On 19 October 2021, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) hosted a virtual side event entitled ‘The Programme of Action on Small Arms: Outcomes of BMS7 and the Way Ahead’ in the margins of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee. The event was sponsored by the European Union.
Mr. Glenn McDonald, Senior Researcher at Small Arms Survey moderated the interactive panel discussion and started the meeting by providing an overview of the outcomes of the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States (BMS7) to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects, which took place from 26 to 30 July 2021 in New York. He subsequentially invited panelists to reflect on their national priorities and their assessment of BMS7.
Ambassador Pankaj Sharma, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament, stressed the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms as India’s primary priority in view of combating terrorism and transnational crimes. He further noted that the agreement on including the proposal of a technical open-ended working group to discuss recent developments in small arms and light weapons manufacturing, technology and design is a major achievement. Ambassador Sharma also welcomed efforts to strengthen international cooperation and assistance in the Programme of Action framework, especially the proposal for a possible fellowship programme. In conclusion, he emphasized the need for all Member States to continue to exert all efforts in a consensus-based process.
Next, Ambassador Maritza Valverde, Costa Rica’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, briefed participants on her country’s leadership role in securing progressive language on the equal and effective participation of women and the nexus between small arms and gender equality efforts in the outcome document. During BMS7, Costa Rica had delivered a joint statement on behalf of 64 States, calling for “sustained and concerted action on gender and small arms control.” Ambassador Valverde also welcomed the inclusion of paragraph 31 in the outcome document, which calls on States to ensure that International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law are considered in arms export control decisions. She further highlighted the need for synergies between the different arms control instruments and the important role of civil society in the Programme of Action process. Responding to the previous speaker, she underscored that the ambition of a consensus-based process must enable, not hamper progress.
Ms. Caroline Pailhe, First Secretary of the Belgian Permanent Representation to the United Nations, touched on recent technological developments in the manufacturing and design of small arms and light weapons and the resultant potentially negative impact on the International Tracing Instrument. She explained how States discussed this issue during the informal consultations in the run-up to BMS7 and how it was reflected in the outcome document. “Belgium is of the view that the outcome document could have been bolder and more ambitious on the subject on new technologies,” she said. Ms. Pailhe expressed the hope that BMS8 will deliver action-oriented outcomes on this topic, including the establishment of a dedicated open-ended technical working group.
In his remarks, Mr. Ivor Fung, Deputy Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, encouraged States to set national and regional targets for the implementation of the Programme of Action, as agreed to in the outcome document. Mr. Fung mentioned that such targets should derive from national and regional realities and could establish synergies with Sustainable Development Goal 16, target 16.4. He conveyed UNODA’s readiness to assist those States willing to pursue target-setting and stressed the importance of collaborating with regional and sub-regional organizations in this regard. Mr. Fung concluded with underscoring UNODA’s support to developing modalities for a possible fellowship training programme on small arms and light weapons, which would build national capacities to implement the Programme of Action.
Ms. Natalie Goldring, representing the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), discussed the organisation’s five priorities for BMS7: ammunition; gender; diversion; marking and tracing, and physical security and stockpile management (PSSM). She called for the full participation of civil society in all processes and stressed that survivors and victims of armed violence are heard. Ms. Goldring welcomed the inclusion of progressive gender language in the outcome document, adding that IANSA was especially satisfied with the call for disaggregated data by sex, age, and disability related to small arms and light weapons as well as the recognition of the linkages between gender-based violence and such weapons. She called on the international community to provide the necessary funding to civil society organizations to support effective small arms control actions and for States to report on their efforts through the submission of their national reports.
In the second part of the event, the panelists and audience engaged in a fruitful discussion on the way forward to the Eighth Biennial Meeting (BMS8), planned for 2022, and options on how the UN small arms process can and should evolve. Particular focus was given to the issue of ammunition in this process, the value of consensus and multi-stakeholder inclusion, and means of enhancing modalities and procedures for international cooperation and assistance, which will be a key theme at BMS8.
Watch the full video recording of the side event here.
Drafted by Ms. Lyzianah Emakoua