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18 June 2014, Vol. 6, No. 3

The ties that bind
Dr. Robert Zuber | Global Action to Prevent War


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There are several “fault lines” that separate delegations in this BMS. As noted yesterday, one of these fault lines is related to “conditions;” another fault line relates to the degree to which the PoA should be adjusted to meet new circumstances impacting small arms, including political and technological evolution. A third line that divides delegations is one that we feel strongly about: the need to fully link illicit small arms to at least more of the relevant, complementary human security issues on the UN agenda. 

In 2012, a group of civil society members made an initial attempt to take armaments out of their silos and explore ramifications for a wide variety of UN issues and processes—development assistance, gender justice, atrocity crime prevention, and more.  That book, published in conjunction with UNODA, was intended to organize conversations to help ensure that reactions, linkages, and policy suggestions from other sectors can find a more prominent place in disarmament discussions at the international level.

While the book is somewhat dated now, it helped set a tone that many delegations during this BMS have reinforced through their statements—the need to look beyond the important, immediate concerns to the larger security frameworks in which illicit arms find opportunity to terrorize and undermine. Illicit arms fuel atrocity crimes, impede women’s participation, undermine food security, encourage drug trafficking, and so much more. These impacts are tangible, devastating, and not sufficiently addressed by our existing stable of disarmament treaties and Security Council resolutions. The topic of small arms needs to be on the agendas of many UN agencies. In turn, their agendas need to be more fully represented in all PoA-related deliberations.

This leads to another important theme in the book, articulated most clearly by Reaching Critical Will’s Ray Acheson. Efforts to control illicit weapons are much more likely to be successful in a world that exercises restraint in the production of such weapons. The protocols we establish to control small arms and light weapons, to end diversion, and so forth, cannot possibly come to full effect without a complementary commitment to reduce weapons flows. Arms manufacturers with state consent continue to upgrade arsenals and, simultaneously, lose track of the weapons these sales replace. The vast sums spent on such an obvious misapplication of security opportunity creates scandalous shortages affecting so many other state functions, including development assistance, environmental restoration, and the fulfillment of diverse human rights obligations.

A week of discussions is clearly insufficient to discuss all of the immediate and collateral issues relevant to the PoA. And we note with respect the limitations imposed on diplomatic missions (staff size) and UN agencies and NGOs (budget) that creates the necessity for triage that allows all of us the opportunity to do our jobs but not necessarily to fulfill our responsibilities.

We endorse the opportunity provided this week for states to wrestle with these three important fault lines. We especially applaud those delegations with the wisdom to endorse a full range of complementary analyses. As we move forward, we will need to summon up more foresight to follow the scourge of illicit small arms and light weapons wherever it leads. 

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