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.

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