On 20 October, the Permanent Missions of Germany and Switzerland, in conjunction with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) held a First Committee Side Event, “Weapon and Ammunition Management in Conflict-affected Settings: Key Observations and Initiatives”
in the United Nations Headquarters, New York.
Mr. Jarmo Sareva, the Director of UNIDIR introduced UNIDIR’s conventional arms programme pillars. Mr. Sareva remarked that UNIDIR’s work was a response to a 2015 request from the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters to provide greater clarity and knowledge on weapon and ammunition management. He was followed by Mr. Marcus Bleinroth, Head of the Conventional Arms Division for the German Federal Foreign Office. Mr. Bleinroth spoke of the support Germany has given to UNIDIR and their intention to continue to provide funds for ongoing research. Mr. Bleinroth concluded by stating that Germany wishes to disseminate these findings to provide suggestions for improvements.
The moderator of the debate, Mr. Himayu Shiotani, the Programme Manager of Conventional and Small Arms at UNIDIR, introduced Ms. Victoria Lieta Liolocha, Second Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Democratic Republic of Congo to the United Nations in New York. Ms. Liolocha spoke of the Weapon and Ammunition Management (WAM) assessment that was undertaken within her country. She stated that DRC has destroyed over 200,000 weapons to date, and as a result of the WAM assessment, the legal framework was being reviewed by Parliament. A working group will also be set up between the army, police, civil society and intelligence agencies in the DRC to tackle issues concerning arms control.
Mr. Yusuf Mohamed from the Permanent Mission of Somalia to the United Nations in New York listed the key improvement areas for Somalia in the WAM system, which included;
1) The need for an international coordination body within countries with political support, strategic guidance and financial independence.
2) A centralised training system integral for arms on arms management and for all weapons to go through centralised facility.
3) Systematic marking system is needed to enable government to record keeping.
4) Transparency and record keeping system integral.
5) Government initiated national exercise to check distribution of arms.
Mr. Steven Pritchard, Programme Officer from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) detailed the presence of UNMAS within conflict-affected countries such as Mali and Cote d’Ivoire in support the national authorities’ WAM activities.
The moderator introduced Mr. Jonah Leff, Director of Operations for the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group. Mr. Leff stated that CAR assists Governments and tracing illicit weapons and provide collaboration and technical support through portals such as iTrace that provides statistics on sources of weapons in conflict. It has also developed standard operating procedures on the best way to manage weapon and ammunition storages. Mr. Leff noted that CAR’s assessment was that there is a current knowledge gap within the majority of the recordkeeping systems within Member States.
Ms. Katherine Prizeman, Political Affairs Officer from the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs spoke of a Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) project which details effective weapon management with support from the Government of Germany. The is creating a toolkit for normative frameworks, a programme of action and national standards, building upon the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) and International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS).
Mr. Vincent Joffat, Deputy Head of Arms Control and Disarmament for the Swiss Federal Department of Defence stated that Switzerland is supporting a number of efforts to curtail the illicit trafficking in Small Arms and Light Weapons. These weapons fuel conflicts. He believes that WAM needs an international framework behind it and a multilateral body dedicated to this topic.
Mr. Shiotani outlined the UNIDIR baseline assessments undertaken in DRC, Cote d’Ivoire and Somalia and provided results from UNIDIR’s baseline assessments in these countries. He acknowledged that there continues to be a knowledge gap on how to address arms and ammunition management in conflict settings. This is due to insufficient national programmes and the need to grow the assistance and support host countries in conflict-affected settings. Concluding his remarks, Mr. Shiotani stated that the next step is for more States to take the WAM baseline assessment, and to provide these findings at Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons Review Conference in 2018.
Drafted by Edward Hainsworth