 encompasses elements beyond the scope of a culture of peace, such as training of personnel. The US also argued that the paper’s references to peace and security, human rights, and rule of law may “derail progress” at the BMS.

  • India argued this is an important issue but that the BMS should be careful not to duplicate efforts elsewhere and should refrain from “seasoning madness”—adding too many ingredients to the dish.

  • Lebanon endorsed WP.2’s connection of the culture of peace to combating the illicit trade in SALW.

  • Kenya argued that cultural aspects of guns need to be addressed and that states need to have penalties for those hoarding guns and engaging in organized crime in order to affect the culture.

Civil society

  • Austria said it is obvious that challenges posed by SALW require a firm, internationally coordinated response from states, international organizations, and civil society.

  • MERCOSUR and Associated States highlighted the need to strengthen relations between states, organizations, and civil society.

  • Bangladesh said it welcomes the participation of civil society and parliamentarians in the implementation of UNPoA, especially through raising public awareness.

  • Armenia acknowledged “the important contributions made by the civil society towards the implementation of the PoA” and encouraged “cooperation with and broader participation” of civil society in this process.

  • Japan argued that “community-level and grass roots” participation in SALW and development programming is essential.

  • Norway highlighted the need for partnerships between governments, civil society, and field organizations.

  • Peru noted the importance of assistance and cooperation for subregional and regional entities and civil society offering support in implementing the UNPoA.

  • Mexico noted that civil society plays an important role in combating the illicit trade of SALW and its impact.


  • MERCOSUR and Associated States called for the inclusion of a gender perspective in work on SALW.

Culture of peace
After the discussion on international cooperation and assistance, Mr. Obisakin of Nigeria introduced his discussion paper on the culture of peace. The paper provides a brief overview of the idea of a culture of peace, its benefits, and ways to foster such a culture. Following his introduction, several states addressed the paper. The following is a non-comprehensive overview of relevant comments on this and “other issues” as handled under agenda item 6(d).

Culture of peace

  • Peru suggested the discussion paper on a culture of peace could add conflict management, peaceful settlement of differences, and respect for international law.

  • India agreed the issue is important to address but cautioned that there are established UN processes on this subject at the UNGA and UNESCO and therefore the BMS should focus on its core substantive issues and avoid overlap.

  • Australia expressed support for the culture of peace and noted that assistance for the victims of illicit trade in SALW is of crucial importance.

  • Guatemala emphasized that a culture of peace is necessary to reduce demand for SALW.

  • Cuba noted that the UNPoA does expressly refer to a culture of peace and Cuba supports the need to promote this at international level, but argued that it is a broad ranging subject that can be interpreted many ways and should therefore be handled cautiously.

  • Pakistan argued that all UN member states are already committed to the pacific settlement of disputes and peaceful resolution of problems by the UN Charter.

Other issues

  • India expressed regret that the UN conference in July 2001 couldn’t agree on prevention of sale and transfer of arms to non-state actors.

  • Pakistan asked whether there is any country that has legislation that allows and encourages supply of weapons to non-state actors or terrorists, arguing that the BMS should avoid implying that there is some mechanism in the world that allows such assistance.

  • India called for the BMS to A) emphasize that the primary responsibility of implementing the UNPoA rests with states; and B) to promote international cooperation.

  • Guatemala noted that it is necessary to tackle the SALW problem from the perspective of supply and demand of arms and ammunition by strengthening regulatory frameworks and by providing control and tracing capacity to relevant institutions.

  • Cuba argued against making explosives subject to the same limitations as other weapons as they have peaceful uses such as mining.