28 August 2012, Vol. 5, No. 2

Aiming for a meaningful outcome document
Katherine Prizeman | Global Action to Prevent War

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As the Second Review Conference (RevCon) for the UN Programme of Action on small arms (UNPoA) opened on Monday morning, the President of the Conference, Ambassador Ogwu of Nigeria, rightly called upon member states to clearly focus their general debate statements on the “desired outcome” for the conference.

The benefit of general debate is often unclear, as broad reiterations of national policies do not always contribute much to the practical discussion on how to strengthen implementation of the UNPoA. Therefore, it is essential to focus on priorities and themes linked to the outcome document so that this next review cycle contributes more tangible measures to more effectively address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW). It is not enough to continue to underscore the importance of eradicating diversion of weapons into the hands of terrorists and other criminal elements; rather, member states must produce meaningful outcomes that offer and highlight specific programmes of work and, in turn, themes and priorities that enhance and strengthen UNPoA implementation at all levels. As noted by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as well as the delegation of Lithuania, it was a great disappointment that there was no final document adopted at the conclusion of the 2006 RevCon and a conclusion without an outcome document must not be repeated now in 2012. Furthermore, as stated by the New Zealand delegation, the outcome must be credible and genuinely add value to future efforts.

President Ogwu has already submitted “zero drafts” of the proposed outcome documents, which have served as a good basis for discussion in the inter-sessional period between the Preparatory Committee in March and this RevCon. Moreover, the programme of work for this RevCon limits general debate to the first two days and allows substantial time for consultations on all four drafts—Programme of Action- Strengthened Implementation at the National, Regional and Global levels 2012-2018; International Tracing Instrument Implementation Plan 2012-2018; Schedule of meetings 2012-2018; and the 2012 Declaration. This is a positive step towards formulating and adopting a substantial outcome document that will both reaffirm commitment to the UNPoA and outline strategies for improving its implementation during this next review cycle.

As general debate continued through Monday’s meetings, some of the focus of delegations did rest on the concrete items that should be addressed in the outcome documents. The delegations of Turkey and Portugal welcomed the drafts and noted the usefulness of these documents for discussions. The delegations of Australia and Germany supported the structure of the drafts, with the Australian delegation noting that it would enable the RevCon to identify priorities for moving forward as well as underscore methods of achieving those priorities.

Recommendations for a specific schedule of meetings were offered by the delegation of New Zealand, which called for an appropriate number of meetings with at least one being an Open-ended Meeting of Governmental Experts (MGE). The 2011 inaugural MGE proved itself extremely useful to both delegations and NGO observers. The Japanese delegation also expressed support for future technical discussions in the form of an MGE.

Several other delegations identified specific themes they wish to see underscored. The Mercosur states reiterated the importance of incorporating a gender and age perspective in the implementation of the UNPoA and the EU delegation noted the significance of eliminating diversion as well as proper stockpile security and destruction. The Holy See delegation also identified the need to focus on the special needs of children with regards to illicit trade in SALW. The Japanese delegation identified stockpile management and destruction as a key priority for the next 6-year review cycle and the Republic of Korea highlighted illicit brokering activities as an important issue to be addressed. The statements from Spain, CARICOM, Trinidad and Tobago, and Mercosur also referenced the importance of addressing ammunition. The Ambassador of Kazakhstan stated that the outcome document should outline engagement of regional organizations.

As discussions continue throughout the next two weeks and, hopefully, conclude with the adoption of a consensus outcome document, the importance and relevance of the UNPoA and International Tracing Instrument must be continually confirmed and enhanced. The UNPoA, as rightly explained by the delegation of New Zealand, is entering a new phase during which more productive discussions on practical implementation must increasingly emerge from the divisive political issues that have previously blocked progress by member states. A wealth of tools, guidelines, model legislation, and other control mechanisms already exist at both the regional and global levels. It is time to ensure that these tools are implemented in the most comprehensive, consistent, and robust manner possible.

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